The day after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, students and groups from all over Penn will fill the National Mall with thousands of other demonstrators at the Women’s March on Washington. Some of the Penn groups attending are We Are Watching, Penn Democrats, Hillel and the Muslim Student Association.
The march, organized in response to the election of 1968 Wharton graduate and President-elect Donald Trump, aims to “join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore” and to counter “rhetoric of the past election cycle.”
Some students attending the march felt that Trump’s alumni status makes Penn representation at the march more significant.
“As the institution involved in educating [Trump], there is a responsibility to have a Penn presence,” said Gavi Reiter, College senior and member of Penn’s V-Day College Campaign, which puts on an annual production of “The Vagina Monologues.”
The feminist art collective We Are Watching hopes to garner as much awareness and involvement as possible on campus, which they see as their “feminist duty,” co-founding member and College senior Rhea Singh said. She added that the group hopes to inhabit more of an activist role on campus. Due to the march’s high profile, We Are Watching has received an endorsement and support for the trip from the Penn Women’s Center, and is hoping to partner with Philadelphia organizations to further their mission of “continued activism” for women’s rights.
Penn Democrats President and College sophomore Rachel Pomerantz said she feels that showing solidarity with women on campus and nationally is more important as the country approaches an “unpredictable and scary time.” She added that public solidarity could have the potential to “morph into a sustainable opposition” to both the Trump administration and specific policies that might target both women and people of color.
Singh said that the march will “be a voice for all the people whose personhood’s have been denied” and who she worried would be subjected to violence under Trump administration.
We Are Watching co-founder and College junior Amanda Silberling felt the mission of the march was about demonstrating support for women’s rights rather than just opposition to Trump.
“When I mentioned to people that I was going to the march, people asked about its unifying message because [it] can be unclear if you don’t know anything about it,” Silberling said. “It’s not necessarily an anti-Trump march, but it’s supposed to be a reminder and symbol of the fact that so many people in this country aren’t going to stand for a government that treats women unfairly.”
Silberling also spoke to the historic nature of the march and its ability to influence not only the Trump administration, but Congress as well.
“There is great power in changing just a few people minds,” Silberling said.
Reiter, Pomerantz, Singh and Silberling all mentioned the recently announced plan to defund Planned Parenthood, an official partner of the Women’s March on Washington, as an example of a policy that would negatively impact women.
All four expressed optimism. Silberling said the march would effectively demonstrate that “so many people in this country aren’t going to stand for a government that treats women unfairly.”
The Washington, D.C. marchers will not be alone — over 30 national and international solidarity “sister” marches will be taking place all over the world, including at City Hall in Philadelphia. Singh stressed the importance of student attendance at the Philadelphia march for those unable to make the march on Washington.
While both Penn Democrats and We Are Watching have not yet laid out any concrete plans to attend either march, both Pomerantz and Singh said they anticipate action once classes resume. Hillel and the Muslim Student Association have provided interfaith busses to transport Penn students to Washington.
“It’s time to show the world how we feel,” Reiter said.
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