I have identified as a feminist since I was sixteen, and although I feel passionate about the movement and its causes, I had never participated in any kind of demonstration before. One of my resolutions for this year was to change that, so this year, I joined the 2019 Women’s March in Amsterdam. Full of excitement, me, my friends and 15000 others gathered at Dam Square to make our voices be heard. Because I had never been to a demonstration like this before, it felt overwhelming to see the crowd, but in a very positive and empowering way. Everywhere I looked I could see amazing, handcrafted signs, with provoking and passionate slogans concerning female empowerment, dissolution of the gender binary and the thirst for universal rights. There was an incredible sense of spirit and solidarity in the air, funded by the thrill of the communal goal. The energy of the crowd was lifted even further by a few short speeches the organisers and a few selected activists gave before we started marching.
On a podium in the middle of the square, the host of the march, Enaam Ahmed Ali, introduced our first speaker, Adinda Veltrop. She started her speech off with some heartfelt words, expressing that she was grateful to all of us for turning up. Then, rallying up the crowds, she told us to cheer harder because “they can’t hear you in Den Haag.” She encouraged us by saying that if the politicians in Den Haag were not going to listen to us, we were going to fight back by creating our own stage. Then it was time for Julie, an ambassador from March For Our Lives. She gave us the message that everyone, no matter their age, race or sexuality, deserves to be heard. After two more speeches, one from a deaf woman and the other from a group representing queer and trans refugees, the short speeches were over. Enaam Ahmed Ali concluded the short introduction by saying: “Be respectful towards each other, be kind, be loving, no hate!”. After an energizing chant, we were off towards Museumplein.
I loved marching alongside like-minded people and reading the signs that they had made. A few of my favourite signs read: “Gender is a social construct,” “Stronger together” and “Male pill, where are you?” But the one that absolutely took the cake, read “We are not ovaryacting!” accompanied by an illustration of a uterus with an angry face. While we were marching, rain started pouring down and the wind wasn’t gentle either. Luckily this didn’t dampen the activists’ mood. Chants like “My body! My choice” and “Power to the people!” sounded through the streets. At first it felt a little awkward to chant along, but after a little getting used to, it was empowering to express this outward and unapologetic feminist mantra. When we arrived at Museumplein, another podium was set for seven more people to give a speech. People from all walks of life were represented in those talks. We heard from a young black woman about body agency, from a disabled woman on the inaccessibility of marches and from a muslim woman, who talked to us about the hypocrisy and racism of politicians wanting to ban headscarfs. People hung on to their every word and overloaded them with applause when they made statements that resonated with them deeply.
What stood out to me about the march was the incredibly inclusive and diverse nature of the event. There was of course a common goal uniting us, but the Women’s March showed that no single cause was superior to another. This was reflected in the speakers the organisers had invited. People of colour, people with disabilities and LBGTQ+ people were all given a podium. This was reflected in the different organisations that marched with us; there was an organisation vouching for more female art in museums, the union for sex work marched for more rights for sex workers in the Netherlands and there were many more. Lastly, it was reflected in the individuals such as myself, who decided it was important to show up to the demonstration and let our voices be heard.
One word was mentioned over and over: intersectionality. It was mentioned in the different signs people were holding up and in the various speeches that were held. In one of the speeches someone even went so far as to say that if it is not intersectional, it is not feminism. But what does that term mean? What is the difference between non-intersectional feminism and intersectional feminism? In their great book, Intersectionality, Collins and Bilge say that it “is a way of understanding and analyzing the complexity in the world, in people, and in human experience.” This complexity is influenced by factors such as class, race, sexuality, and gender, which in turn all influence each other. When applying this concept to feminism, it means that instead of only approaching problems through the framework of gender, we include other factors as well.
This acknowledgement of the different factors that influence power is incredibly important because it shows that no two experiences are the same. If feminism only focuses on the problems of white, heterosexual, cis and able-bodied women, other people who do not fit this description are being overshadowed and left out. The only way we can understand gender inequality is by examining how things like racism, homophobia and ableism influence it as well. The volunteers who organised the Women’s March 2019 understood this through and through. It is no coincidence that on their Facebook page they described 2019 as not just being about women, and that they said: “all oppression is connected.”