November 27, 2017
by Heather Purchase, Public Communication major and Food Systems minor at the University of Vermont.
On November 9, 2016, one of the most shocking and unthinkable presidential elections in modern political history came to an end when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. In reaction to Trump’s election and the defeat of America’s first female presidential nominee, Theresa Shook created a Facebook event that would soon become the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. By urging friends to protest on Inauguration day, Shook attracted the attention of thousands who were enraged that a man hostile to issues like reproductive rights, civil rights, and fair pay, was elected to be our 45th president (Stein, 2017). People of all backgrounds – women, men, gender nonconforming, young, old, abled, disabled, immigrants, indigenous, and people of diverse faiths – came together on all seven continents of the world. On Inauguration day, a call was being answered. One that asked those to show up and advocate for a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all, one in which the human rights and dignity of each person is protected and our planet is safe from destruction (The March, n.d.).
What started as a small Facebook page became the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history and one of the largest in world history (The March, n.d.). The day after Teresa Shook created her event, she received about 10,000 responses by morning. Experienced activists joined the cause, and within a couple days the woman who would soon form the co-chair committee of The Women’s March joined forces and began planning (CNN, 2017). Facebook became the place where people could advertise and advocate for sister marches around the world. This social media platform not only made it easy for people to join together and find local marches to participate in, but it also made The Women’s March have a lasting impact on the nation.
Carmen Perez, one of the co-chairs of The Women’s March, said that social media was on their side. Facebook events started piling up, and eventually every single one consolidated because of their shared beliefs and motives. In CNET’s article “How Facebook, Twitter Jumpstarted the Women’s March”, author Erin Carson talks about how organizers are exploiting the internet’s prodigious powers to rally protesters (Carson, 2017). Social media bolstered the organization of the Women’s March, making it easier for people to join this movement. Perez said about 45,000 protesters with disabilities participated in this movement because of their presence on social media (Lapowsky, 2017). Facebook gave the creators of The Women’s March sight of what people were interested in, what information they needed to make this happen, and how things were changing as the march soon approached. A creator of the march, Jenna Arnold, stated “It would be hard to say that we would have had this kind of success without an existing platform like Facebook” (Carson, 2017). Because of Facebook’s presence in this day and age, the creators of the Women’s March were able to empower others to create potentially revolutionary change.