Is there no room at the table for old-school feminists? In her Jan. 12 commentary about the Minnesota Women’s March planned for Jan. 21, Mary Losure writes, “At one of our meetings, two old-school feminists showed up and insisted that ‘the men have to march in the back.’ ” We are those old-school feminists, and it was our idea that a women’s march should put women first by creating a women-only marching section to lead the procession to the Capitol. After all, this may be the only day that women can walk in the front for the next four years during which Donald Trump and his male cohorts can walk “wherever they darn please.” Ms. Losure’s misrepresentation of our proposal and her corresponding, mean-spirited remarks imply that we are unreasonable and we do not recognize a supportive role for men as allies in the Women’s March.
This ridicule of us and of our vision reflects a wider divide between our feminist values and the traditional power structure embraced by the leaders of the Minnesota Women’s March, a group of four women who call themselves the executive committee. In contrast to the feminist principles of collective decisionmaking, mutual empowerment and honoring lessons learned, the executive committee unilaterally rejected our idea at the public organizational meeting in December and denied the large group of attendees to engage in a discussion or ask questions or raise concerns.
We recognize and admire the hard work of everyone involved in organizing the Minnesota Women’s March. We are grateful for all of the effort and sacrifices. At the same time, we are deeply concerned about the lack of guiding feminist principles and practices employed in the planning stages. We have witnessed a process that promotes exclusion rather than inclusion. The lessons of history have taught us that it is the groundwork and ideals of the early women’s rights activists and suffragettes as well as the inroads made by the old-school feminists of the past few decades that have paved the way for the women and girls of today to gather freely and march in solidarity without shame, fear or loss of dignity.
In this era of fake news and various forms of social media, are we creating more of a division by pitting older activists against younger activists instead of working together in a collective, free-flowing exchange of ideas? Can’t we have differences of opinion without being assigned a marginalized label? Finally, if labels and divisiveness are the future, isn’t it time to change the Women’s March into a People’s March?
Ann Walters and Elizabeth Langer live in St. Paul.