By now we’ve all heard about the Women’s March on Saturday that caused millions of pink-clad people to take to the streets around the world, even in Antarctica. (Even more impressive were the 2,000 people marching in -50º weather in Fairbanks. Now that’s dedication).
But where did faith fit in? Before the event, Religion News Service had a columnist assemble “a Christian packing list” for the march. Jewish Telegraphic Agency did a walk-up describing where two Jewish groups will organize and meet.
On the day of the March, RNS had two people survey the religious women to be found on the mall, all of them with the religious left. Buzzfeed followed pro-life women and documented the less-than-enthusiastic reception they got. (I wrote about the controversy surrounding them last week.)
The lone mention about religion from the actual speakers at the Washington March was documented by New York Magazine, which broadcast a quote from Janelle Monae (in the above video) who plays mathematician Mary Jackson in the movie “Hidden Figures.”
Janelle Monáe started her speech at the Women’s March on Washington today with a history lesson. “I wanna remind you that it was woman that gave you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” she said. “It was woman that gave you Malcolm X. And according to the Bible, it was a woman that gave you Jesus.”
But the big religion topic that most media missed had to do with how one of the major symbols for the event was a woman swathed in an American flag wrapped to look like a hijab.
This intriguing column in the New York Times dealt with the March disintegrating into “a grab-bag of competing victimhood narratives and individualist identities jostling for most-oppressed status.” The writer wondered why Muslim women were one of the oppressed classes named in the “Guiding Vision and Definition Principles of the March” when Jewish and Latino women weren’t mentioned at all. Her explanation:
The emphasis on a particular perspective regarding religion appears to have something to do with one of the march’s lead organizers. Linda Sarsour is a religiously conservative veiled Muslim woman, embracing a fundamentalist worldview requiring women to “modestly” cover themselves, a view which has little to do with female equality and much more of a connection with the ideology of political Islam than feminism. Could we imagine a wig-wearing Orthodox woman emerging from a similar “purity”-focused culture predicated on sexual segregation and covering women, headlining such an event? No, because she is rightly assumed to be intensely conservative, not progressive on issues surrounding women’s roles and their bodies.
Bizarrely, however, it is Sarsour, who has taken a high-profile role speaking about ordering pro-life women out of the march, after a bitter dispute over the initial participation of a Texas anti-abortion group. In justifying the decision, the co-organizer invoked the liberal language of choice, despite her association with an illiberal ideology that many Muslim women say is all about men controlling their bodies, and taking away that choice on a range of issues including reproductive health.
This same point was brought up a lot less diplomatically on Twitter. We'll start with RedNationRising, which wondered when these same marchers will demonstrate against Islamic violence toward women.
A British Twitter user posted a photo of a woman in Washington hoisting a sign proclaiming “radical Islamic feminist” while stating, “All three of these words contradict each other.” Then a “gender-queer Muslim atheist” posted the below note to Trump over a photo of several women in hijabs and one niqab. I could not tell if he meant it or whether he was sarcastic.
Then an Iranian poster noted how hijabs aren't considered optional in her culture.
The disconnect on hijabs at the March was noted elsewhere as well.
I too wondered why the marchers weren't as upset against honor killings, the genital mutilation of women known as female circumcision and other horrors in the Middle East. It's easy to march about the capitals of the West. But I didn't hear of any marchers in Beijing, Riyadh or Tehran.
The hijab issue was a huge disconnect that journalists could have seen, right in front of them. I'm hoping that reporters, once they step back from their laudatory stories about the March, will ask the same question.
I know one person who must have plenty of questions post-March. She is Hillary Clinton, who tweeted her approval of the event, but did not attend. Where, she must be wondering, were these marchers two months ago -- especially the young women -- when it came time to vote for her?