ITHACA, NY - On March 8, 2017, women from all over the world joined together and marched in solidarity in honor of International Women’s Day. International Women's Day takes place every year on March 8 and, according to the United Nations, began in 1975 during the International Women's Year, an entire 55 years after women were granted the right to vote and 5 years after the Equal Pay Act passed.
In Ithaca, an estimated 150-200 people showed up outside of town hall and walked to the center of the commons. Women, men, children and dogs, were all wearing red and many were holding signs that said “End Violence,” “Stronger Together”, and other concise but powerful messages, my favorite being “My sign is too small for all of the Imminent Urgent Issues”. People chanted “Health care is a human right that's why we are here to fight!”. Other chants and posters were aimed at attacking President Trumps goals like the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the banning of Immigrants in this country.
On this day, women were supposed to take off work in order to protest the gender pay gap.
Women participated by making time out of their busy schedule to show up; even though many women can't afford to take even a single day off to protest their rights as hard-working citizen. That alone should say something. Still today, women don’t make nearly as much as men do. As of 2016, on average, women still made 20% less than men. I searched “How long will it take to close the wage gap?” and got a few answers from reliable sources, all saying it will take women well over 100 years from today to reach pay equality.
In October of 2016, The Guardian estimated that it will take 118 years for economic parity to be achieved and The Huffington post estimated 144 years. Additionally, International Women’s Day should not be limited to one day. The fact that women have to have a day dedicated to them in crazy because it's generally implying that every other day is “Men's Day”.
I was thrilled at the event to see all these people fighting to close the gender wage gap, prevent gender-based violence, protect women's health care and fight against sexism, but I was less thrilled when I realized there was an incredible lack of diversity represented.
In my Psychology of Women class, we have frequently talked about the importance of intersectionality in regards to feminism and racism. Intersectional Feminism is the kind of feminism that recognizes people at a crossroads of multiple identities (sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity,class) and recognizes that people can be treated differently based on the combination of groups they belong to.
As a bi-racial female who tends to identify as black, I was expecting to see POC feminists out there standing up for our rights and I was really surprised when I was one of the only people of color present in the massive crowd. Even though Ithaca is predominantly white, I still expected to see a larger representation of black, Hispanic and Asian Americans as they are even more affected by oppression than white women.
I started to wonder why this was, and realized that women of color are less likely to attend or participation in functions like these because they don't feel included. This means that there needs to be an inclusion aspect of this event in the future. All parties involved have to embrace intersectional feminism and inclusion as neither of these are new phenomenons.
Intersectional feminism has been around for decades and it is necessary for any change to happen with our current legislation and beyond. We need strength in numbers within all communities to reverse the negative path our new president is leading us down.