By: Ileena Ke
On Jan. 20, thousands of people took to the streets to protest in favour of women’s rights, and Hamilton was no exception, with a Women’s March Forward Summit held at city hall to talk about what can be done to further civil rights, at home.
The agenda listed three main workshops following the 30-minute keynote speech, all of them embodying intersectionality, or the framework that brings to light the interconnectedness of various social oppressions and how that informs one’s identity.
The summit saw delegations from a vast array of speakers about various topics such as community organizing with Pam Frache, Cindy Gangaram and women, labour and social justice; Padmaja Sreeram, Sahra Soudi and Gachi Issa covering anti-racism and anti-oppression in movement building.
“The organizing committee is just really conscious of the criticism that was received by the global women’s march movement, about not including other genders, and there not being people of color,” Daniela Giulietti, YWCA’s advocacy and engagement coordinator said, in a phone interview. “We have really tried to push [intersectional feminism] to the forefront.”
Criticisms of last year’s march were aimed at the continuous presentation of white, cis-gendered, straight middle-class women. The keynote speaker, Brittany Andrew-Amofah, Policy and Research Manager at Broadbent Institute, spoke of the significance of including diversity in race with a statistic.
“53 per cent of white women voted for Trump,” she said, then added that the point was not to antagonize white women, but to show the result of excluding various voices. “Oftentimes, race is chosen over gender.”
While the movement within the last year brought intersectionality into the rallies and events, Andrew-Amofah questioned whether it was “truly intersectional”. She referenced an image taken during a march, noting the pink hats with stubby antennae. These “pussy hats” were a form of exclusion. A symbol for a uterus, the hats centered cisgender women and left trans women out of the conversation.
Embodying intersectionality into advocacy was not the only objective for the organizers. Inspired while at the women’s convention in Detroit, and by a book on the women’s shelter movement in Canada, Giulietti wanted to revisit the energy of last year’s march.
“I really want women and other non-men genders to have the tools to be effective change makers and to create the future that they want to see in their community.” Giulietti said. “The objective [of the summit] definitely is to shift the conversation from word to action. And I think the first way to do this is through education.”
Andrew-Amofah liked to approach it as “organize to be politicized.”
“Feminism is great. It’s a place of solidarity,” she said in her speech. “If we don’t change it into… policy change, we’re going to be organizing forever.”
“What I’d like to see come out of this, is concrete change, whether they’re small or large. A greater push to work together to do something concrete. Whether it’s a motion at the municipal level, or whether it’s another campaign, like a postcard campaign to send to the federal government, I’d like to see something concrete come out of this,” Giulietti said. “We make sure the floor under all women is strong, and work together to break glass ceilings. … We work together to achieve the equity of men.”