Islanders mobilize for the Women’s March on Washington

Marches for women’s rights in the nation’s capital and all 50 states are set for Jan. 21.

Elizabeth Toomey and Celine Segel knit pink "pussyhats" as a way of showing their support for the Women's March to D.C. —Stacey Rupolo

Martha’s Vineyard residents, along with thousands of people across the nation and the world, are mobilizing in support of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C. At least 50 Islanders will be attending the march in D.C., while many more are participating in sister marches in Boston, in Falmouth, and beyond.

The march is a response to the results of the 2016 presidential election and much of what President-elect Donald J. Trump campaigned for. Organizers have said they are seeking to bring people — not just women — together in a unified protest the day after the presidential Inauguration.

The march was started on Facebook by Teresa Shook of Hawaii, the day after the election. She created a Facebook event and invited 40 friends to march on Washington. Now it is estimated that 200,000 will attend the march in Washington, D.C., with sister marches in all 50 states and across the globe, including in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, and across Europe and Australia.

Although there has been contention over whether the march is inclusive and not primarily a march for white women, organizers have said the purpose of the march is to defend the rights of all marginalized people.

The march, according to their website, “will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

Islanders mobilize

Irene Bright-Dumm, a representative of We Stand Together, a group that formed as a Facebook group on Martha’s Vineyard after the election, told The Times on Tuesday that the marches were a “rallying cry” for people who want to take action in their communities.

We Stand Together has weekly meetings, and its mission is “to educate ourselves, unite and organize as a community to protect our rights, our planet, and our democracy.”

They organized We Stand Together: In Solidarity, Resistance, and Resolve — a peaceful event on Nov. 19 at Dennis Alley Park (formerly Waban Park) in Oak Bluffs that pledged to honor the values of inclusion and tolerance. Roughly 300 people attended.

“We have been blown away by the enthusiasm and the hard work people are putting into this,” Ms. Bright-Dumm said. “My understanding of the mission of the marches is to have this be an exciting first step to a continued sense of activism. And my hope for what comes of this is that people will take the energy they’ve garnered from it and really put it into action in their communities.”

Maria Black, an event producer, is the Dukes County organizer for the march in Washington, D.C., helping to organize transportation to and from the march for people from the Cape and Islands.

Ms. Black got involved with the march the week after the election. On Facebook, she saw that people were organizing efforts, and once she saw that there was a Massachusetts chapter of organizers for a march on Washington, she volunteered her services to help people on the Vineyard.

Although she had participated in anti–Iraq War protests in the early 2000s, Ms. Black said she didn’t have a background in political protest or activism. But like so many other Americans, Ms. Black was discouraged by the presidential campaign and the result of the election. In fact, more than half of Americans — 52 percent — said that the 2016 presidential campaign was a significant source of stress in their lives, regardless of their party affiliation, according to a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association.

Things got personal in 2016, Ms. Black said, and that’s what inspired her to march. She referenced two highly publicized sexual assault cases last year, one at Stanford University and another at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Stanford, athlete Brock Turner was found guilty, but was sentenced to and served only a tiny fraction of a typical sentence for rape.

And when a month before the election, a 2005 video surfaced depicting the president-elect bragging to “Access Hollywood” reporter Billy Bush about grabbing women by their genitals, Ms. Black cringed. Mr. Trump, in one of the final debates of the presidential campaign, dismissed it as “locker room talk,” and went on to win the 2016 presidential election.

Ms. Black said that after the election, she had trouble sleeping. “I felt like, you know what’s going to make me sleep? To actively do something and not leave it up to someone else,” Ms. Black said. All these things motivated Ms. Black to get involved in the march and stand up for women’s rights. “And now I feel encouraged because I’m not going to stop. And there are so many people who aren’t going to stop.”

‘The personal is political’

“The personal is political” is a feminist adage that grew out of the second wave of the feminist movement, claiming that things that happen in the private sphere — such as women’s sexual and reproductive health — can become larger political issues.

The marches on Jan. 21 highlight that for many groups of people, not just women, the personal is indeed political. Some are marching in protest of Trump’s suggestion to make Muslim Americans register in a government database, or carry special identification, as a response to terrorism, as well as his call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. People are protesting his claim that once in office, he would immediately terminate President Obama’s executive order DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows protection for some children of undocumented immigrants. Or, as Meryl Streep highlighted in her Golden Globes speech, they’re protesting the president-elect’s proclivity for degrading people — such as New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who lives with arthrogryposis, a disability that causes muscle shortening and affects the extension of joints.

“It wasn’t enough for me to just say I support these people and sit passively by,” Ms. Black said of why she is marching. “Support is a verb.”

Islanders are supporting the cause for a number of reasons. Keith Chatinover, an eleventh grade student at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, may be the only Island high schooler attending the march in D.C. Mr. Chatinover, who is 16 years old and a member of We Stand Together, told The Times that he will be marching because women’s rights are important to him.

“To me, women’s rights means standing up for women,” Mr. Chatinover said. “It’s not hard.”

He’s marching for women’s reproductive rights, for climate change, and protesting the gender pay gap, where, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015 — a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

“I have a sister. I have a mom. I have a girlfriend. I have plenty of female cousins, friends, and swim teammates,” Mr. Chatinover said. “They should have the rights that we do, and they don’t right now.”

Jean Tatelbaum of Edgartown told The Times you don’t have to be an activist to march. She’s marching to protest his “dislike” for women and the African-American community.

“If we didn’t have the electoral college, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” she said.

Sarah Nevin of Edgartown spoke to The Times about why she is marching in Boston. She and her husband, Bruce Nevin, are co-chairs of the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council.

“The escalation of military, the possible use of nuclear weapons, and getting rid of Obamacare” are some of the reasons Ms. Nevin is protesting. “We have to take the risks people took 50 years ago,” she said. “It could be really horrific really fast in this country. People have to keep talking and agitating. We have to stay active.”

If you can’t march, knit

Islanders are showing their support of the Women’s March on Washington in many ways. Some are marching. Others are knitting hats.

The Pussyhat Project has united knitters across the country, who are knitting pink hats with cat ears for people marching in D.C. Aside from keeping marchers warm, the “pussyhats” serve as a visual statement that takes a stand for women’s rights.

Elizabeth Toomey of Vineyard Knitworks in Vineyard Haven told The Times that she’s almost out of pink yarn. “The whole country is knitting hats and sending them to Washington,” she said. “There’s going to be thousands of these pink hats.”

Ms. Toomey said that there is a regular knitting group on Tuesdays from 4 pm to 6 pm that will be making the hats, and they’ll also knit the rest of the week. Knitters of all experiences are welcome, and if a person doesn’t know how to knit, they can purchase the pink yarn and someone else will make the hat.

“There’s something really magical about knitting for somebody else,” Ms. Toomey said. “You are knitting yourself into it.”

For more information about the march, contact