Political experts reflect on nationwide legacy of the Women’s March and the view ahead
As the anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March approaches, two Virginia Tech political science experts have insights to share on the legacy of this monumental event, crossing a span of time that encompasses the #MeToo movement, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and what the future can bring.
“The energy was palpable,” said Professor Farida Jalalzai, who attended the march in D.C. where more than 470,000 women marched on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017, joined in spirit by millions more who took to the streets throughout the United States. Jalalzai and others who took part drew hope and inspiration from both the sheer numbers present and the diversities of race, ethnicity, genders and gender identities, religions, and ages among those who participated.
“Hope was also evident through this feeling that we could get our messages across without violence or political turmoil. The signs people carried also really stood out, indicating that, though united, multiple reasons brought us together that day,” Jalalzai said.
The nationwide march continues to motivate women to get involved in politics. “I think it inspired more women to run for office at all levels,” said Political Science Professor Brandy Faulkner. “Local groups have continued to focus on voter registration drives and support for women candidates. Also, there is now a Women's March Foundation to provide financial support for policy work. That’s important.”
“There is a lot of momentum evident across the U.S.,” Jalalzai said, with various movements advocating to address the climate crises, racial justice, and more working with women’s activists to raise awareness and call for policies that address these issues. The march, she said, symbolized democracy in action. “Protestors utilized democratic practices to get their message across but did not attempt to undermine the election results.”
“The Women's March set the stage for supporting both grassroots and national action. Over the years, there have been some wins but also some losses,” Faulkner said. Wins include gains against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. “#MeToo and #TimesUp encouraged victims to speak out about their abuse and provided social media support to those who felt alienated.”
“Progress can trigger backlash,” Jalalzai said. Yet the backlash has not slowed a proliferation of social justice organizations. “This has enhanced our democracy.”
“The losses have been devastating,” Faulkner said, especially when it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. “Still, people who have been involved in the March and its subsequent actions since 2017 keep showing up and keep doing the work necessary to sustain change.”
The Women’s March had a stated mission to “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.”
“Has the mission been accomplished? Of course not. But they're moving forward,” Faulkner said.
Brandy Faulkner is collegiate assistant professor of political science and the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Her areas of specialization include constitutional and administrative law, race and public policy, and critical organization theory. She teaches courses in public administration, constitutional law, administrative law, research methods, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender. View her full bio here. Faulkner’s expertise has been featured on NPR, Reuters, USA Today, and in the Atlanta Black Star.
Farida Jalalzai is associate dean for global initiatives and engagement in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and professor of political science at Virginia Tech, focusing on the role of gender in the political arena including women national leaders. She is the author of several books on global women’s rights. Her analysis and commentary has appeared in The Washington Post.
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