Intersectionality, Manny and the Women’s March

“Worse than animals.” That is what Manny Pacquiao has said of gay people. When thinking of the emasculation of Asian men, who better to counter the narrative than Manny Pacquiao, a world-renowned fighter from the Phillipines? When this representation comes through the marginalization of yet another community, it begs the question: Is the only way a group in society can advance through the marginalization of another group? In his statement, Pacquiao, while participating in a television broadcast, very publicly demonized gay people. In a follow-up apology, he apologized to those he may have hurt, without explicitly mentioning the gay community, and reaffirmed that he stood by his beliefs despite the criticism that came his way. While one could simply dismiss Pacquiao as homophobic and be done with this subject, I believe that that dismisses the history of colonialization in the Philippines. Pacquiao points to his religious faith as the source of his beliefs about gay people, claiming that he, personally, is “not condemning anyone”. But would his beliefs exist if Spaniards had not colonized the Philippines and forcibly converted them to Catholicism? The power structures that exist in the world today are largely a remnant of colonial times, that is, a power structure that places white men at the top. With the culture of white supremacy so embedded in the world today, how does one break away from liberalism to true radicalism?  

Any attempt to rally against the current power structure is commonly described as a movement. However, one should ask the question: who do these movements benefit? Taking the Women’s March as an example, women marched together, fighting for change through solidarity as women who have been continuously discriminated against. Except, not really. Various aspects of the march were thoroughly neglectful of intersectionality. With chants like “Get Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, protesters were excluding trans women who do not have ovaries yet still identify and are discriminated against as women. Native Americans at the march were subjected to people touching their regalia and taking photos of them without their permission but these same women would not take fliers on issues of importance to the Native American community. A Native woman recounting her experience pointed out that “indigenous women are intersectional BY NECESSITY”. As opposed to a white woman, a Native American woman also has to fight against the forces of oppression and discrimination that arise from her intersectional identity as a Native American. The march cannot be considered as a sign of women’s solidarity if women are being oppressed through the imagery and actions of other women. A true women’s march would be a safe and inclusive space for women of all identities, and every combination of these identities. While the march did feature very few trans speakers, inclusivity is not the goal. Adding a few token speakers does not change the fact that many of the speakers and people at the march thoroughly neglected the intersectionality of their fellow women. While progress is not made all at once, progress made at the expense of others cannot be considered progress. A true, radical approach for all women has yet to surface but there is much to learn from the successes and magnitude of the Women’s march to its ultimate failure to fight for those whose narratives are ignored the most.

While the Women’s march was flawed, a march of this magnitude has not happened for many years and was an important step in encouraging more Americans to be actively involved with politics. If those who have been inspired from the march learn from its mistakes, there is the potential for true change to arise from it. A protest that caters mainly to white women cannot be considered a radical step for all women but can be a starting place to learn and grow from.

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