On August 28, 1988, on the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, a smaller crowd marched to the Lincoln Memorial to draw attention to Dr. King’s “deferred dreams” and the rollback of civil rights gains under the Reagan administration. In a statement, Coretta Scott King applauded the diverse marchers as she declared, “[Dr. King’s] dream of justice, equality and national unity is not the exclusive property of any race, religion or political party.” Continue reading
The day following the Inauguration of Donald Trump, an estimated 500,000 activists descended upon Washington D.C. to protest in opposition to the values of his administration. Similar marches were held in cities worldwide. There was controversy leading up to the event. Women of color challenged the organization committee for lacking diversity and called for more intersectionality. Some white women resented the challenge and chose to stay home or threatened to do so. The Women’s March was fraught with a long-standing issue within American feminist movement, how to unify across differences. The concerns of the activists were broad including: immigration reform, Black Lives Matter, anti-Muslim discrimination, reproductive rights, and climate change. What do we make of this historic event? Does this moment mark the beginning of a new women’s movement? If so, what are the issues of the new movement? Who is included? Excluded? What do we make of all those who participated? Is this movement intersectional? If so, how are the activists putting an intersectional women’s agenda into practice?
Special thanks to Guest Editor Daisy Reyes, who curated this exciting dialogue.
Thanks also to our wonderful group of contributors.
Michael T. Heaney, University of Michigan (essay)
Nancy Whittier, Smith College (essay)
Jo Reger, Oakland University (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
The Women’s Marches of 2017 and the anniversary marches of 2018 once again bring us to the question: Is the U.S. women’s movement new again, having gone through a decline, death and finally rebirth? Does this new mobilization mean the movement is new? This is not a new question. Throughout the history of the movement, pundits have continually recast feminism as “new,” as in another wave of activism (this time maybe the fourth or fifth wave but who is counting?) or as a movement born fresh and new, independent of its former self. Media observer Jennifer Pozner coined the term “False Feminist Death Syndrome,” in response to the constant reports of feminism’s death. In the same vein, feminist scholar Mary Hawkesworth noted feminism’s reoccurring obituary, observing it was meant to annihilate feminism’s challenge to the status quo. Hawkesworth and Pozner encourage us to question the question – in other words, under what circumstances is a long-lived movement seen as new? Continue reading
By Nancy Whittier
Sexual violence and harassment have been central issues in almost every era of women’s organizing and they are central to a contemporary women’s movement that both builds on and differs from earlier activism. Since 2010, a new generation of activists has targeted sexual violence in new ways. Slutwalks, a theatrical form of protest against the idea that women provoke rape by their dress, brought a new spin to long-standing “Take Back the Night” marches against violence against women. The wave of activism grew as college students began speaking out about assault on campus and gained a broad platform through social media. Students protested institutional failures to follow procedures for addressing sexual assault and used symbolic tactics to highlight the issue. For example, in 2014/15, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz carried her dorm room mattress everywhere as a protest against Columbia’s inaction after she reported sexual assault. “Carry That Weight,” her project title, became the name for an emerging activist group. Another, “No Red Tape,” led to a cross-campus day of action in which activists attached pieces of red tape to clothes or campus statues. Continue reading
By Michael T. Heaney
The facts about the mobilization of women’s movement in the United States over the past 14 months are fairly well established. A new organization calling itself the “Women’s March” formed shortly after the 2016 presidential election. It coordinated massive rallies, consisting mostly of liberal women and their allies, in Washington, DC and around the world. These rallies reached across diverse interests and were among the largest internationally coordinated demonstrations in history. The Women’s March has retained its momentum over the past year, staging a national convention in Detroit in October 2017, and then reprising its post-inauguration performance this past weekend with rallies in hundreds of cities under the slogan “power to the polls”. On the heels of the Women’s March, the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund arose to address widespread sexual harassment and assault. These efforts have spurred the national conversation on the inappropriate treatment of women in the workplace. Millions of people have joined Pantsuit Nation and other internet discussion forums that discuss gender and politics. Indeed, the women’s movement has been a palpable force in American politics and society since the 2016 election. Continue reading
The landscape of organized white supremacy has dramatically changed since I conducted my research for White Man Falling: Race, Gender and White Supremacy in the 1990s. At that time, most organized white supremacist groups were isolated, disconnected, disorganized, and difficult to follow. They seemed to be easily identifiable as “extremist.” Since that time, the broad contours of White supremacist ideology appears to be the only thing unchanged. Continue reading
August’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where more than a thousand white nationalist adherents conducted a torch-lit march chanting “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us” before provoking widespread street violence the following day, was viewed widely as a watershed moment for the burgeoning Alt-Right. As the “largest hate gathering of its kind in decades in the United States,” the Charlottesville rally demonstrated that the diffuse movement – whose vibrancy had been most prominently displayed online – could mobilize in large numbers in physical space. It also showcased a level of organization that seemed far from ad hoc, and a set of media-ready male leaders who sought to embody the modern white supremacist brand: clean-cut, neatly dressed, with coifed “fashy” haircuts. Continue reading