This weekend marks the second anniversary of the original 2017 Women’s March on Washington and rather than being the positive celebration of acceptance it should be, influential supporters of the Movement like the Democratic National Convention and Alyssa Milano are pulling their endorsements due to the organization’s anti-Semitic associations.
The first Women’s March took place the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president of the United States with thousands of women marching on the U.S. capitol and thousands of others organizing similar marches around the world in solidarity. The movement also had huge celebrity support with people like Milano, Jane Fonda, Miley Cyrus, Ashley Judd, Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, Demi Lovato, Janelle Monae, Katy Perry, Natalie Portman, Emma Watson, Alicia Keys, Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher and more showing up.
The women in our family are strong. We rise like the water, high enough, strong enough, to break down every single wall put in our way.
— Women’s March (@womensmarch) December 19, 2018
Now, just two years later, people are pulling their support as the movement’s leaders refuse to disavow their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his anti-Semitic sentiments. Women’s March founder Teresa Shook (whose viral Facebook post sparked the 2017 March) called on the four co-chairs of the Women’s March organization, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland and Carmen Perez, to step down from their positions back in November.
On Facebook, Shook wrote that the current leaders of the March have “steered the Movement away from its true course” which had been to “show the capacity of human beings to stand in solidarity and love against the hateful rhetoric that had become a part of the political landscape in the U.S.”
She claims, “they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs.” She then calls for the co-chairs to step down and throws her support behind “grassroots, decentralized leadership” in the progressive movement.
The co-chairs refused to step down and instead accused Shook of using her platform to “take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network.”
The Women’s March organization (created by the aforementioned co-chairs out of the scattered groups planning marches in 2017) has faced accusations of anti-Semitism since immediately after the March in 2017. As with a lot of discrimination, it took a long time for it to be covered or addressed by the mainstream. From supporting confusing stances on Israel and Palestine to ignoring the inherent anti-Semitism in White Nationalist movements to refusing to denounce Louis Farrakhan, the Women’s March seems to ignore and devalue Jewish women at almost every turn.
A word on Louis Farrakhan
Farrakhan is a Black Nationalist and the leader of the religious group, Nation of Islam. In his preaching and activist speeches, he frequently disparages Jewish people and is a self-proclaimed anti-Semite. He’s called Jewish people his “enemy” and “termites” and blamed them for the “filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men.”
Sarsour, Mallory and Perez have all posted support for Farrakhan both before the March and since, and Mallory defended their positions in a tweet earlier this year. Despite a statement from the official Women’s March Facebook denouncing “Minister Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people,” the leaders have refused to make personal statements against him.
What’s happening now
While doing press to drum up support for the 2019 March, Mallory was forced to confront her views on live TV. In an appearance on The View Monday, the hosts asked her to speak to the controversy and her support of Farrakhan. Rather than address the direct question about his anti-Semitic and anti-gay views, Mallory pivoted and refused to denounce her affiliation with the thought leader.
In response to the renewed backlash against the co-chairs, several groups including the DNC, EMILY’s List, the Center for American Progress, Human Rights Campaign and NARAL all pulled their support from the organization. Other affiliates and sponsors, including Ben & Jerry’s have issued statements against anti-Semitism, but have not officially pulled financial support for the March.
The March on Canada issued a separate statement denouncing “any individual or organization who supports the increasingly hateful rhetoric regarding the Jewish people.” The group also called out the co-chairs by name for their “failure… to disassociate themselves from the hateful tradition of anti-Semitism.”
In an Elle piece published Wednesday afternoon, Mallory was asked to respond to the controversy again and addressed it in some vague terms.
“I have been caricatured as someone who is an uncritical supporter of Louis Farrakhan and his every word and deed. That is not true,” she is quoted. “Trust and believe, Minister Farrakhan is clear that I do not agree with everything that he says.”
She added, “To be effective when organizing people who have been discarded by society it does not make sense for me to throw away an organization—like the Nation of Islam—that has been very effective.
“Other people are obsessed with my relationship with Minister Farrakhan. I am obsessed with empowerment in the black community.”