As we look ahead to the Women's March this weekend, we highlight three times women took to the streets to build with each other and fight for their rights.
The right to drive
In 2012, artist M.I.A released her Bad Girl video, featuring several Arab women wearing niqab and hanging out of car windows in badass desert drag race. This made for not only stunning imagery, but significant political commentary - since Saudi Arabia is the last place in the world where women were forbidden from driving. In 1990, a small group of women protested the ban, risking arrest by getting behind the wheel, but didn’t have much success in swaying public opinion. In 2011, a few dozen women tried again, leveraging social media to get the word out so they never had to publically appear in a car. Their efforts started a global conversation and gained widespread attention. One woman was pulled over by the police and instead of arresting her, the officer issued her a traffic ticket. A major win. And by 2017, the royal family lifted the ban and the following year women were legally to get behind the wheel- skurrt skurrt!
The Million Women March
The march was founded and organized by Phile Chionesu, a grassroots activist, Black Nationalist and owner of an African crafts shop. Two years prior, a national committee had come together to organize the Million Man March, but there was concern that the male-focused event had not addressed the needs of Black women. Unlike the MMM, Chionesu took a grassroots approach to organize and successfully brought an estimated 750,000 women to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia - the largest meeting of its kind in America.
The day was filled with prayer, music, and inspirational speeches from celebrities and community leaders like Winnie Mandela and Jada Pinkett-Smith, among others. But the organizers were determined that the day not focus on practical solutions and community-building. They called for three things: repentance for the pain of black women caused by one another, and the restoration and resurrection of African-American family and community bonds.
We did it first: the SlutWalk started in Toronto
The ‘SlutWalk’ has gained widespread momentum, now synonymous with Amber Rose’s march in Los Angeles. But the inaugural walk was organized in the spring of 2011 in Toronto, following comments from a local police officer — who had advised women to not "dress like sluts" if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted. Blaming women for ‘provoking’ men with their choice of clothing has long been part of the justification for sexual violence but to hear it from a police officer - in 2011 - it was completely unacceptable. Approximately 3,000 women took to the streets of Toronto in what they called a SlutWalk - to protest the blaming of rape victims for their own assaults. To date, more than 50 walks have taken place in major cities around the world, including Boston, London, New Delhi and Sydney, raising awareness about sexual violence, consent and women’s rights.