Why the third annual Women’s March is controversial

The Women’s March began in January 2017, marking one of the first responses to President Donald Trump’s election, as well as becoming the largest single-day protest in U.S. history.

But now, the movement faces allegations of anti-Semitism against some of its leaders and participants, compounding accusations that the march isn’t diverse enough.

Grace Papish, junior political science major, thinks aspects of the march are problematic, especially when it comes to representation.

“In recent years (the march) has had issues with inclusion and diversity. It kind of became a hotbed for white feminism,” Papish said. “It was very much catered to the struggle of white, middle-class women and didn’t really take into consideration the struggle of minority women and transgender women.”

Papish sees this reflected in the pink, knit pussyhats often worn at marches and understood to reference Trump’s comments about grabbing women’s genitalia.

“I think that the pussyhats was a misguided symbol, because not all those who identify as women have vaginas,” she said.

Still, this year’s Women’s March had a substantial turnout, with the Orange County and Los Angeles marches drawing 215,000 individuals to the streets, according to the Washington Post and the Voice of OC. Los Angeles had one of the highest attendance rates in the U.S.

“I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was,” said Katie Tucker, a freshman integrated educational studies major who attended the march in San Jose, California.

Tucker, who has been to other women’s marches, felt like she knew the participants in this march, rather than looking out at a mass of anonymous faces.

And gathering with groups of people who share similar beliefs can help bring friends together, she said.

“It’s fun to share (experiences of the march) and have these shared opinions about what we wish our country would look like compared to what it currently does,” she said.

Other students like Preston Coolidge, a junior computer science major and the ambassador of the Chapman University Republicans, have doubts about the march as a standalone.

“No protest movement is ever effective on its own,” Coolidge said. “To an extent, demonstrations aren’t just for the purpose of people being able to change things; it actually acts as a social pressure release valve.”

He suggests that people vent their pent up emotions through the cathartic process of a political march.

“By allowing people to (protest) relatively freely like this, you ensure that stable change can happen because without stability there can be no rights,” he said.

Ben Clark, a freshman screenwriting major who attended the Orange County Women’s March, said that these events are beneficial for those that take part because it gives them a voice.

“There’s no guarantee that people will listen, but what (the marches do) is raise awareness and spread the word about ideas that could do our country a lot of good,” Clark said.

He added that the lack of communication between political parties in the United States could be solved if people would talk to each other more effectively.

One miscommunication that Papish believes is widespread is the close-minded view of feminism where it’s been interpreted to mean man-hating and bra burning. For Papish, feminism is a movement everyone should be able to identify with.

“Feminism is for all of us, and it’s just so we can live in an equal society,” she said.