What Was the Women’s March For?

People ask what the Women’s March on Washington was for, anyway, as if not rallying around a single discrete issue is mere silliness. To them, I say: if only there were a single, simple, self-contained issue. Gosh, wouldn’t that be great?

Here’s the thing. When trouble advances, women are pretty much always on the front line to confront it. Add to that, the interrelatedness of the issues on parade on January 21. Scratch the surface and you’ll see that climate change, immigration, health care, racism, education, the right to facts from a free (unthreatened) press, a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortion, marriage equality, and economic justice intersect over and over again. These and more are too much for any one person to solve. And they just got a whole lot harder.

So, when the call for courage, solidarity, and respect in dealing with these issues (and in the face of powerful but small-minded vindictiveness, short-sighted national policy, and a traffic of bluster and lies) is answered with the resound of millions of voices from across the world, that’s a good thing. The issues are related, and just as “women’s rights are human rights,” as many a placard proclaimed, the issues facing human beings are the issues women face. So women turned out. Men, too.

But, okay. Sure, let’s talk about birth control and abortion. First, take a moment to appreciate that these are moot, nonexistent matters without men’s involvement. I’m not suggesting we do away with men, or sex. No, not me. I’m just saying that in the context of these issues, women bear the burden; but in no case is a man not equally (sometimes, as in the case of rape, more) responsible. Given the unfair burden a woman assumes (let’s not kid ourselves, look around the world – in many cases lifelong impoverishment and suffering for herself and every child she bears), she should at least have the opportunity to choose when, where, and with whom to have a baby. And really. Are we so starved on this planet for more human beings that we would force women to have children? Which brings us back to environmental issues, economic justice, education, and so on…

We return to the  myriad issues on display at the Women’s March on Washington (around the country and around the world), to their intersections, and to the ongoing and increasingly urgent need for us to show up, stand together, and move forward – in person and virtually, in living rooms, offices, kitchens, and streets – for environmental sustainability and all kinds of justice. It’s a lot, and we may be tempted to throw up our hands in exasperated defeat. For goodness’s sake, what was that Women’s March on Washington for? For goodness’s sake that’s what. For goodness’s sake. Now, on ~

A version of this is also available on The Huffington Post.



  1. Among the many other issues that you note we face, the first one to come to my mind is peace and war. I worry that the many serious domestic fears have distracted us from being aware of the escalating problems: Russian threats against Ukraine and the Baltic states, American troops being introduced to Poland and Norway for the first time, EU fragmentation, aerial games of chicken between Russian and American aircraft, Russia joining the US in wanting secure Middle East bases, Trump’s promise to expand the military and to start a new arms race with new nuclear weapons, etc. We need more women involved, and involved more, as a check on all those men in Washington. Trump’s fragile male ego and hypersensitivity to insult or challenge could lead to war. War and peace aside, I expect that the women’s march will not be repeated, but that its participants will hive off onto those particular issues you mentioned, as happened to the anti-war movement — and this is a good thing, I believe, groups of people committed to this or that particular issue. I am not sure where churches are these days in national debates. I hope many churchgoers are having cognitive dissonance and guilt about having voted for Trump, despite his personal and policy insults to church teaching.

    • Kristin Swenson says:

      Thanks, Stephen. Yes, it will be good to hear in the coming days, weeks, months more from faith communities unsettled by Trump’s policies. I share your international-issues concerns. And closer to home, domestic issues such as changes to budgeting and taxation, boring as they are, demand our attention (and response – readers, please call your congresspeople to let them know what you think/want!), too. Whew. Onward!~

      • Yes, I think every citizen should bookmark their elected officials’ emails (including the president’s), and should make their opinions known often. There is no need for long philosophical emails, as they will not be read, just scanned to see which side of an issue the sender is on.

        The only force that could possibly persuade Republicans in the House and Senate to oppose the worst of President Trump’s ideas is the threat of not being re-elected. Those feckless men must have wet their pants as they saw how many women and men took to the streets in opposition to President Trump and, maybe, to themselves.

        One more issue to lose sleep over: President Trump’s insistence that he will eliminate 75% of regulations might not bring back lead paint on children’s toys, but it seems highly likely to eliminate the few and utterly inadequate protections against animal cruelty in factory farming and product testing.

        Back to faith communities, are you not a little disappointed in the fact that so many professed Christians voted for and supported a man who advocates for torture (etc. etc. etc.), and that — so far as I know — no national church group has declared this Trump position or that one to be intolerable?

        Since the election the remorseful New York Times has belatedly developed the courage to call Trump on his lies. It seems to me past time for churches to develop similar courage. Individual churches were not timid in the 1960s, and I kind of liked that.

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