by Frank Fear and Susan McGuire
For the fourth time in as many years—and for the second consecutive year in Fort Myers—SWFL residents will gather on Saturday, January 18, as part of an international movement called ‘Women’s March.’
Although organized by women primarily, the marches are certainly not gender-exclusive. Women and men will gather at Cambier Park in Naples from 9a-2p, in Fort Myers from 10a-1p at the Alliance for the Arts on McGregor Blvd, and from 10a-Noon, in Punta Gorda at the Laisley Park Pavilion.
SWFL marches are an example of what the News-Press’ Bill Smith reported recently (Nov. 29, Dec. 4): a strong sense of community inspires Fort Myers-area activists. And local people will join others, located across the U.S. and around the world, in marching that weekend.
The question we get asked is, “Why are you marching?” Here’s what we tell them. We March for equality, honesty/integrity in government, and respect for all people. We March for freedom from oppression, violence, and discrimination. We march for economic equality, safe schools, reproductive rights, universal healthcare, and a healthy environment. And we march in opposition to attitudes and policies of inequality, including sexism, racism, homophobia, religious discrimination, environmental injustice, inhumane immigration policies, and disrespect for human dignity. We firmly believe that women’s rights are human rights.
The marches on January 18 continue the tradition of women-led marches for change. In France, women marched in the face of devastating poverty. Their activism helped prompt the French Revolution. In America, a women’s march was the first grassroots activist gathering held in our nation’s capital, in 1913, as women marched for the right to vote. In 1970, women marched down 5th Avenue in New York City as part of the “Women’s Strike for Equality.” Two years later, Congress passed Title IX, which forbids discrimination in educational organizations based on gender.
Perhaps the most significant difference between marches then and now is that people will march for many things on January 18—not just for one thing. Women’s March 2020 is a diverse gathering place of passionate people who want to make the world a better place—and are committed to doing so in a variety of ways.
After we explain the purpose of women’s marches, we are sometimes told (gently and otherwise) that we’re misguided, wasting our time, and troublemakers. In our view, there is nothing more American than a peaceful gathering of people expressing their views and working for change. In our case, the National Women’s March puts it well: “We are committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity, and respect.”
Join us Saturday, January 18, in Naples, Fort Myers, or Punta Gorda. We’ll come together that day, talk about what America can and should be, and leave energized and recommitted to making our aspirations a reality.
Frank Fear lives in Cape Coral. He is a board member of Women’s March Fort Myers. Susan McGuire, who lives on Pine Island, is a founding member of both ROAR (Rise Up/Organize/Agitate/Resist) and Women’s March Fort Myers.