The annual Women’s March has made headlines around the world for its large turnout and display of activist energy. But this year’s march has been marred by several controversies, which have impacted Penn students' participation in the event.
Many students who will march in Center City on Saturday morning worry about several issues surrounding the march, including questions about the inclusivity of all women and anti-Semitism.
The national Women's March has faced criticism in the past by those who say there is a lack of concern for women of color and transgender women. The March’s leadership has also been rocked by allegations of anti-Semitism. National co-chairs of the Women's March Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory came under fire for their relationship with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the political and religious movement Nation of Islam, who has a history of making anti-Semitic comments.
In December, the online magazine Tablet reported that Mallory asserted that Jewish people were uniquely responsible for the exploitation of people of color.
Penn Democrats is hosting a delegation of students who will attend the nationally-organized Women's March at LOVE Park on Saturday — the first time the national Women's March organization is having an event in Philadelphia.
Students attending with Penn Dems also expressed concern with this year's event. Penn Dems President and College sophomore EJ Carlson said while the controversies were a “sensitive issue,” the organizers have taken steps to address them.
“They have made efforts from what we understand to reconcile issues that were brought up in the past, for example about policing [and] intersectionality,” Carlson said.
While Penn Dems is attending the national march at LOVE Park, other students are choosing to attend the original, locally organized Philly Women Rally’s march.
Penn Association for Gender Equality will host a group attending the locally organized march, which will begin at Logan Square. Members of PAGE have also recognized the controversial nature of the march. The group did not participate in the event last year because of the involvement of the Philadelphia Police.
"PAGE recognizes that the Women’s March has not always been inclusive to all women, as last year its connection to the Philadelphia police endangered many minority women, including sex workers, trans women, and women of color," a statement from PAGE Chair and College junior Tanya Jain read.
"PAGE does not support the use of pink pussyhats at the march or other supposed symbols of feminism that gender genitalia in transphobic ways. However, PAGE recognizes that the Women’s March was, and continues to be, a monumental event for gender equity."
College sophomore Rachel Steinig, who will be speaking about gun violence at the locally organized march, said while she has attended several women’s marches in the city, she was hesitant about participating this year.
“I think that this year there has been more controversy with the Women’s March, specifically nationally but also within Philly as well," Steinig said. "This is the first year where I somewhat questioned whether I fully wanted to go to the Women’s March."
In spite of the controversies surrounding both marches, other students highlighted the continued importance of the event.
Wharton freshman Himanvi Kopuri, who is considering attending with Penn Dems, acknowledged the controversy, but stressed the need for female solidarity.
“I think it's important for women to stand together and fight for the issues we truly care about,” Kopuri said, noting the success of the #MeToo movement.
College freshman Aidan Mayer Ahearn said while the anti-Semitism surrounding the Women’s March’s leadership is “insulting,” he believed it was not necessarily reflective of the whole movement.
“Stand behind what the Women’s March is about, but refuse to stand behind the people who are going to cause these controversies,” Ahearn said.
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