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Respecting All Activism

The Women’s Marches on Washington and on Philadelphia were empowering, peaceful acts of resistance for many, including myself and hundreds of Haverford students who participated. They drew masses of people from across the nation and from many different backgrounds who marched united against Donald Trump’s presidency.

The day after the march, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, where I encountered a post from an acquaintance who is heavily involved in political activism. They called out people who did not march, and in general, don’t engage in specific forms of political action, such as phone banking and donating money. They criticized other sorts of activism, such as the signing of online petitions or wearing a specific color shirt for a cause, deeming them “slacktivism”.

I was deeply saddened to read such debasing thoughts. I have many friends, both at Haverford and back home, who have completely valid reasons as to why they did not march or do not take part in certain types of activism. If only that acquaintance knew about…

  • My transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer friends, who believed that the vagina imagery and “pussy power” ideology so prominent at the march excluded them
  • My friends of color, who felt that that the same white women who marched would never march or speak up for them–where were they at the Black Lives Matter protests?
  • My friends from low-income backgrounds, who were not able to afford the costs of travel or the time due to work
  • My friends with disabilities, who physically were unable to march or struggled with the anxiety of being in such large crowds
  • My friends who are not U.S. citizens, who feared the possibility of deportation should an encounter with the police arise
  • My friends who are religious minorities, who were afraid of physical and verbal attacks from bigots

By shaming those who did not march, do not forget that also includes a good portion of the people you claim to be fighting for, and that you are contributing to their marginalization. Instead of discrediting specific kinds of political action, you should understand that the very identities and circumstances of disenfranchised communities may limit them to only those forms of political activism. Here at Haverford and similarly elsewhere, it shouldn’t matter whether a marginalized individual is an activist out on the streets or from the security of their room. There are no rules to activism, and every effort is crucial to the movement, even if it is as simple as checking in with a friend to see if they are okay.

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