Women's March founder: 'I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down'

Teresa Shook is credited as the founder of the Women’s March because shortly after the election in 2016 she wrote a post on Facebook suggesting such a march was needed. Within a single day, 10,000 people had agreed to participate. Today, Shook wrote another Facebook post, this one calling on the group’s current leaders—Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland—to step down over their failure to denounce anti-Semitism.

As Founder of the Women’s March, my original vision and intent was 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. and around the world. I wanted us to prove that the majority of us are decent people who want a world that is fair, just and inclusive of Women and All people. We proved that on January 21, 2017 (and in the U.S. this past midterm with a diverse electorate).

Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, 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. I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent.

About 90 minutes later, those co-leaders responded on the Women’s March Facebook account. Their response criticizes Shook’s statement as irresponsible and refers to “armchair critiques from those who want to take credit for our labor.”

We want to thank Teresa Shook for her contribution to our movement, creating a Facebook event named the Million Women’s March. That was the very beginning of the Women’s March, which grew from a Facebook event into the largest single-day protest in US history, one led by women of color.

Today, Teresa Shook weighed in, irresponsibly, as have other organizations attempting in this moment to take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network. Groups that have benefited from our work but refuse to organize in accordance with our Unity Principles clearly have no interest in building the world our principles envision. They have not done the work to mobilize women from diverse backgrounds across the nation.

We are imperfect. We don’t know everything and we have caused harm. At times we have responded with hurt. But we are committed to learning. We will continue to work through the good and the bad, the impact and the harm — of building an intersectional movement that our daughters, and our daughters’ daughters can be proud of.

We are grateful for people who HAVE been with us for the past two years, wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of what we are trying to build. Our ongoing work speaks for itself. That’s our focus, not armchair critiques from those who want to take credit for our labor.

Did you notice the reference in the first paragraph to the Women’s March being led by “women of color”? Teresa Shook is white. I guess the Women’s March leaders felt she needed to be reminded of that. Just 10 days ago, Linda Sarsour wrote a Facebook post attacking white women who failed to live up to her expectations.

Last week, actress Alyssa Milano, who has become a leader in the #MeToo movement, said she would not be involved with the Women’s March going forward because of the anti-Semitism the leaders had embraced in the form of Louis Farrakhan. Actress Debra Messing seconded that. At the time, the Women’s March responded by blaming the controversy on the right. But as the Jewish magazine Forward pointed out, no one involved in the criticism was on the right:

Collectively, the Women’s March leaders have refused to apologize for praising [Farrakhan] and have overlooked his vitriolic hatred of the marginalized communities their intersectional movement claims to represent.

Why is the Women’s March ignoring these details? Why are they blaming the right when the criticism is coming from Jewish and LGBTQ liberals?

So the movement for some accountability from the Women’s March for their defense of Farrakhan seems to be growing, but so far that message is still being received by the current leaders as an unfair criticism from white women. That’s true even when it comes from the founder of the Women’s March.

Is this going to fly with the group’s supporters? At some point, does the money and prestige of this group dry up as it refuses to listen to people who once supported it?

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