Little more than a month ago, thousands of women filled the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sporting pink pussy hats, feminist apparel and signs bashing President Donald Trump and his policies.
On Wednesday, another group of women will gather, probably with a smaller posse, but with a lot more focus.
The Philadelphia Socialists are organizing the city’s International Women’s Day Protest, which will honor the women’s labor force and issues that affect Philadelphia’s working women, like education and fair pay.
“The women’s march was … very corporate, it was all about saying, ‘fuck Donald Trump’” Steph Shamp, a media liaison for Philly Socialists told Billy Penn. “It didn’t honor all the intersectional, People of Color, LGBTQ, immigrant, and so many other issues that are very real for so many women. [International Women’s Day] isn’t about him, it’s about us.”
The day is celebrated worldwide, with many women in the United States and abroad participating in strikes and walk-outs from their jobs, a nod to the day’s labor-focused roots. The goal of the strike is to acknowledge the progress in women’s goal equality in the workforce, and also the many steps still needed to obtain equality.
Shamp, a server at Bottle Bar East in Fishtown, explained that Philly’s rally won’t start until 5 p.m. to accommodate the many working women who can’t simply strike from their jobs, for the fear of being fired.
“I can’t afford to lose my job, I know loads of people can’t afford to lose their jobs, but want to participate,” she said. “You have to think about, ultimately, the working class woman.”
Olivia Ngo, a Drexel student studying biomedical engineering, is a cross-campus organizer for Philly Socialists and one of the main organizers of Philly’s International Women’s Day Protest. She said the march, which begins at Logan Square and will make its way to Thomas Paine Plaza, will have strategic stops along the way, like neighborhood public schools, McDonald’s and healthcare institutions. At each of these spots, speakers from partnering organizations will talk about the unique labor struggles for women in those workplaces.
Philly’s Project SAFE, which assists women working in sex trades; Philadelphia South Asian Collective which fights oppression of the Asian population; and Philly Federation of Teachers and the Caucus of Working Educators, which support public school teachers and staff, will join other women, people of color, immigrant and LGBTQ groups in the march.
“The march and rally in Philadelphia will hopefully highlight the backgrounds and struggles of women of color, trans women, bi women, gay women, the sex worker, the mother, the worker at McDonald’s,” Ngo said. “And we’re going to hear their stories.”
International Women’s Day has some universal goals, like an ending gender-based violence and changing current perceptions of domestic violence. It also aims to highlight and strengthen labor rights for women — the U.S. cities involved are calling for guaranteed maternity leave, fair pay and instituting vacation regulations for workers.
About a month ago, when they realized International Women’s Day was approaching and no Philly event had yet been planned, Ngo and other Philly Socialist members decided to step in. While the international goals will be integrated into the Philadelphia march, Ngo, Shamp and other organizers want to draw attention to the Philly-specific issues that involve women, too:
- Bring awareness of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and their practices, to Philadelphians and teach residents to aide and protect immigrants in their day-to-day lives
- Stop gentrification of low-income neighborhoods and “pricing out” of people of color
- Increase funding for public schools and encourage schools to hire local teachers who have been through the school system
- Incorporate intersectionality (the acknowledgement of how race, class, gender and other factors affect a person’s experiences, advantages or disadvantages in life) into feminist practices
- Protection for sex workers
The crowd likely won’t be as large as the Women’s March on Philadelphia, but hopefully more organized and action-oriented, Ngo said. The event’s Facebook page shows 1,500 people currently interested in attending, but Ngo said she’s prepared for whoever shows up.
“People think that protesting is just a lot of people getting together at the same place with signs, and, really, there’s a lot more coordination than that,” she said.
To vocalize the Philly-specific causes and goals, Ngo and other organizers reached out to individual groups that connect with many of the causes Philly aims to improve. Next, they planned the march route to highlight the struggles of women workers and end near the Frank Rizzo statue, where they will take time to reflect on the history of women’s advancement in Philadelphia.
There will be a discussion following the march where protesters can connect with an organizations and get to work.
“Finding a good organizing group is kind of like dating,” Ngo said. “You have to be interested in their organizing model and what they’re about.”
Both Ngo and Shamp said they think the current political climate over the last few months has motivated and mobilized some of Philadelphia’s population that’s never protested before. Shamp said people keep telling her that it’s going to calm down any day now, but she disagrees — a citywide Philly Socialist meeting last month drew over 300 people, many of them new.
“We probably wouldn’t see as many people this active if the circumstances were different, but that’s fine, they’re welcome.” she said. “It’s like people are just now remembering that protesting is hella patriotic.”
The International Women’s Day Protest will start at 5 p.m. at Logan Square and end at 8 p.m. in Thomas Paine Plaza. There will be an indoor discussion following the march at William Way LGBT Community Center at 1315 Spruce St. from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.