With signs in hand and sensible shoes underfoot, millions of women, men, children and pets from around the world took to the streets on Jan. 21 for the second annual Women’s March.
According to organizers, last year’s march was about sending a bold message to the new administration, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. This year’s goals focused on increasing voter participation with the slogan “Power to the Polls” and encouraging more women to run for political office.
People of all races, genders, ages, sexual orientations and religions came together advocating for the issues that matter to them. The major topics addressed were not only women’s rights, but voter participation and political involvement, the “#MeToo” movement, immigration, abortion and LGBT rights.
Senior Kat Van-Oss attended the Indianapolis March on Washington Street because she has always been passionate about equality.
“Although we have made incredible steps towards true equality, we still have so far to go.” said Van-Oss. “I knew I wanted to play whatever little part I could in achieving that. I strongly believe everyone has the right to make their voice heard no matter their gender, race, religion or orientation. That is why I marched and will keep marching until that goal is achieved.”
Senior Abby Johnson, who attended the march in Chicago, Illinois, described the atmosphere as “electric.”
“Everyone was chanting and talking in anger, solidarity and celebration,” said Johnson. “One of the chants we recited ended in ‘this is what democracy looks like.’ This feels extremely true, like what we were doing was democracy in action.”
According to CBS News, critics of the march believed these protests were really just a protest against President Trump. Opposition like this causes movements in many aspects.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been credited with creating a domino effect on gender issues taking center stage within popular culture and politics.
People are feeling more empowered than ever to tell their stories and create some kind of difference in how the country has previously handled power struggle situations. However, according to Dr. Tammy Reedy-Strother, chair of the Department of Sociology, it can’t stop there.
“Those types of rallies can be great, inspirational venues that can mobilize people to action,” said Reedy-Strother. “But think about a youth rally or a really moving church service. If the action stops at the door or when the emotion wanes, is there any real change as a result? It’s easy to get excited when you are around others who are enthusiastic and excited themselves, but true change only happens when the recognition of the importance of the cause itself serves to continue to move you to action.”
Dr. Jaye Rogers, professor of history and the Department Chair of the History and Political Science Department, agrees with Reedy-Strother.
“We have got to be more involved politically,” she said. “We have to get out there and vote. You have a responsibility and a right to vote at the age of 18 in this country. Get informed about the issues, and if you have questions, ask.”
Rogers warns against believing everything you read, stressing the importance of using critical thinking skills to determine to the best of your ability what is truthful and what isn’t. She believes that in order to make a change, you have to be willing to put in some work, including writing to your representative, volunteering within your community and showing up to the polls.
“I know it’s hard as college students to vote,” said Rogers. “It may be a hassle to vote long-distance, but we get the government we set up. If you aren’t actively involved, you aren’t contributing anything to the discussion.”
Historically, midterm election participation has been drastically lower than presidential election participation. According to a statistic from electproject.org, the 2014 midterm election had less than 36 percent voter participation, while the 2016 presidential elections had 60 percent participation. Midterm elections take place two years after each presidential election and are responsible for electing seats in the House of Representatives and seats in the U.S. Senate.
Throughout the march, volunteers were set up helping people register to vote. Midterm elections will be taking place Nov. 6, 2018.
Each state runs their elections differently. Information about states’ election protocols can be found at www.usa.gov/register-to-vote. Absentee ballots are available for those who cannot be present to vote in their district. Those who are over the age of 18, meet their state’s residency requirements and are registered to vote can cast their ballots in November.
“I think it’s important for people to be involved, especially now,” said Johnson. “The decisions made in the branches of government, local, state and national, affect the very real, very human lives of very human people. That power can’t go unchecked, and being a member of the people, especially a people that are politically informed and active, can be a powerful hand in the making of these decisions.”