Justice over comfort; equality over privilege. I wrote these words on my neon pink poster in preparation for the Women’s March in San Francisco—one of the hundreds of sister marches for the Women’s March in Washington that occurred all over the world the day after the presidential inauguration.
I was in India when the election results were announced. Isolated in grief, both physically and emotionally, it was easy to feel defeated. Like many others I had been vocal about my support for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton; I had obstinately refused to listen to people who believed in anything but what I deemed as “true equality.” When I learned that Trump had been elected, I was heartbroken—not just for myself, but for the millions of refugees, immigrants, students, LGBTQ, and people of color who would now face an even harder battle for equality in both theory and practice.
Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March wrote in a blog post, “women are intersectional human beings who live multi-issued lives.” I see intersectional movements as the only enduring way in which to fight for progress. It is not enough to fight just for women’s rights. It is an inherently privileged view to fight for the “right to choose” when marginalized women of color are sometimes not even afforded that right.
I held up my sign during the march, among the throngs of men and women in San Francisco. Despite the defiant atmosphere and the powerful words everyone was chanting: “the women united will never be divided,” I felt slightly disappointed. I had spent hours brainstorming ways in which to incorporate the intersectionality of the movement. Signs like “A girl’s place is in the resistance” or “Keep your tiny hands off my rights” were powerful and valid, yet exclusive. The people of color in the crowds were only a small proportion of those in attendance. Brown bodies—especially South Asian bodies—were sparse to find.
In the years to come, it will be increasingly important for brown people to fight for black people, and for black people to fight for brown people. The only way to make effective progress that validates not just our voices, but marginalized and oppressed voices is to rally around an inclusive women’s rights movement. We must fight for climate change by fighting to end infrastructure projects that will adversely affect those in low income communities. We must fight for abortion rights by first fighting to eradicate amendments like the Hyde Amendment, which denies insurance coverage of abortion for low-income people enrolled in Medicaid. We must first fight for economic justice.
For much of the march, I could only focus on the sensations in my own body: I was cold, wet, and tired. All I could think about was going home. But I held up my sign: justice over comfort, and kept on walking. I marched not just for myself, but for all those people who could not be there because they felt threatened for their own safety. For the next four years, I will continue to march and to fight not just for a better leader, but for a more inclusive America.