By Adrianne Owings
Amidst the hype and excitement leading up to the monumental Women’s March on Washington, there was also, of course, controversy. There were calls for more intersectionality and representation of marginalized populations, specifically that of women of color and transgender women. For example, fashion designer Bob Bland, who had proposed a similar event and decided to merge with what would eventually become the million-person march, reflected on the fact that “the reality is that the women who initially started organizing [the march] were almost all white.” Others spoke up for the sake of diversity, eventually convincing the organizers to add an explicit diversity statement to the original mission of the march. And while the mission sought to “reflect…multiple and intersecting identities,” there was one community in particular that was explicitly ousted: anti-abortion feminists.
The New Wave Feminists, a feminist group that claims to work in order to make abortion “unthinkable and unnecessary,” was originally partnered with the march before significant backlash made organizers distance themselves from the group and reaffirm their pro-choice stance. The leader of New Wave Feminists, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa said her organization was “really excited to be included in…a strong, united female voice to say [to the Trump administration] ‘we’re watching you and we’re holding you accountable.’” After the march’s organizers denied the partnership, she was disappointed, saying that she would still have been willing to have her group as part of the march despite the disagreement on this single issue. “We have a different opinion, but there are so many ways our beliefs overlap,” she told Slate.
Although I strongly support reproductive justice and freedom for all, which includes supporting a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, I was left asking myself questions I had yet to really consider. Is feminism truly intersectional if it doesn’t also include the voices of more conservative women, or even women who disagree with one or more typically feminist stances on women’s issue? How much does a woman have to disagree with mainstream feminist beliefs in order to have her title of “feminist” invalidated? Who has the authority to define feminism, as narrowly or as broadly as possible?
And to be honest, I’m still torn. On the one hand, my initial reaction is to agree with the decision of the march organizers because I agree with what they believe on the issue of abortion. After all, feminism is the belief in equality of the sexes, and men don’t face the same obstruction to reproductive justice and freedom that women do. Period (no pun intended). Therefore, feminism must include the right to choose. But on the other hand, I understand the sentiments of Herndon-De La Rosa. I was raised in Arkansas, a red state in the deep South, so I’m used to compromise on some issues in order to work towards a greater goal. And, to loosely paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir’s ideas in The Second Sex, women tend to identify with other groups (i.e. political affiliation, race, ethnicity, social class) before they identify with other women. Maybe this is a step in the right direction, even if we’re not in perfect harmony. Is it more productive in an administration that threatens the rights of women in so many other ways to include conservative women in the fight? Isn’t that the true inclusionary feminism for which we strive?