It’s almost impossible to throw a good old-fashioned protest march these days. Sure, it might seem simple: Choose a cause, set up a website, and get a bunch of moderately vexed, rightly concerned, permanently enraged, or even slightly bored people together at the same place at the same time. Add a few random signs that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic you’re marching about — or, even better, a copy of that sign that says “Not Usually A Sign Guy, But Geez” — and in most cases, you’re golden.
Alas, it is not that easy. Just ask the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, a much-hyped, celebrity-laden event scheduled for next Saturday in D.C. The march — organizers are careful to call it a “rally” and not a “protest” — was originally cooked up to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump. Alas, thanks to obsessive left-wing identity politics, it has morphed into yet another exhausting episode of “Which college-educated woman who resides in the richest country on earth and who was also just profiled in a glowing Vogue puff piece is the most oppressed person in the room?”
The feminist infighting, sometimes fierce, has begun. “If all goes as planned, the Jan. 21 march will be a momentous display of unity in protest of a president whose treatment of women came to dominate the campaign’s final weeks,” the New York Times reports. “But long before the first buses roll to Washington and sister demonstrations take place in other cities, contentious conversations about race have erupted nearly every day among marchers, exhilarating some and alienating others.”
In other words, even though around 176,000 people have pledged to attend — that’s according to the march’s Facebook page — and celebrities like Scarlett Johansson, Katy Perry, Padma Lakshmi, and a slightly loopy Cher have joined the fray, the march might just manage to eat itself from within.
The culprit: “intersectionality,” a brand of feminism that’s now all the rage on college campuses. It’s also a brand of feminism that “asks white women,” as the New York Times notes, “to acknowledge that they have had it easier.” There are many different types of oppression, intersectional feminism teaches — based on race, class, sexual identity, and more — that layer upon each other. In the world of intersectionality, victimhood is sorted by category, tallied, and ultimately ranked.
“When it comes to the upcoming march, it is important to all of us that the white women who are engaged in the effort understand their privilege,” wrote Bob Bland, a New York fashion designer who launched the idea for the march on Facebook. Bland, along with the march’s other original co-founder, is white — but “that’s not okay right now,” one rally organizer told Vogue, “especially after 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump.”
After a bit of reflection — and some minor bouts of freaking out — the Women’s March on Washington now boasts a diverse coalition of leaders, fights back against “cultural appropriation,” and praises the latest iteration of intersectional feminism on its website, Facebook page, and beyond. The movement practices “empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other.” It supports “the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities.” This all sounds nice, I suppose, albeit rather vague. It also hasn’t stopped the bickering.
“The sense of betrayal white women have expressed in the post-election season is at best disingenuous, since we cannot say enough about the ways they turned out at the polls,” LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant, a Williams College professor who refuses to join the march, wrote at the New York Times. When it comes to asking so-called allies to rank themselves on the privilege scale — rather than bonding together to, I don’t know, actually fight against specific policies — “sometimes you are going to upset people,” shrugs Linda Sarsour, one of the march’s updated slate of four co-chairwomen.
In the end, the ultimate aims of the march remain rather mysterious, if you’re the type who expects words to have meaning and events to have actual goals.
“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us,” the leaders of the Women’s March declare on their official Facebook page. To be fair, this is certainly true. The 2016 election was a flaming hot mess, on both sides, and many Americans still can’t believe it actually happened! “We are confronted with the question of how to move forward,” the group continues, “in the face of national and international concern and fear.”
Apparently, at this point, the way forward involves a cavalcade of left-wing causes — abortion, as usual, is taking top billing — buckets of vague platitudes, lots of hectoring, and endless, obsessive, identity-based infighting. Sounds like a prescription for victory!
Just kidding. By now it’s a cliché, and we can all almost say it in our sleep: It sounds like one of the reasons why we got Donald Trump.
— Heather Wilhelm is a National Review columnist and a senior contributor to the Federalist.