Women’s March Co-Chairs on Race, Pussy Hats, and Controversy

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The founders at Vanity Fair Founders Fair. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

It’s been almost 100 days since Trump’s inauguration, which means it’s been almost 99 days since 5 million people walked in 673 iterations of the Women’s March across the world.

But controversy, in many forms, followed them. Today, just after being named to the Time 100 list, national Women’s March co-chairs Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland addressed criticism, race, and pussy hats at the Vanity Fair Founders Fair, a one-day summit for entrepreneurial women.

“We got critiqued from every spectrum,” Sarsour said. “Men were critiquing us saying, ‘Why is this a women’s march?’ We had women of color critiquing us saying, ‘Are you really centering women of color?’ We had other white women saying, ‘Well shouldn’t this be about Hillary Clinton?’” But to Sarsour, the conflict and hard discussions weren’t an accident — they were by design.

“People said, ‘Why are you being divisive all of a sudden?’” the Brooklyn-based activist and organizer said. “This is why we are in the situation that we’re in today … We wanted to talk about race because we think the reason why we’re in this situation is because you can’t talk about reproductive rights or reproductive justice without talking about race. You can’t talk about equal pay without talking about race.”

They also acknowledged that their intentions were not enough, especially when it came to inclusivity.

“There were moments where we were yelling, ‘Do we have enough indigenous women?’ And it wasn’t enough,” Perez said. “But we did our best and we gave it our all.”

A persistent anxiety surrounding the Women’s March was that it would provide catharsis, but not continued progress. Organizers said this question was on their minds as well.

“I looked out [from the stage] and I felt proud,” Mallory said. “It was so beautiful. Then I was just sad. Because I realized that if I, being Sandra Bland, in that car, had been killed or died whatever way you choose to accept the story, all those people wouldn’t have shown up. Over and over again, all these folks aren’t showing up for certain communities.”

Most of the panel focused on that message — that the fight does not stop here.

“We want people to go home all the time understanding that showing up on January 21 is not equivalent to showing up for disadvantaged communities every single time that you need to be there to protect someone who may not be as advantaged or as privileged as you are,” Mallory said.

Oh, and if you were wondering about the pussy hats — they made it to the boardroom discussion as well.

“There was a conversation about the pink hats. Because some of us women have different color … hats,” Perez said. To which Mallory gave the most T-shirt-ready line of the panel: “All pussies aren’t pink.”

Women’s March Co-Chairs on Race, Controversy, and Pussy Hats