How The Women’s March Arose from Social Media
- Katie Kieft
- January 27, 2017
The Women’s March: Activism in the Age of Social Media
Regardless of how you feel about it, the Women’s March on Washington and its hundreds of sister marches that took place all over the world on January 21 made history.
Collective action at such a vast scale has never been seen before.
Here are the attendance numbers for major cities around the world:
- 500,000: Washington D.C.
- 750,000: Los Angeles
- 250,000: Manhattan
- 150,000-250,000: Chicago
- 100,000-150,000: Denver
- 130,000: Seattle
- 135,000-150,000: Boston
- 100,000: Portland
- 100,000: London
- 50,000-60,000: Toronto
- 40,000: Austin
- 10,000: St. Louis
On the low end, it’s estimated that 3,533,721 people participated in 914 marches worldwide.
That’s 914 separate marches that were coordinated individually as part of a leaderless movement but unified in intention and principle.
How was such a feat accomplished? Facebook.
Participation and organization is clearly the most important, and complicated, success factor when it comes to demonstrating. Now, in the era of Facebook, the complexity of organizing collective action is greatly reduced thanks to the ease of communication and free publicity that comes with social media.
The women’s march actually came about because of the attention its first iteration originally garnered on Facebook.
On the night of the election, Teresa Shook took to Facebook and created the event with no idea as to what she was giving life to. The next morning, 10,000 people had responded as attending, ultimately gaining viral attention and attracting a number of experienced activists to assist with organization.
Immediately a board of organizers was put into place and an official website was created. Celebrities endorsed the march and offered to speak at its rally.
Under the umbrella of The Women’s March on Washington, many sister marches cropped up all across the world, and while many were diverse in their motivation for participating, they acted and even dressed collectively.
The Women’s March even played out over social media, with thousands of images and videos posted and circulated online the day of the event.
It quickly became obvious that more people were attending each march than organizers had initially anticipated. The celebrities that had endorsed the march weren’t just up on stage to speak, but were in the streets with the people with their own signs.
Prior to the event, official artwork was distributed via the Women’s March website. Even so, there were millions of unique signs that immediately went viral (see examples at end of the post).
Regardless of personal political opinions, one must admit that the march was successful in its goal of gaining media attention, and while many pushed back against The Women’s March for having a “lack of focus”, others lauded the marchers as having accomplished a type of unification of causes and forces that had been previously impossible.
While The Women’s March did lack strict focus and national leadership, at the end of the day, the diverse, crowd-sourced, collaborative nature of the march is referential to the very platform that gave the movement its legs: Facebook.
Maybe nothing better illustrates the spirit of the Women’s March than #ICantKeepQuiet, a self described guerrilla choir who met online and together, through various social media and streaming platforms, composed and practiced “Quiet”, the anthem song of the Women’s March.
On the day of the Women’s March, each member of the #ICantKeepQuiet choir came together for the first time in person and performed: