“Did you go to the Women’s March?”

I have been asked this question a lot since yesterday, when the newest generation of Women’s Marches sallied forth on waves of bright enthusiasm. I notice a lot of women and femmes of color avoided the Women’s March (WM) events this year, which is understandable. After last year’s shenanigans, I didn’t really think twice about the WM event. I have seen a couple of things on FB about WM groups making a sincere effort to engage in intersectionality and not spoon feeding white feminism, and I hope they had successful events.

Speaking for myself (and I believe that many black women have a similar orientation), if I’m not explicitly invited into something, I’m not trying to go (unless I want to disrupt it, or need it to survive). If, as in the case of the Pussy Marches, people treat me like a tolerated spectator (or are intolerant of people, as in some cases of excluding trans women), and dig their heels in, pushing back when folks like me try to connect and share space with equity, I am gonna move on, and likely won’t check back. Because I don’t trust it. I think this is generally common among people who have been hurt or betrayed. A byproduct of vigilance.

Last year, I watched as various communities of folks tried to engage in collaborative conversations online* and were overwhelmed by wave after wave of White Cis Feminist Pushback: against sex workers, against trans women, against pro-choice ideas, and against the very idea of prioritizing equity and elevating the voices of marginalized people. It was so painful to watch.

If women and femmes who were alienated are to take these WM organizations seriously, they will have to make intense, targeted efforts to capture our trust again. It will need to involve mapping out the path that led to distrust, and the path that will lead toward equitable collaboration. No one is entitled to cause harm and expect second chances without accounting for the damage. If WM groups are doing things differently, I’m so excited to hear about it! If it looks promising, I will spread the word. Until then, I will keep facing forward, looking for faces I trust, and opportunities to build trust.

*I know that the things I see online represent a very limited sample, and there is more to what is happening in movement spaces. I am working to engage with more real-time, face-to-face connections and conversations. In the meantime, online spaces are an important resource for me to access information, ideas, and opportunities.