Explaining the Women's March on Washington


When Donald Trump won the election on Nov. 8, American voters alternately rejoiced or mourned his victory. Many of those who objected to his win have turned to an effort on Facebook — the "Women’s March on Washington" — to express their feelings related to his upcoming inauguration. Here’s information on the planned event.

What is the Women’s March on Washington?

According to the main Facebook event page, the march is meant to be a celebration of women’s rights and a statement to the incoming president "that women's rights are human rights." The march draws its name from the 1963 March on Washington that featured Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Organizers plan to bring demonstrators to D.C. on Jan. 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration.

More than 200,000 people have indicated they are interested in participating in the national event on Facebook — 140,000 more than those protesting Richard Nixon’s inauguration in 1973 and more than those who protested George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001, according to Vox. Thousands more have said they are interested in participating in individual state events on Facebook.

For those who cannot make it to Washington, D.C., the main Facebook event has links to events in individual states (New York alone has three different events) as well as some outside the United States, in Canada, London and Zurich.

Where is it happening? What will they do?

The Women’s March on Washington is happening in D.C. and cities across the country — but none of those events will be protests, organizers insist.

Those participating in the free march in D.C. plan to appear at the Lincoln Memorial at 10 a.m. Jan. 21, to respond to Trump’s inauguration the day before. Though the march is not explicitly opposed to the new president, its description criticizes the election cycle’s language for having "insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us — immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault."

The march — given its name — welcomes women, but others are encouraged to join too. Bob Bland, who is named as one of the organizers of the march on the main Facebook page, told the Washington Post that the event will "welcome our male allies."

"We want this to be as inclusive as possible while acknowledging that it’s okay to have a women-centered march," she added.

How did it start? Who is involved?

The idea for the march, according to organizers, stemmed from participation in another election-focused Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation.

That secret Facebook group, which started as a nod to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s iconic suits and grew to include more than 3.7 million members, was where Hawaiian grandmother Teresa Shook suggested marching on Washington the day after Trump won the presidency according to the march’s description. She invited her friends, who invited more friends, and eventually drew the attention of organizers including Bland, Evvie Harmon, Fontaine Pearson, and Breanne Butler.

They decided to consolidate several similar Washington marches into the Women’s March on Washington effort, which has become the primary march event since.

How are participants getting to the march? Where are they staying?

Though organizers for the march are soliciting volunteers, including those who might host participants from out of town, the national group is not arranging for transportation. Some individual state pages, like California’s, have local committees that are arranging travel discounts, though the arrangements vary from state to state.

But the timing of the march on inauguration weekend might also complicate travel plans for those who cannot afford to fly in on such a demand-heavy weekend. Organizer Breanne Butler told the New York Times that leaders of the march effort are considering how to aid would-be participants who cannot otherwise pay to come to the march.

“We don’t want only an upper-middle class of people at this march because no one else can afford to go,” she told the Times.

What happened to the Million Woman March name, and why are participants so concerned about what the march is called?

The Women’s March on Washington was originally named the Million Woman March, which alluded to the 1997 march of the same name in Philadelphia that reportedly drew hundreds of thousands of African American women, according to CNN. But the march changed its name when concerns arose that some might think it was appropriating that march’s name or that of the Million Man March, which in 1995 drew African American men to the nation’s capital to advocate for economic and social rights.

The new name has also drawn criticism, since it derives from the 1963 March on Washington. It also echoes an ongoing complaint that the march effort, organized largely by white women, has failed to be inclusive of other races or orientations by erasing the history of the original names. Rosie Campos, a former organizer for the Pennsylvania chapter of the march, stepped down Monday for those reasons, citing the march’s “acute lack of transparency” as an indication the effort was not sufficiently representative.

On Sunday, the march’s organizers addressed concerns “that some do not feel adequately represented in the Women’s March on Washington,” and acknowledged that organizers were working to address both representation and inclusion.

“It is important to all of us that the white women who are engaged in this effort understand their privilege, and acknowledge the struggle that women of color face,” they wrote.