“Hey hey, ho ho, gender bias has got to go!” chanted a crowd of more than 100 protestors at the January 20 Lansing Women’s March.
The protestors met at the MSU Union on January 20 and braved single-digit temperatures.
Flanked by Michigan State University Police, the protestors marched from the Union to the Hannah Administration Building.
Demonstrators were marching in support of many causes, among them women’s reproductive rights, workplace equality and equal pay, advocacy for victims of sexual assault and LGBTQ+ rights. They were also marching to protest President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration and the proposed border wall.
MSU women’s council executive board member Charlaine Stevenson and Women’s Council Soul Speaks Coordinator Frankie Lipinski led the crowd in chants of “Love Trumps Hate,” “2-4-6-8 pussy grabs are not OK,” “this pussy grabs back” and introduced the speakers.
The speaker lineup included State Rep. Sharry Gay-Dagnogo, Tammi Cervantes, president of the MSU based Latinx/Chicano advocacy group “Culturas de las Razas Unidas,” Sharron Reed Davis of the Black Student Alliance, and speakers from other student groups.
Arguably the most anticipated speaker was newly elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who first spoke at the Lansing Women’s March in 2017 during her run for governor.
Stevenson said she was “shocked” to hear that Whitmer would be speaking. “Everyone was really excited to meet her and hear her speak,” said Stevenson.
Whitmer was greeted by cheers. “You showing up today means that you are ready to make a difference,” Whitmer said. “It’s on all of us to make the changes we want to see happen in our state and our country. I have so much faith that all of you will be the leaders that inspire others to mobilize.” A protestor shouted “I love you,” to which Whitmer replied “I love you, too!” The crowd cheered in response.
The Democratic governor spoke of her race for governor, her womanhood and her disapproval of the president. Whitmer stressed the importance of women running for office. “We must continue to run. So, yes, I hope maybe you are president one day,” She said, pointing to 17-year-old Pratiksha Boinapally, whose sign read “If I were president…”
Whitmer mentioned racial inequality as a reason for marching, pointing to the recent viral video depicting a standoff between Kentucky high school students wearing “Make America Great Again” caps and a Michigan Native American, Nathan Phillips.
“This is a reminder that we must stay engaged,” Whitmer said. “We must continue to march. We must continue to press the Legislature. We must continue to run.”
Despite the various reasons for marching, the protestors were unified under a banner of equality, races, gender and sexuality.
“I’m marching for women’s equality and mutual respect,” said protestor Anne Marie Schneider
Valerie Lareau, 63, of Lansing, a 1973 graduate of East Lansing High School said she’s proud of today’s generation of women not putting up with the norms that she grew up with.“I’ve been around a long time and seen some pretty despicable behavior from men in the workplace,” Lareau said. “It’s so great to see the young people showing up and not putting up with the stuff that I grew up with.”
Debbie Reid, of Mount Pleasant, the mother of two daughters, had been to the Lansing Women’s March in 2017 and wanted the young women in her life to be exposed to the activism the event brings out of people.
“I brought my oldest daughter, her cousin and a friend because they wanted to have their voices heard,” Reid said. “We just believe what’s going on in the country right now is a very sad state. It’s not the world I want my kids growing up in.”
Families with young children were also among the crowd. Luke and Jesse Brodbeck, a couple with a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, said that exposing their kids to events like the Women’s March at such a young age is important.
“We just want the kids to see how important it is to treat people with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender or anything else,” Jesse Brodbeck said. “It’s important to expose them to stuff like this.”
“I want my son to have complete understand of what people who are different from him go through,” Luke Brodbeck said. “Women need men’s support now more than ever.”
The MSU student body was also well-represented in the march. Maddi Farrell, a sophomore communications major from Holland, said she was inspired by previous marches.
“I’ve always wanted to go to a women’s march to support my gender and my rights,” Farrell said. “It’s cool to be a part of something bigger than I am and help change something.”
Farrell was also impressed with the turnout. “Considering it’s in the single digits right now, that just shows how dedicated we are to this cause,” she said. “We are here to stay, we aren’t going anywhere.”
Lipinski said, “I felt absolutely grateful that I could play a part in orchestrating this event. I feel so proud to be a part of redefining feminism and gathering the community for a display of collective healing and empowerment.”