Panel dis­cussed the fu­ture of Women’s Match Move­ment

Panel talks The Women’s March at Wash­ing­ton, in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity, priv­i­lege

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Nora Mccready

On Thurs­day Feb­ru­ary 9, a group of stu­dents and com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered in Arts W-20 for a panel dis­cus­sion fo­cus­ing on the ques­tion, “Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton: a Mo­ment or a Move­ment?”

Or­gan­ised by Mcgill Stu­dents for Ox­fam- Que­bec, pan­elists in­cluded Shel­ley Clark, a pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at Mcgill, Gil­lian Sonin, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the Na­tional Women’s March in Canada, and Alia Has­san Cournol, one of the co­or­di­na­tors of, and spokes­woman for, the Mon­treal’s Women’s March.

The panel be­gan by dis­cussing the na­ture of the march, and whether they be­lieved it was an iso­lated mo­ment or the be­gin­ning of a move­ment.

Dur­ing the talk, Sonin ar­gued that the ‘or’ in “a mo­ment or a move­ment” is detri­men­tal to the im­age of the march, and em­pha­sized why the march was both a mo­ment and a move­ment.

“I be­lieve that it was a big mo­ment, clearly, it was the big­gest demon­stra­tion in U.S. his­tory,” she said. “[How­ever] we are a coali­tion of women from coast to coast to coast who spent our days and nights in con­stant con­tact with one another to fig­ure out how to mo­bi­lize that mo­ment [...]. That coali­tion in and of it­self is a move­ment and that coali­tion ex­ists and con­tin­ues to ex­ist and we still are in con­stant con­tact with one another to fig­ure out what that move­ment is mov­ing for­ward.”

Cournol con­tin­ued that, “It be­came a move­ment when we started un­der­stand­ing that a struc­ture of po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity had opened. [...] Don­ald Trump was the struc­ture of po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity be­cause he’s so misog­y­nis­tic, be­cause he’s so xeno­pho­bic, be­cause he’s so racist, it all be­came po­lit­i­cal.”

The panel touched on the dif­fer­ences be­tween the Women’s March in Wash­ing­ton D.C. and other protests. Both Sonin and Cournol iden­ti­fied the March’s in­ter­sec­tional ap­proach as one of its strengths.

“There has al­ways been in­ter­sec­tion in women’s move­ments but cer­tain voices were not [...] her­alded and brought up as the lead­ers of th­ese move­ments [...]. There were def­i­nitely some groups that were omit­ted [at the Women’s March],” Sonin said. “It wasn’t per­fect, but I think that hold­ing some­thing to per­fec­tion is a way to tear it down,” she added.

To con­trast, she brought up the di­ver­sity within the na­tional team of the U.S. Women’s March and claimed, “It was a mo­ment of in­ter­sec­tion for this move­ment, and that was a big theme for the march.”

Cournol iden­ti­fied her per­sonal ef­forts to make sure the Mon­treal march was in­ter­sec­tional.

“Que­bec has a long his­tory of fem­i­nism, but a long his­tory of white fem­i­nism [...] I work in a com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion that is fo­cused on anti-[racism] and is­lam­o­pho­bia, so that’s why I jumped into the or­ga­ni­za­tion to have our speak­ers be as di­verse as pos­si­ble.”

Clark brought up the wide par­tic­i­pa­tion by men as a dif­fer­ence be­tween the Women’s March and past marches. “I saw many more men at this march than usual, es­pe­cially young men and when [the women] chanted, ‘My body, my choice,’ the men echoed equally loud, ‘Her body, her choice,’” she said. “Part of in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity is men. And we can’t over­look that.”

Clark also dis­cussed why the march was termed a “women’s” march, as op­posed to some­thing more broad. “The U.S. as a coun­try faced this de­ci­sion be­tween elect­ing the first fe­male pres­i­dent ever or some­one who was proud and bragged about be­ing a serial sex­ual as­saulter. That con­trast, that jux­ta­po­si­tion, was a great cat­a­lyst for peo­ple say­ing we’re go­ing to put the is­sue [of women’s rights] front and cen­tre.”

Sonin tran­si­tioned into dis­cussing how the march has in­flu­enced ac­tion around dif­fer­ent is­sues. “It cre­ated a culture of protest […] So when [Trump] an­nounced the travel ban, protests were go­ing on at all the air­ports and con­sulates, so it im­me­di­ately cre­ated a culture of protest.”

The pan­elists also dis­cussed how the me­dia re­acted to the marches.

“We had six hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple march­ing in the Women’s March in D.C. and maybe 250,000 at Trump’s [in­au­gu­ra­tion] but all that got cov­ered was just the num­bers at his [in­au­gu­ra­tion] and his pre­pos­ter­ous claim that there were 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple there,” said Clark.

She con­tin­ued: “He man­aged nonethe­less to con­trol that me­dia cy­cle […] I re­ally think our me­dia needs to be­come more savvy in not al­low­ing [them­selves] to fall into th­ese kinds of traps be­cause that then dis­tracts from the other num­bers and the other events go­ing on.”

Sonin felt more pos­i­tive about the me­dia cov­er­age be­cause me­dia out­lets’ shock at the enor­mity of the protests was ev­i­dent in the cov­er­age.

“I came home from the march in Mon­treal and I turned on CNN and there were th­ese photos and video of the marches hap­pen­ing across the U.S. and around the world. And it shocked the me­dia so much that they didn’t even have nec­es­sar­ily a frame for what the story was go­ing to be. They were just broad­cast­ing the images [...] It was this mo­ment of catch­ing the me­dia off guard. They couldn’t tell the story for you. You got to tell it.”

Dur­ing the ques­tion and an­swer pe­riod, Sonin re­sponded to a ques- tion con­cern­ing what this move­ment means for Canada by con­demn­ing the at­ti­tude that the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment is be­yond re­proach. “[There is] a lot of pat­ting our­selves on the back,” she said, “[but] that’s a slip­pery slope to get into: to com­pare to what is worse so then you be­come stag­nant.”

She added that “I think what we need in Canada right now is to get out in the streets and de­mand that the lib­eral gov­ern­ment live up to its prom­ise of the rights that they have guar­an­teed to our Indige­nous brothers and sis­ters.”

Cournol added a re­minder aimed at en­cour­ag­ing ac­tion and mo­bi­liza­tion through priv­i­lege: “Just re­mem­ber one thing, you are here at Mcgill, you are in a place of priv­i­lege. And a lot of other young peo­ple around the world or even here in Mon­treal, they can­not be here. They don’t have the means.”

Conor Nick­er­son | The Mcgill Daily

The event’s pan­elists.

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