Protestors gathered across the nation for Women’s Marches on Jan. 19, including in Utah, to fight for pay equity, women’s health, family planning, affordable child care and equality, according to the national organization sponsoring the marches.
People for Unity, the organizers of the Utah march, is a student-led political action group dedicated to encouraging youth to be a part of world change, providing places for anyone and everyone to work together to construct a revolution.
Starting at Washington Square Park, Utahns marched to the Utah State Capitol for diversity and those who do not have a voice, according to the Women’s March on Utah 2019’s mission.
“The visibility of walking and marching through the streets is important,” said 24-year-old Angela Gricar, a Women’s March attendee and supporter. “This is just one of those days where I feel like I look around and I just smile at everyone I see. Today you just feel it in the air. Women’s March is a feeling.”
Speakers Saida Dahir, Ermiya Fanaeian, Jackie Biskupski, Mishka Banuri and Jennifer Boyce shared their personal stories and encouraged attendees to be active and take a stand for issues in the world today.
“It’s important to hear other stories and support each other and the Women’s March does a really great job of bringing people together to do this,” said Noor Hamouda, a senior at Westminster College who attended the march.
Hamounda said the Women’s March is an empowering event that raises awareness on issues that are not commonly talked about including the experiences of indigenous women.
Attendees at the march said they drew confidence from each other and seeing so many people gather for the event.
“[The Women’s March] is a chance for women to see each other and to be able to get together and recognize that there are a lot of women who care,” said Raphael Cordray, 48-year-old who attended the march with her nieces. “I think that it is empowering and heartening to see those women who care about these issues. It inspires me to see women out together, but I hope that it gets other women thinking ‘Oh I can do little things that add up to big things.’”
Diversity at the Women’s March
Jessie Hensley, 30-year-old transgender man and attendee at the Women’s March, said that he came to stand up for his gender beliefs and to fight against gender dysphoria.
“We should be able to make our own choices about our own bodies,” Hensley said. “No one else should be able to tell us what we can or can’t do with our bodies and no one should be able to violate our bodies in any way.”
Hensley said he supports marches and rallies year round for equal rights and representation in all fields.
“I think that it is very important for people to know that black lives matter, that’s why I am wearing this shirt,” Hensley said. “Let’s not forget that black women do more work for the women’s movement than white people. People should be more inclusive of disabled as well. I just think that intersectionality is important [like] being inclusive of trans people.”
While the Women’s March supports a diverse community and leads a movement toward a more equal future, the women’s movement should be more inclusive of trans women, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals, according to Hensley.
Feminine Power at the Women’s March
After recently living in Sri Lanka and India, 40-year-old Whitney Reed said that she has a more global perspective on women’s rights.
“[Sri Lanka and India] are very traditional, old societies that have older, hierarchical traditions,” said Reed, who attended the march with her friend Megan McKenna. “The way that they treat women is as a lower class. Although it is more prominent there, I feel like there is still that theme throughout the whole world.”
Reed said she believes the Women’s March is a way for people to become a part of the global change that many individuals are seeking.
“The reason why I am advocating the Women’s March is because the feminine has been extremely suppressed,” Reed said. “I think that it is important that we give the feminine a voice.”
According to Reed, women’s motherly attributes are not honored in today’s society and where she sees success, she also sees a lot of masculine energy. She said the Women’s March mission is to give women a voice and an opportunity to stand together in solidarity to protected their rights, health and safety.
As supporters of other Women’s Marches over the past year, Reed and McKenna came down to the Utah State Capitol from Park City to be apart of the change.
“We are coming together and showing solidarity,” said 37-year-old Megan McKenna. “I believe that we are stronger together and that we are showing the country that we are not giving up and we are not going to be silent. We will keep speaking up for what’s happening in our country and fighting until something changes.”
As a teacher, many of McKenna’s role models are other teachers and other strong women, including Former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“[Michelle Obama] is a huge influence on me right now,” McKenna said. “But also, all of these women who have run in the last election and in the midterms who have recently come into office, I am really inspired and excited for the future.”
Political Empowerment at the Women’s March
One of the goals for the Women’s March on Utah was to fight for equal representation in all fields including politics, according to organizers.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of the 2018 midterm elections, 131 women serve in the United States Congress out of 435 seats or around 30 percent. While this is a record high, it is significantly below the gender parity since the US Census Bureau reports that 50.8 percent of people living the US are women.
For some attendees, turning out for the Women’s March is one way to get politically involved.
The march means solidarity and visibility with other women and other people, said 24-year-old Angela Gricar. She said she looks up to American politician, educator and political activist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“I liked her grassroots on the ground campaign,” Gricar said. “I like that she wore the same pair of shoes until they were falling off of her feet. I like that kind of work ethic.”
Gricar said she is an active member of her community. She said she canvased during the past election and was a poll worker during the early voting on election day.
“I fully understand how much work canvassing and campaigning is for Congress,” Gricar said. “It’s nice to see a young female putting in the work for us.”
Gricar said she has also marched at the Women’s March in California which she said gave her a new perspective on feminist activism.
“Marching in a more conservative state was definitely eye-opening,” said Gricar. “It’s like a weird liberal bubble just surrounded by a sea of red.”