By now, over a week later, we have all heard about Women’s March 2017. On January 21st, the day after President Trump’s inauguration, there was a planned Women’s March on Washington to protest the new president. The organizers of the event expected approximately 250,000 attendees the day of the event in Washington. Instead, as sister marches sprung up around the US and eventually around the world, January 21, 2017 will most likely go down in history as the second-largest global protest event in history.
The reason that what started as a single planned event, the Women’s March on Washington, became a globally successful series of protests not only about women’s rights, but also about queer rights, immigrants rights, civil rights, and just the general idea of human’s rights being threatened in the wake of the inauguration of President Trump, is because the way people communicate and the dynamic ways in which organization is possible has changed so much in just the last decade due to the rise of what we consider New Media.
While the total number of marchers around the world may never be known exactly, the count in the United States has been reported by Daniel Dale, a Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, in a tweet linking to a table compiled by a professor from the University of Connecticut, Jeremy Pressman, with the help of Erica Chenoweth from the University of Denver.
(Though it must be emphasized that this table is unverified, all numbers on the table have sources linked, and it does match other reports regarding the turnout to the Women’s March events around the nation.)
The estimates reported by Dale and compiled by Pressman and Chenoweth only provide details to the reports since that day that the Women’s March events not only were a success, but far outreached any expected participation. Though there was a large amount of celebrity participation, which garnered a large amount of attention and may have encouraged more people to attend, but even with these things planned ahead, nobody ever expected to see seas of pink taking over American cities.
Los Angeles expected up to 80,000 participants and instead, there were 750,000
Chicago expected up to 50,000 participants and instead there were so many attendees (up to an estimated 250,000) that there wasn’t enough room for them all.
Even in cities that hadn’t prepared for such massive crowds, the turnout was a moving mass of pink as far as the eye could see.
Here in Georgia, there were at least four times as many marchers than had been expected at the Atlanta, Georgia Women’s March, and that isn’t counting the several other protests in other Georgia cities.
What made these events so successful, not just in America, but globally, is the ways in which New Media has changed not just the ability of how we can communicate, but the culture around communication that has shifted with these new methods of communication.
Traditional news spent most of the weeks leading up to President Trump’s inauguration talking about his cabinet confirmation hearings, his plans for the first days as president, and the plans regarding the actual inauguration. This makes sense, because that’s what most people in America and around the world would be talking about. Because of that, the plans for the Women’s March on Washington were casually mentioned through traditional, mainstream media sources, whereas they were broadly discussed, shared, and built upon via social media.
On November 23rd, 2016, Christina Cauterucci wrote about the potential for disaster regarding the planned Women’s March in Slate:
They weren’t professional organizers, but they knew how to make Facebook events. Eventually, a handful of different actions (one was to be called the Million Pussy March) collapsed into one: Originally dubbed the Million Woman March, it’s now the Women’s March on Washington, it’s scheduled for the day after Trump’s inauguration, and, as of this writing, 116,856 people from all over the country have said on Facebook that they are “going.” What they’re “going” to—and when, and where—nobody knows. Not even the people in charge.
She also added:
Right now, it looks like some form of the march and rally will happen, though probably not as first advertised. Without any experience planning large-scale events and without anticipating the potential scope of what they were starting, the original creators promised a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by a march to the White House.
As we now know, the Women’s March on Washington, which was just one month ago still seemingly a disjointed collection of ideas that had no real sense of organization and was being planned by individuals without professional experience organizing large events, ended up being a massive success not only in Washington, but around the world. The reason for this is simple: broadly accessible and easily coordinated communication all made possible by the rise of New Media.
So while the original goal of having a larger number of people attend the Women’s March on Washington than the inauguration of President Trump was successful, with scientists saying that three times as many people attended the March than they did President Trump’s inauguration, the unintended results of an attempt at a standard counter-protest to a new presidency amounted to one of the largest global protest rallies in history, and it was all due to the ways that our perception of what communication is and the methods through which we communicate to large audiences instantly has been forever altered by New Media.