Some civil rights activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement resent the success of the anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington — taking offense at the favorable press and praise heaped on a generally peaceful event that resulted in zero arrests, while wondering where the millions of women and their supporters were during race-based protests over the years.
Ijeoma Oluo, editor at large of feminist website The Establishment, said the reason no one was arrested was that the marchers were primarily white women.
“To brag that no one was arrested at a march that was filled with white women, as if that is an accomplishment that you really had a huge part of, what it does is it says that marches that were branded as ‘disruptive’ are less than,” Ms. Oluo said Tuesday on WBUR’s “Here & Now.”
The tone and tenor of the women’s marches, which were attended by millions in cities around the world on Saturday, stood in stark contrast to the presidential inauguration protests Friday, when more than 200 people were arrested and six officers were injured in the nation’s capital alone.
While Inauguration Day demonstrations turned violent, forcing police officers outfitted in riot gear to use pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse crowds, several pictures on social media showed women’s marchers and police officers wearing pink knitted beanies with cat ears — known as the “pussyhat” — and taking selfies together.
“The truth is, we are all fighting for very important things, but only certain people get to march down the street and not have to worry about violence from police officers,” Ms. Oluo said.
Organizers of the Women’s March could not be reached for comment.
David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates Inc., a Los Angeles-based think tank, said attributing racism alone to policing disparities between the Women’s March and other protests is “fallacious.”
“I think it’s a combination,” Mr. Lehrer said. “I think there were probably different expectations of what would happen at a demonstration of Black Lives Matter as opposed to a march of women in solidarity for women’s rights and so on. And we really don’t know that there isn’t disparate conduct at the different demonstrations.”
Racial tensions were evident during the Women’s March. Some demonstrators held signs reading, “Being Scared Since 2016 Is Privilege,” “White Women Elected Trump” and “White Lives Matter Too Much.”
Echoing a sign that read, “I’ll see you nice white ladies at the next #BlackLivesMatter march, right?” Ms. Oluo wondered where the legions of women’s rights marchers had been during Black Lives Matter protests after police shootings.
“I think that [there are] a lot of women who had come out before, but I also know that I didn’t see a lot of these people at any Black Lives Matter marches,” she said. “I’ve been there. I’ve been looking around.
“And then to see them so excited — buying plane tickets, knitting hats, doing all of these things, getting ready to get out and march in the street, and you’re wondering, ‘Where was that need to get out and say something when we were being shot?’” she said.
The days leading up to the Women’s March were also dogged by accusations that organizers were not living up to the feminist principle of intersectionality — the notion that socioeconomic factors such as race, gender and class overlap and heighten disparities among identity groups.
The march eventually brought on three nonwhite activists — Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez — to ensure minority voices were included in the decision-making process.
The final version of the march’s platform included calls for “accountability in justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting communities of color.”
“It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system,” the march’s unity principles read.
Some feminists began to wonder what any of these things had to do with women’s rights.
“It saddens me to see the inclusive liberal feminism I grew up with reduced to a grab bag of competing victimhood narratives and individualist identities jostling for most-oppressed status,” Emma-Kate Symons wrote in a New York Times op-ed ahead of the Women’s March.
Despite the march’s best efforts, other identity groups also felt excluded.
Some transsexual women took issue with the Women’s March’s oft-repeated references to female genitalia.
“The main reason I decided not to go was because of the pussy hats,” one transsexual woman told .Mic. “I get that they’re a response but I think some people fixated on it the wrong way.
“I believe there’s a lot of inequality that has to do with genitals — that’s not something you can separate from the feminist movement,” the transsexual woman said, “but I feel like I’ve tried to get involved in feminism and there’s always been a blockade there for trans-women.”
Ms. Oluo said she ultimately decided not to go to the march.
“You know, I thought about it, I gave it a lot of thought, and honestly, emotionally, it was really too hard,” she said. “As the day became nearer and I saw a lot of people who have never marched before, who had never marched with me before and with other people of color before, so excited to march for the first time, it became a really conflicting and emotional time, and it honestly wasn’t something I could handle.”