As the Women’s March website states, “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights.”
For Vanessa, a Columbus resident who grew up in Willard, the march was not only a chance to show support for women, but other groups as well.
“During this past election cycle, the language that was used about women and the prejudices of marginalized groups was unsettling,” she explained. “Communities that I am a part of, communities that I love and care about, felt threatened and scared.
“And none of that is OK, right? So I march to show my love and support for the LGBTQIA community, for Muslims, for black and brown people, survivors of sexual assault, for women and our choice of reproductive freedom, for people with disabilities — for anyone who can't march — I march for them.”
Vanessa and her partner were proud to travel to the nation’s capital to participate in a historic event, she said.
“The march far exceeded my expectations. The crowd was enormous and incredibly diverse, the presence of that number of women was empowering and the posters were witty, vulgar and personal. Women shared their stories of being rape survivors, of Planned Parenthood saving their lives, of families that don't want their loved ones to be victims of racism.”
Simply talking about these issues and concerns isn’t enough, explained Vanessa. Actions and visible efforts like the Washington Women’s March are essential.
“We will not sit by quietly while our rights are taken from us,” she said. “We will be holding our government and each other accountable.”
The trip to D.C. was just the beginning for the former Willard resident, who has plans to keep taking action.
“I plan on participating in the ‘10 Actions in 100 Days’ campaign,” Vanessa said. She explained that this involves writing to legislators about relevant issues. She and her friends recently participated in an event in Columbus where Vanessa said she wrote to Senator Rob Portman.
Although many people turned out to support the event, the movement has its critics as well.
Some business owners even asked those involved in the march not to come to their stores. One Tennessee woman asked anyone looking for yarn to make a “pussy hat,” a pink hat with cat ears worn specifically by the protesters, to avoid her shop.
“The vulgarity, vile and evilness of this movement is absolutely despicable. That kind of behavior is unacceptable and is not welcomed at The Joy of Knitting. I will never need that kind of business to remain open. Two wrongs will never ever make it right,” said Elizabeth Poe, owner of the store. Poe called the women’s movement “counterproductive to the unity of family, friends, community, and nation” in a post on The Joy of Knitting’s Facebook page.
Other criticism for the march stemmed from the event’s choice of guest speakers — in particular, Donna Hylton, a controversial figure who spent 27 years in prison for kidnapping and murder. In the march’s list of speakers, Hylton was billed as “formerly incarcerated, justice reform activist.”
Hylton was one of more than 40 speakers at the Women’s March on Washington DC. This included everyone from activists to actresses, human rights advocates, religious leaders and authors.
Vanessa plans to talk to those with opposing views in an effort to reach out.
“I plan to keep having conversations with people who don't get the point of the march, hoping they will understand why so many of us felt compelled to participate,” she said.