On January 21, the anniversary of the nationwide Women’s March in 2017, thousands of people again gathered to rally and march together for women’s rights all across the country. Attending the March in Pittsburgh on Sunday were a number of students from SRU’s own Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) along with several gender studies students.
This is the second year FMLA has hosted a group outing to the Women’s March; in 2017, the trip was planned early in the academic year, and a group of around 50 students took their signs and their voices to Washington D.C. to march.
“It was really a great atmosphere when we got [to D.C.]; it was a great community feeling,” said FMLA PR chair Maggie Calvert. “Everybody was there for the same reasons and it felt really good to be with like-minded people.”
Calvert along with the rest of the FMLA executive board planned to take a shorter, more localized trip and march in Pittsburgh.
“I felt that there were a lot of people who maybe didn’t get to have that experience or would want to spend the anniversary of the Women’s March doing another march, so I thought it would be important to kind of give our newer members that same experience we got last year,” Calvert said.
The Pittsburgh march, according to Calvert and social work major Leah Rousso, was significantly shorter but much more controlled than the march in Washington D.C. a year ago. Calvert described this year’s event as more of a rally than a march, as there were more speakers talking about why they were there and truly what everyone was marching for, and the route was shorter. As different as the experience was, Calvert still felt the experience was a great one.
“There was more of a focus on women and their involvement in politics, which I feel is a really big issue,” Calvert said. “The representation isn’t always equal and that was a big focus this year.”
Rousso, who is completing a minor in gender studies along with her social work major, said this year’s march helped her gain a lot of confidence in herself and what she and everyone around her were marching for.
“This is the year that we’re done, people are done taking B.S.,” Rousso said. “We’re not gonna put up with people being treated unfairly, with women of color being treated so terribly compared to everyone else. We’re not gonna put up with sexual assault anymore. This year is the year of no B.S.”
The signs seen at the march seemed to highly agree with Rousso. Some included references to John Mulaney and Saturday Night Live, others brought popular memes like eating Tide Pods into the occasion. Rousso also remarked that there were a surprising number of kids at the march Sunday, all with signs saying things like, “Be nice.”
One of Rousso’s own signs made a reference to a new Girl Scout initiative called the Girl Agenda. Her sign simply read, “Agent of Change” and the new initiative involves the young Scouts learning about how to make change, as well as older girls and adult women actually making changes.
Rousso wasn’t the only gender studies student in attendance at the Pittsburgh march. Senior public health major Kali Kerstetter marched alongside fellow activists, as well. Although she took part in the march in Washington D.C. in 2017, she said she wasn’t sure what she was walking into this time around.
“I was very excited to go but also skeptical, but it was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever experienced,” Kerstetter said. “You had an instant connection with an insane amount of people in just one second. I don’t think I could experience that anywhere else.”
Rousso had a similar experience, and she discussed the fact that, no matter what activist event she attended, she was always overwhelmed with a feeling of pure safety, support and love. Rousso said many people think that, in heavily activist scenarios, there’s a large sense of danger due to counter protests or similar possible consequences. But Rousso has never had a negative experience like that.
“When I was in D.C., I didn’t question my safety at all. I felt so supported and I felt a lot of love,” Rousso said. “I had no worries about anything at all, and I felt it in Pittsburgh, too.”
Calvert said FMLA, a group dedicated to intersectional feminism, will continue to be involved with events like the Women’s March and those similar, especially because many of FMLA’s activism takes place here on SRU’s campus and online.
“[FMLA] should give our members that firsthand experience,” Calvert said. “[The Women’s March] gave us the experience to participate in a march or protest.”
Calvert said FMLA plans to be very involved in the community as much as possible, and she hopes to bring as much as possible from the Women’s March and apply it to the SRU and Slippery Rock community.