The Privilege of Peaceful Protest
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election and, more importantly, the historic Women’s March in Washington D.C., I find myself wondering why the protest was so peaceful. Compared to the media coverage of Black Lives Matter protests, the Women’s March was seen as a relatively tame event between the pink “PUSSY” hats and the smiling photographs taken with police officers.
Following my observations, I was further confronted with the issue in my feminist class. A Latina girl recounted her experience in D.C. and noted that she and her friends were hesitant at jumping the fence to the White House in fear of being apprehended while white women fearlessly crossed the gated barrier.
Americans always boast that peaceful protest is the only way to go— that anything else would be violent and unacceptable. We can’t fight fire with fire, right? However, if we only did that, we wouldn’t have had the American Revolution. What about Abolition? Gay rights? Civil rights? Women’s suffrage?
The act of peaceful protest is a privilege— in this case, one for white women.
I’m not saying that we should blame all white women for having privilege; I’m simply asking them to check it. To realize that they were the main focus of the Women’s March. To realize that the police do not see them as a threat as much as they see other people of color.
Would the police be taking pictures with black men in their protests? Would women from around the world be buying tickets and booking hotel rooms to protest the “Muslim ban”? Although some white women will and have done so, most of them won’t.
Then we get to the standard of feminism, which is still seen as the pretty, young, cis-gendered, well-off white woman. This came to be a problem between these women and everyone in the “other” category during the march.
This issue of intersectionality hasn’t just come up during the third wave of feminism; it’s been around for a while. Starting from the National Woman Suffrage Association in the first wave who opposed the Fifteenth Amendment, women now are holding signs up about their vaginas which excludes the trans community.
Situations like these delegitimize the cause and divide our members. If feminists really want to protest gender inequality and women’s rights, we need to protest in all matters of inequality and include all aspects of intersectionality. Gender equality will only be achieved if race equality is. And if religious equality is. If marriage equality is. If we want to march for one equality, we must march for all equality.