Turning a March Into Action, Day 1

The Women’s March was an event created by women in support of women to voice their concerns on the first day of the new federal administration, but as we’ve seen before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that women will be the ones to talk about it.

Leading up to the Women’s March, GenderAvenger’s question was: who would cover it?

The morning of the march, a panel on CNN’s “Inside Politics” featured a male moderator who led a panel of two women and two men. Seeing an even gender split in a discussion about the Women’s March seemed a solid start to the day’s discussions.

As the day progressed, it quickly became clear that the global marches’ turnout far exceeded both what organizers anticipated and what the media expected.

The first crowd estimates of the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, with sister events occurring simultaneously all over the world, was already at 3 million by that evening. And so too, by that evening, the coverage began to change.

Time and again we see women commentators included on what are considered “women’s issues” and then sidelined on discussions of politics, economics, and world news.

As the scope of the marches grew, they seemed to cross that imaginary line over to “real news.” By 10 pm that night on the same channel, we now had a moderator leading an eight-person panel with only one woman. Again: that’s eight men and one woman to discuss one of the largest and furthest-reaching gatherings of women in recent history.

The headlines started to appear as well. The Washington Post ran an article titled “At the Women’s March, it’s the men who mattered most. Here’s why.” The New York Times ran an article the next day with the headline “When 'Mommy Has To March,' Routines Shift”, which turned the focus of the event onto the men in Montclair, New Jersey who were “left to juggle schedules on their own” and care for their children while their wives traveled to Washington for the march. SFGate.com posted a picture of U.S. Senators taking a selfie at the inauguration with the caption “a woman takes a selfie with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)…” That woman was U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who was seated among the rest of the Senators in a senator-only section for the ceremony.

Clearly, women just showing up is not enough. But while the battle to ensure that women’s voices and perspectives are included is not over, it is also not fruitless.

GenderAvenger was not the only one to notice these epic public failures. Within 24 hours, The Washington Post’s “men matter most” headline was amended to read “At the Women’s March, the men mattered, too.” The New York Times responded to their ridiculous look-at-men-act-like-parents article by changing its headline to “How Vital Are Women? This Town Found Out as They Left To March” and issuing an apology which, while doing little for the content of said article, does demonstrate the power of some good old public backlash. Then, in perhaps what was the most impressive about-face of the weekend, that CNN panel with eight men and one woman? After some rapid-fire tweeting pointing out their hypocrisy, CNN promptly readjusted the panel to a drastically better balanced three women and two men, all in about forty minutes.

If you have ever doubted the power of people coming together, we hope this helps.

While it has been frustrating to see the way women’s voices are so often left out of important public discourse, it is equally heartening to know that we can change it. We did change it this weekend. We were able to do so by coming together, supporting one another, and amplifying our voices until we could no longer be ignored. This is what it takes. This is why we do what we do at GenderAvenger. Take heart, take note, and take action. This is how change is made.