Today, I attended the “Women’s march on Washington” sister march in Vienna.
After I got home, I became aware that people started distancing themselves from it. Apparently, there was some sort of fallout regarding a muslim speaker, who then felt unwelcome. The information I could get so far is that the main organisers did absolutely not intend this to happen and that some action was taken behind their backs, and that they were offered to find a replacement speaker last minute but did not want to “rock the boat” (that was somewhere in the comments section).
From this information, it seems that seomething went wrong there, and that the organizers made a couple of unfortunate choices. What now happens is that their event is accused of being “about white supremacy”, and “just another event for white feminism”, and it is said that “their privilege is showing” and that their apology, which seems to be sincere, is “too little, too late”.
I was there, so I saw women with headscarfs and a lot of women holding this sign of a woman wearing an American flag as a headscarf. I think it’s therefore safe to assume that this was in fact not a white supremacist or an islamophobic event. But a lot of the women who have attended it are now distancing themselves from the event, basically throwing the organiser under the bus. And this makes me enourmously angry. I could find one (!) post so far that mentioned the problems with the march in a constructive way – by pointing out that there is still a lot to learn, and that we should try to do better in the future, while stressing that today’s event was still important and valuable as the possible starting point of that journey. If find that attitude infinitely more helpful than accepting the absurd premise that the march has now basically been proven to be sheer evil and then starting a public marathon in the exercise of so-called “call-out culture”.
There are two women out there who organised this event. They did some things right and some things wrong. But most importantly, they did a lot of things! I don’t know how many of you have organised a march for a thousand people yet, but I sure haven’t. I could have, and every day, there is an issue out there that would justify organising such a march. But I don’t. And most likely, you don’t either. And most likely, the people who are now expressing their disgust and shock, while publicly declaring that they want nothing to do with this event – they don’t either. But the organisers did. It wasn’t perfect, and if they do it again, they should definitely do it better. But that’s what we call learning.
I am not disgusted by a march that -among a lot of good things- had problematic aspects. I am disgusted by a culture in which the fallibility of other people is considered an opportunity for publicly presenting ourselves as superior to them.
If I were to organize a march, and if I were to manage better than today’s organisers in terms of inclusivity, then it would be partly because I would have had a chance to learn from their mistakes. And unlike theirs, my learning process is not accompanied by being publicly shamed by people who are allegedly all about fairness.