by Catherine Brewer ’20
“We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” That is the core belief of the founders of the Women’s March, an international movement that claimed the steps of the Rhode Island State House for the second year in a row on Saturday, January 20. As stated on the governing body’s website, this year’s theme was “Power to the Polls,” encouraging voters to use their vote to fight for women’s rights.
The Providence Women’s March was held from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and featured art exhibitions, music, food trucks, expo tables, and a wide array of speakers from diverse backgrounds. Standing among the thousands of women, men, and children that came to show their support for the movement were students of Providence College, as well as Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.
“It’s a really optimistic feeling here,” Raimondo told the Associated Press at the event. “People are coming together to stand up for tolerance, stand up for women’s rights, stand up for equality.” Elected in 2014, Raimondo is the first female governor of the state.
After the success of last year’s inaugural Women’s March, there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the 2018 revival. “Last year I made the last minute decision to attend the march the morning of; this year, I was looking forward to it the entirety of the week leading up to it because I knew just how special it was,” said Maria Johnsen ’20, who cheered on the speakers with her friends in the crowd.
One important theme of the 2018 march was recognizing and promoting intersectionality. “I felt like a wide range of women were represented at the march,” observed Johnsen. “If the speakers themselves did not personally represent a community, they spoke about it. From poor women, to women of color, to transgender women, to women of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Notable speakers of diverse backgrounds included Miss Lesbian Rhode Island Ashley Delgado, Lisa Ranglin of the Rhode Island Black Business Association, Justice Gaines of DARE/PrYSM, and MoniKa Huertas of NoLNGinPVD.
Diversity in age was also a prominent feature, as Johnsen adds, “My favorite part is seeing all of the little girls, and boys for that matter, carrying ‘March Like a Girl’ signs. It makes me feel hopeful and inspired for the future knowing that kids are learning to value each other and themselves at such a young age.”
In front of a podium graced by Master of Ceremonies Jessica Brown, a wall of women stood firm with hands intertwined to display Brick x Brick, a national art exhibit brought to Providence by the project’s senior advisor and systems designer Nikki Juen. According to the organization’s website, Brick x Brick is a “performance” in which the performers wear jumpsuits with a brick design to construct “human ‘walls’ against misogyny.”
Each suit features vibrant, highlighter-hued bricks against a white backdrop that depict “viole[nt]” comments made against women by President Donald Trump. Juen, who donned a jumpsuit of her own on Saturday, is a lecturer and critic at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“I didn’t know what it was at first, but afterwards I looked it up and loved the concept,” said Johnsen. “I think it turns negative and hateful ideas into a way for women to stand up against oppressors.”
The Women’s March also attracted members of the community who happened to see the rally and join the crowd to support the cause. “To be honest, I was on a run to the capitol while it was going on!” said Liz Johns ’19. Johns explained that she enjoyed the lively and empowering environment that the speakers and crowd created. “The march made me inspired. In the beginning, I was expecting the whole march to be towards feminism, but it was definitely about all cases of social justice and intersectionality.”
“Not only were there a lot of wonderful signs, but the overwhelming amount of love that was shown at the march is what made it special,” expressed Julia Gaffney ’20. “It is often easy for political marches or rallies of any sort to be driven by anger or frustration. It was beautiful to see how love, not hate, inspired and fueled the Women’s March. This love and support for one another is what I took away from attending the march, and it has stayed with me since.”
Missed the Women’s March but still want to join the fight for women’s rights? “Get involved on campus!” exclaims Johnsen. “Women Will and Women Empowered are awesome clubs at PC that help foster that same feeling of empowerment that the march gives.”
In the spirit of democracy, another way is to speak with your vote. “After attending the Women’s March, I feel empowered to vote and be more politically active,” said Gaffney. “At times, it is hard to believe that your vote carries any weight, but my advice to those looking to get more involved would be to utilize their votes and their raise their voices in the face of injustice.”