Image of women protesting
Under immense pressure, women are taking action. (Image by Lindsey LaMont via Unsplash)

How Women Are Fighting for Justice During COVID-19

From marches to social media posts, feminists aren’t letting the pandemic stop them from bringing awareness to issues like abortion rights, gender-neutrality and voting.

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Image of women protesting
From marches to social media posts, feminists aren’t letting the pandemic stop them from bringing awareness to issues like abortion rights, gender-neutrality and voting.

With Election Day less than two weeks away, misogyny, bias, racism and health care have all become critical topics of debate. Some people’s lives are on the line when it comes to the future of America, and the pandemic has heightened the awareness of the disparities of a white-privileged system. For women, access to abortion, funding for Title X and sex education are at risk, especially with the recent pressure on the Affordable Care Act by the Trump Administration.

Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the highly regarded feminist Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the Supreme Court has catalyzed a reason to vocalize concerns, but the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult.

Still, women are fighting back.

Speaking Out Through Social Media

One of the ways women are speaking out for their rights is through social media. Most of the trending feminist hashtags on Instagram are evidence of this, as Instagram influencers have begun to spread awareness since Trump’s latest anti-feminist moves. As the presidential election nears, more feminist influencers have stepped up to demand action.

Claudia Sulewski — a lifestyle YouTuber and Instagram influencer with 1.7 million followers — has been extremely vocal about getting her followers to vote, especially for women’s rights.

Beginning in late September, Sulewski began to post informative pictures that were captioned with encouragement to vote, along with instructions on how to register.

In a post featuring herself and her friend Becca Gleason, writer and director of “Summer ‘08,” Sulewski wrote, “#imvotingfor all the women in my life, having the right to protect your body + choose your future is important to me. I am voting for @joebiden and @kamalaharris to build on the Affordable Care Act which covers access to preventive care and contraceptives. Visit iwillvote.com to check your registration and make a plan to vote!”

Similarly, many feminist influencers have shared posts explaining the importance of birth control, abortion rights and the correct use of pronouns.

International Pronouns Day on Oct. 20th was an opportunity to post about equity and raise awareness of how languages have evolved to include gender-neutral pronouns. Influencer Sonia Guiñansaca is one of the influencers who raised this awareness.

Self-recognized as a migrant queer poet, Guiñansaca is also the Senior Manager of Artist Engagement for Culture Strike, so a lot of her posts feature not only a feminist aesthetic, but it includes content amplifying the voices of Black and brown artists.

Among other “#Undocqueers” and cultural workers, Guiñansaca discussed the 2020 elections via Facebook Live in order to come up with ideas on how society can become more inclusive of all gender groups.

It’s not only through virtual discussions and trending posts that women are fighting for justice during the pandemic.

Raising Awareness by Marching

Last Saturday, another nation-wide march was organized in local communities across the country. But this time, the march was in honor of Justice Ginsburg and to support voting for women’s rights.

In Rochester, over 100 attendees gathered in Susan B. Anthony Square to participate in their own local Women’s March, led by activist Ashley Teague.

New York State Assembly candidate Jen Lunsford spoke to the crowd, urging people to vote with women’s rights in mind. The crowd cheered relentlessly — a sensation of a community’s strength to come together and address action.

In an interview, Teague discussed how Trump’s poor handling of the pandemic pushed her to organize and lead the march. “It’s ‘we the people, for the people,’ so we are the ones that have to go out there and [have] our voices heard to get something done.”

For Teague and attendees of the march, the feminist movement is not only about fighting for women’s rights, but rights for all groups, including Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think equality for us — for women — is basically just equality for everyone. I think at the end of the day, that’s what America stands for,” said Victoria Ter-Ovanesyan, a University of Rochester junior who attended the event. “I hope that’s what it stands for.”

Ivana Pacar, another UR student who attended the Women’s March, elaborated on the idea that protesting represents what America should become. “Seeing how many flags are here — like LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter — just proves to you that it’s really intersectional and everyone who’s here is fighting for all the other groups as well,” said Pacar.

Another student activist in the Rochester community and attendee of the event — Kim Ngo — agreed that there is power to physical protests. She realized this power after going to BLM protests in Minneapolis, MN, where they first began to demand justice for George Floyd’s murder.

“Being in an atmosphere where people were open-minded and looking to create change was very inspiring and motivating. I felt like I learned another side to something that I hadn’t known before,” said Ngo.

From Gen Zers to baby boomers, women have come together despite the pandemic in a dire rally to further push the boundaries of feminist rights. There have been multiple issues resurfacing; justice no longer serves one individualist label, but the collective.

Christine Brucker — an educator for over 35 years — recognized the younger generation’s interest in protesting. She noted, “I have always believed in what the future brings for us, and being physically here is a big difference.”

However, she also acknowledged the fear that drives people to participate. “I think everyone’s s–ting bricks if [Trump] is elected some frickin way…our democracy is in a downward spiral big-time, worse than it’s been in four years,” Brucker explained. “So yeah [I’m] just very scared right now.”

As one of the Gen Z participants of the Women’s March, Ter-Ovanesyan was practical in her reasoning behind marching. “This affects us literally every day. I don’t want to be paying for my pads like they’re luxury goods. I need them — it’s not my fault that I bleed,” she said.

Teague believes that because so many young people like Ter-Ovanesyan participate in similar marches like the one on Saturday, femininity will be redefined to make real change.

When asked about advice for student activists, Teague said that there is strength in being the first to lead something. “Anything is possible,” she encouraged. “I know that’s cliche, but anything you truly put your mind to, you can do. It takes time, but it happens.”

Despite all these initiatives, there may be no other action more powerful than simply voting.

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