I will not readily forget the feeling of standing in solidarity with over 10,000 fellow marchers at Women’s March Sydney last year. To know that millions of people around the world joined over 600 local Women’s March Global events on 21 January, 2017, to see it visually documented, to recognise it as a herstoric moment, and to actually feel it in your bones are two distinctly different things. For me, the sheer scale of the movement remains abstract but I can still remember my internal response to journalist Tracy Spicer’s words, “I like to think about these actions – these marches – as anti-hatred, anti-bigotry and anti-misogyny.”
As I stood there yielding my “hands off my bloody pussy” sign, red dye on my crotch to highlight the double entendre, I felt connected to my fellow cis and trans women, men and non-binary marchers as we moved with a spirit of collective empowerment.
Pictured: Alexandra Havas and Sasha Jurac. Photo credit: Jasmine Wallis.
Last year’s Women’s March eclipsed its anti-Trump protest beginnings. It became a symbol of resistance, proof that marginalised women can speak out and be meaningfully heard. For Mindy Freiband, Co-Founder of Women’s March Sydney, the greatest achievement of the movement thus far has been giving momentum to existing initiatives like Tarana Burke’s #MeToo, and more recent initiatives like #MeNoMore, a direct response to sexual harassment and discrimination in the Australian Music Industry.
“We’re seeing unbelievable momentum with things like the #MeToo initiative, #MeNoMore and #TimesUp. While 2017 was undoubtedly a very challenging year, it was also a great year for the Women’s Movement. People have spoken in unprecedented ways, and I like to think of the spirit of the marches as a springboard for this momentum,” she said.
In 2018, Women’s March Sydney aims to become a central hub connecting women to initiatives that resonate with them personally.
“We have an opportunity to bring all the voices of people who have been marginalised or offended by the populous movements of 2016, to bring all of those voices to the table and say, you know, we’re all here and we’re all ready to stand together,” Mindy said, “but we also want to connect people to organisations that speak directly to the things that resonate with them. Whether that be issues around domestic violence, racism and Aboriginal inequality, trans issues, environmental issues; the amount of things that were threatened in the populous campaigns of 2016 is huge.”
As Women’s March Sydney evolves as an organisation, their focus remains fine-tuning the most effective ways to advocate for community empowerment, justice and equality.
“I think sometimes that means getting people out onto the streets, and making sure people feel respected and that they’re not alone in their struggles, and then sometimes it’s advocating for people and supporting campaigns that are already working on issues, and sometimes it’s just reaching out and making sure people know that there are other people who are going through the same things.”
2017 was undoubtedly a momentous year for grassroots intersectional feminist organising, with the Women’s March Global and #MeToo movements becoming important precedents. So is this where the future of intersectional feminism lies?
According to Mindy, “it lies both in grassroots organising and in people making their personal lives political.” In order to change cultural norms, we must start with ourselves.
“These are things that have been happening to women for all of history, but there are breaking points that make people feel empowered and encouraged enough to speak out. I think the Women’s March has helped with that. So yeah, I think it’s going to be a combination of grassroots organising, getting people out on the streets, but also really getting everyone to take a stance for themselves, to make their stories political.”
This Sunday 21 January, 74 Women’s March demonstrations in 27 countries around the world will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the herstoric 2017 march. In Australia, supporters will gather at Sydney’s Hyde Park, Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens and Brisbane’s King George Square for Unbroken, a powerful show of solidarity in the face of ongoing discrimination, harassment and assault.
Participants are invited to create a human chain after the rally, a tangible and symbolic statement that violence against women of all kinds must stop. The focus of the event is to amplify current initiatives which speak specifically to women’s experiences of sexual assault and violent harassment. At the same time, Women's March Sydney will continue to highlight the diversity of women’s experiences.
“We’re trying to make sure we include women who are facing challenges related to multiple parts of their identity,” Mindy said. “We partnered with as many different organisations as we can in support of this event. We’re trying to make sure we have a real diversity of partners represented, and again, our goal is to bring any diverse voice into the conversation and also make sure we’re empowering people and helping people find the organisations that speak to their specific needs.”
For those who face obstacles to their participation or who are unable to make it to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, Mindy recommends staying engaged through social media.
“We will remain active on all of our social media and each city has its own organisation, so we want people to be able to reach out to their own Women’s March groups and find that hub where they can connect out to other more specific partners, who may be dealing with issues that speak to them.
“At our event itself, we are going to be giving people ideas about how to get involved whether it be through volunteerism or financial contribution. We also want to make sure that we are touching upon the other issues that speak to people, because there’s quite a few things to be working on right now.”
Unbroken is taking place this Sunday 21 January at 11am at Sydney’s Hyde Park, Melbourne’s Alexandria Garden’s and Brisbane’s King George Square. To RSVP to the Sydney event, please click here.
As a female-led organisation actively supporting intersectional feminism, The QUO is proud to partner with Women’s March Sydney.