The Women’s March has been struggling to stay above ground as accusations of anti-Semitism continue to rock the national leadership team.
As IJR previously reported, several local Women’s Marches have cut ties with the national organization for their seemingly unapologetic connections to known anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
Farrakhan, the current leader of the Nation of Islam, has a long record of anti-Semitic statements, including this tweet comparing Jews to Termites, which Twitter still hasn’t removed:
I'm not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite. pic.twitter.com/L5dPQcnVg4
— MINISTER FARRAKHAN (@LouisFarrakhan) October 16, 2018
The current co-chairs of the Women’s March, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, both have a connection to Farrakhan. In reaction to the controversy surrounding their ties to the man, they wrote a blog saying that it isn’t their job to condemn Farrakhan.
“Tamika and I are women with our own agency. We speak for ourselves and ourselves alone,” Sarsour wrote. “We are being stripped of our agency when every few months we are asked to condemn the Minister about words that we did not say, nonetheless the words of a man who did not consult us on his words. We are being held to standards that no one would hold themselves to.”
This statement didn’t cut it for many. As IJR previously reported, Women’s March founder Teresa Shook even called for Sarsour and Mallory to step down.
“[Current Women’s March leadership has] steered the movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not,” Shook said in a statement. “In opposition to our unity principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQIA sentiment, and hateful, racist rhetoric to become part of their platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse racist, hateful beliefs.”
Now, the Women’s March stands at a leadership crossroads. They can choose to stand with their current leadership, isolating many who feel they haven’t done enough to separate themselves from hateful ideologies, or they can start over with new leadership.
For pro-life and conservative women, this leadership shakeup could result in a Women’s March where they could actually feel welcomed.
Past Women’s Marches have been unwelcoming to conservative and pro-life women.
Abby Johnson, founder and director of And Then There Were None, and author of “Unplanned,” which will be a major motion picture released in March 2019, told IJR that the Women’s March became a “rally for abortion rights.”
“The Women’s March has the potential to be more powerful and include more women — but they turn off millions of women who are pro-life and believe that abortion is a terrible injustice to women. Planned Parenthood has hijacked the Women’s March and it’s message, which initially was to protect the vulnerable and empower those with no voice. Not the march has become a rally for abortion rights.”
Johnson explained that a leadership change that turned the focus on women instead of side-issues like abortion could ensure that all women are empowered, rather than silenced.
“If the Women’s March would invite pro-life feminists into the fold and let our voices be heard alongside theirs, it would go a long way towards a more inclusive movement. We have stories that need to be heard too and it’s disingenuous to shut down our voices because we are pro-life.”
But it isn’t just pro-life women that feel unwelcome at the Women’s March.
Jennifer Pierotti Lim, co-founder and executive director of Republican Women for Progress, echoed the claims from Women’s March founder Teresa Shook. Lim told IJR that she believed the March needed to return to its original goal of welcoming all women to the table.
“I think early on, the original Women’s March was really trying to be that march that united all women, regardless of their political beliefs. They just wanted to get more women engaged. It started to go downhill right before the actual march when outside groups approached them to get involved with certain specific issues. It was a shame, I thought, that it kind of got away from its original focus of empowering women — especially during this time.”
Lim explained she thinks the March grew too quickly, forcing the leadership team into a spotlight they may not have been prepared to handle. She told IJR that this leadership change could be a good chance to refocus on the original goal of the march.
“I know [Women’s March leadership] is working on their unity message right now, but they need an actual unity message. It can’t just be: ‘We’re okay with your womanhood if you believe in this certain set of criteria.’ We’ve taken the view that whether you’re a Republican woman or a Democratic woman, just getting more women engaged and more women at the table, that’s going to help everyone.”
Although it is unclear how the leadership team will manage this backlash, the third national Women’s March is still set to be held January 19.
The leadership team has some soul searching to do as they consider the future of the March. If they heed the advice of their founder and turn back to the original focus of the March, they may just be able to empower all women — not just all liberal women.
An IJR Blue reaction to the recent controversy surrounding Women’s March leadership can be found here.