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CCU represented at Women’s March in Washington

Feminism, equal pay, reproductive rights, taking a stand against domestic violence – these are just a few of the reasons that Coastal Carolina University students, faculty and a few alumni decided to add their feet to the Women’s March in the nation’s capitol.

Some 50 students, faculty and alumni traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 21 Women’s March, which reportedly drew more than a million women to the capitol for myriad reasons, but mostly for the protection of human rights.

“This is not about being Republican or Democrat,” said Virginia Norris, a politics teaching associate who raised money by designing and selling T-shirts online to pay for 12 students to travel in a van to the march. “This is a huge, historic moment. When you have the opportunity to participate in a civil rights event of this magnitude, you have to step up to the plate.”

Here are some reflections from students and faculty who traveled to Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard.

Student voices:

• “It’s important for D.C. and the country to see the large dissent for Donald Trump being president,” said Tess Emiroglu, a political science major. “Personally, it means speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves – the oppressed, everyone who has been harassed or assaulted. I’m not for Donald Trump, but that’s not why I’m going. I’m here to protest the treatment of women. We want to make sure our voices don’t get lost.” Emiroglu is also chair of the youth committee for the Horry County Democratic party.

• Krystina Millar, a self-described “strong feminist,” said she marched for women’s rights and gender equality. “Women are very strong, but a lot of times we are undervalued. Women have gotten the worst end of the deal.”

• Julie Shoup: I decided to go to the Women's March on Washington because it was the right thing to do. I want to see more love in my country, equal rights for everyone, and no sort of discrimination. Sitting around doing nothing was no longer an option. The march was incredible. It was peaceful, entertaining, and an all around great experience. Getting to speak out for my country with so many people with the same interests and goals felt so amazing. We want change, we want peace, and together we can all accomplish that.

Many went to the march as if it were an anti-Trump rally. Trump isn't the reason I wanted to be a part of the march. I wanted to promote change for my entire country. Although he may have said things I may not agree with, I think oppressing Trump is the opposite of what should be done. If we could voice our opinion in a mannerly way, I feel he would take notice and try for change. The way some of the public approaches “peace” is vulgar and will not go far if it's not done in the right way. However, the march was very successful, and the million of us were heard. I hope that this step will help America take a step in the right direction.

• Tanisha Woodberry
When we first arrived at the march, you could see the women with their creative signs; there were so many different reasons they were there. Everyone was so nice. I have never been around so many people, and everyone was a pleasure to talk to. As we made our way through the train station, we all chanted and cheered. It made me feel good that there were so many different races that came together and stood up for what is right! Not everyone was there for the same reason, but the support and love was so strong it made me feel like I had no choice but to support their reasons, too.

• Katie Brooks, speaking on behalf of herself, Monica Fulmer and Brooke Stotler. (These students went on their own, paid their own way and were advised by faculty member Joseph Fitsanakis.)

“The Women's March … was meant to be a demonstration that women's rights are human rights, which should not be regulated or taken away. The three of us who went to the march from the Women in Intelligence and National Security Club here at CCU found it to be breathtaking and an experience we will remember for a lifetime. We were marching for ourselves, those who are unable to march, and for our future generations to come. We strongly believe that a change in the way women and women's rights are viewed in the world is needed in order for the world to thrive. This was not just a message for the United States politicians, but also for those around the world. We are women, we are the future, and we will be heard.

Faculty voices

Jaime McCauley, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, along with faculty members Deb Perkins and Ina Seethaler, traveled with the bus sponsored by the College of Science and the Social Justice Research Initiative (SJRI).

• Jaime McCauley, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology
As a sociologist specializing in social movements and social change, the last several years in politics have been fascinating. The economic crisis of 2008 led to increased movement activity on the right (the Tea Party) and the left (Occupy Wall Street). These folks who felt disenfranchised by the political establishment paved the way for the politicians and activists making waves today. The University sponsored a bus to President Trump’s inauguration and a bus to the National Women’s March. I am honored to have accompanied students to the March to provide some historical and analytical context for the event. Opportunities like this – to see history taking place before one’s very eyes – are so critical for students. They can see things for themselves and then make up their own mind about the events unfolding before them.

On a personal level, it was important for me to attend the March because I stand to lose a great deal if the current administration achieves its policy goals to weaken anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. I did not attend to protest the election or question the legitimacy of the president, who won fair and square by the rules of the game. For me, I hoped to send a message to the new administration about policies that are important to me. No one will speak for us if we do not speak for ourselves, and if
we don’t show up it’s too easy to pretend we don’t exist.

• Virginia Norris, politics teaching associate
Of the 1.2 million people who attended the march, most were women, yes. Many were men. The attendees spanned the ages from babies new to this world to those embracing life in the end. We marched together: Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, conservative, liberal and every lifestyle imaginable. We marched with friends, family and strangers. We chanted, we sang, we rejoiced, and we did so completely peacefully. There were no riots, no violence, and only one or two misguided small groups that felt the march was only for pro-choice issues came to protest us. We exercised our right to peaceably assemble in a way that is marked only rarely in the history of our country.

Women make up the majority in this country, in this state, and in this county, so how can I not speak up, make my voice heard, and march forward when raising daughters? They are watching us. They are paying attention. I have been in a position in my life where I was made to feel less because I am a woman, because I have emotions I do not conceal... I do not see this as weakness. I see it as strength. As my children grow, I will make sure they understand that they are not less because they are women. They are more.

• Ina Seethaler, Ph.D., director of Women's and Gender Studies
Taking students to the Women’s March on Washington served as a wonderful opportunity to offer vital lessons in democracy and civic engagement. It gave many of our students who are passionate about social justice issues an outlet to express their concerns with the current political climate and to make the point that they will hold elected officials accountable. As a group, we were motivated by our deep care about rights for women, the LGTBQ+ community, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrant communities, and other marginalized groups. Being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people dedicated to promoting human rights strengthened our desire to think critically about the society in which we live. Students emphasized that they felt heard and were excited to put into practice off-campus what they had learned about engaged citizenship, feminism, and social justice in the classroom. And now we can be proud of having been part of the largest single-day protest movement in American history!

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