Did The Women’s March on D.C. deserve a PEN Award?

Photo by Sarah Rowan

“The resistance is female, and we’re not going anywhere.”

These are the words of Bob Bland, co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, which was just awarded the PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award at the 2017 PEN Literary Gala.

The award was created in 2015 to honors courage in the freedom of expression — basically, everything that journalism stands for, which is why I love this story so much.

Previous winners include Charlie Hebdo and LeeAnne Walters and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who helped expose the Flint water crisis.

The Women’s March, which took place Jan. 21, may not be associated with traditional journalism, but the fact that they won this award shows that they embody everything that journalism stands for.

To prove this, I refer to the handy-dandy SPJ Code of Ethics, and specifically, two very important tenets.

The first? Seek truth and report it.

The Women’s March was born out of a desire to stand in solidarity for the protection of rights, health, safety and families — not only those of women, but those of immigrants, the LGBTQIA community, people of color, people with disability, any many others.

It was born out of fear and born out of hurt.

The truth is that members of these communities have not achieved parity, justice and equality at all levels of society. The truth is that the Trump presidency threatens these rights even further.

What the The Women’s March did was report this truth and stand against it in vast numbers.

The second? Be accountable and transparent.

As amazing as it was, the march didn’t come without faults.

In her speech, Bland recognized the need for more intersectionality (the inevitable interconnection of social categorizations such as race, class and gender) in this movement — because truthfully, intersectionality is a vital part of feminism.

What is feminism if it doesn’t include all people? It is imperative that we both recognize our privilege and direct that privilege toward advocating for people without it.

But, the co-founder of march held herself and her movement accountable, and advocated for a stronger embrace of diversity in activism.

In short, to be a woman is to have courage. To be a journalist is to have courage.

And, to be a female journalist? Well, that takes a whole new level of courage.

The Women’s March exemplifies everything that we, as female journalists, and even as journalists in general, should strive to be: honest, thoughtful, independent, accountable and transparent.

That’s why I truly believe that they deserved the PEN Award. Do you feel the same?


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