Sociology of Women's March: Did It Create New Coalition of Activists?

Published: Monday, February 20, 2017 - 2:40pm
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The Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches around the country and the world drew what was estimated to be more than a million people into the streets last month.

Here in Phoenix, as many as 25,000 people came out to the state Capitol to demonstrate in solidarity with those who they felt have been marginalized by the incoming Trump administration.

And, on the day of the march, a group of sociologists from the University of Maryland hit the streets as well to document the event.

As sociologists, they wanted to know things like who exactly showed up for the march, what their motivations were and how active they were in politics before they showed up that day.

According to one of the researchers, Dawn M. Dow, their goal is to find out how the election has potentially spurred a new wave of activism — and what that wave looks like.

So, they designed a survey that asked some basic questions of people at the march like, "‘What are your political affiliations?," "Did you vote in the election?" and "Who did you vote for?"

And that’s something that a lot of people speculated about in the days following the Women’s March — did the people who marched actually vote in the election?

Dow said they found that most of the people who came out to march around the country did vote, and that most voted for Hillary Clinton. And, when it came to the issues people cited that brought them out to demonstrate, they were broad, said Dow, who’s an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland.

“It’s not surprising that for a march that was called the Women’s March, that a large portion of the people were out there for issues that were sort of connected to women’s rights,” she said. “But, then if you look at the sort of second-tier levels of responses … approximately a third said environmental justice, or racial justice, issues related to LGBT communities, reproductive rights.”

They also found that a third of the people in the march had never protested before, Dow said.

“Big marches tend to bring out new people, but a third is a lot,” she said. “And then if you include that amount with people who haven’t been out for a protest for the last five years, that number goes up to over 50 percent of the people who came.”

So, Dow said, it seemed to bring out a new group of activists.

“I think that you saw people out there who, this was not something that they normally did but they felt as though coming to this march and bringing their friends, their colleagues, their daughters, their sons, that it was an important thing to do,” Dow said.

She said it’s difficult to speculate on what could come of the march in the future. But, she said, what seems to be happening is that it’s bringing together a broad, intersectional coalition of people who may not have been in the same space before.

“So, it some ways it seems to be providing some kind of framework for activism in the future,” Dow said.

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