Womxn’s marches are problematic spaces. They have not been inclusive for people of color, people who are non-binary, gender-non-conforming, bigender, agender, or two spirit, or people with disabilities. Some have been complicit with policing and police violence. Many come from an analysis that fails to acknowledge the long history of marginalization within white-led movements and the active role white, cis-gender women have had in oppressing the voices of non-binary, gender non-conforming, bigender, agender, two spirit, and womxn of color.
It is with this knowledge, and with a will to change what’s wrong, that we as organizers took on this work. We must address all these harms. We must own them. We entered this space committed to be different, committed to an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-patriarchy, pro-justice, and oppression-, privilege-, and white-supremacy-dismantling framework. We strive to be truly intersectional, as reflected by our all-volunteer organizing committee; to create programming that centers the voices and lived experience of oppressed peoples; and to build relationships with community leaders and members that help shape what we do and ensure that we are considered in our approach.
Despite these intentions, we want to name recent harm we have caused and to take accountability for our impact. Womxn’s marches are fraught with oppressive structures, and we have not avoided this. Community members have raised concerns that we have not shown solidarity with other organizers of justice-driven work, that our fundraising forwards Capitalist systems of oppression, and that our social media presence has silenced marginalized voices. We bear responsibility for how we do our work, how we build partnerships and address other activists, and the embedded harm and values of the money we accept. We want to be proactive and transparent about how we rectify all of this. Criticism and feedback present opportunities to grow our analysis and change our course in order to better align with our values.
We are working with community leaders and members to ensure that additional voices are reflected in our planning, including adjusting the date of our event and seeking a new permit. We understand that permits do perpetuate systemic problems, successful and safe marches can and do occur without them, and they are not determinants of free speech. But we feel it is essential to be permitted in this case. Our space is one in which many people will attend their first action, and we want to create supports that open the door for new activists to seek direct and more radical actions and to participate in sustained, future movement work.
We have released a values statement for sponsorships and endorsements in order to be transparent about what money we will and will not take; we will adopt and post a social media code of conduct through which we may be held accountable; and we will publish march values to educate participants on how best to create an anti-oppressive space. Additionally, the volunteer who administered our Facebook page has stepped down from their role in acknowledgement of actions that silenced marginalized voices in that forum. We have reached out to and engaged directly with the people who were harmed by these actions. This will not happen again.
Above all we want to work with anyone who feels we could do better, who sees gaps in our analysis. It is ultimately our responsibility to educate ourselves and to make change, but the more voices that remind us of our values, that guide our work, that expose our harms, the better we can act in solidarity, strength, and humility.
We have put in hard work up to this point but we are stepping back to sit deeply in ongoing, internal reflection on oppression within our organizing and within womxn’s marches as a whole. We are charting a new course that is driven by our values. We came together because we couldn’t stand to see a womxn’s march that did not push a radical message of change, acceptance, and unity. We don’t always know the path forward, and the development of this event is full of growing pains and challenges. But we are nimble. Our goals have always been the same, and while we adjust our approach, we will not shift our aims. We aim to create a womxn’s march that is progressive, inclusive, and intersectional. We aim to educate, engage, and empower participants toward immediate and ongoing direct action and we aim to give a platform to the womxn who organize every day toward justice in this city -- the womxn whose voice and labors are too often unseen and unsung. We aim high. Anything calling itself a Womxn’s March can do no less.
- The Portland Womxn’s March Planning Committee