Women and men gathered at Pioneer Park and marched to the Historic Courthouse during the Women’s March on Provo on Jan. 18. despite the cold weather.
Chants rang out through the center of Provo as the group marched. The chanting, led by Women’s March Provo organizers, consisted of phrases like “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!”
Individuals marched to support issues such as normalizing consent, de-stigmatizing healthcare and prioritizing missing and murdered indigenous women. They listened to community speakers address how each issue deserves awareness and support to help Utah change for the better.
Mackenzie Moore, a senior majoring in Russian and actuarial science, was surprised when she saw the protesters while walking around. At first, she thought it was passive but then changed her mind as she saw more of the event.
“This is an actual good, peaceful protest that still gets issues talked about but doesn’t have to do it in a violent way,” she said.
One of the march’s speakers, Becca Kearl, shared how she wanted domestic violence, sexual assault and the lack of understanding and awareness surrounding those issues to change. She said one in three Utah women have been sexually assaulted and one in five children have experienced sexual abuse.
As the audience cheered, Kearl ended her speech saying: “Community is power! We get to decide what is normal.”
Other speakers spoke about their own personal experiences of how they faced rape and how they hope to promote consent for all women and men. Israel Selway shared a poem she named “The Rape Joke” that touched on the personal events of what happens when consent does not go both ways.
Jordan Jackson, former Women’s March Provo president, and Alexandra Martinez, the new president, shared their reasons for organizing the march, including a desire to improve their community.
Selected speakers shared how healthcare and treatment affected their lives in drastic ways.
Kris Irvin shared the events in their life that allowed her recieve top-surgery, known as a double mastectomy. This surgery helped alleviate their severe depression. They shared how the health insurance industry needs to make these “life-saving” procedures more available. They wanted to “destigmatize healthcare” for similar situations in the LGBT community.
“Woman is such a broad term; it doesn’t define one specific race or sex (sexual orientation),” English major Hannah Park said. “Until all the types of women are free, we will do everything we can to smash the patriarchy.”
Other healthcare concerns fell upon Q.NOOR Founder Rosemary Card and her fellow speaker Sarita Venkatapathy. They each found personal strength and support within their struggles.
Card was unable to have children. She worked as a single woman, hoping to start a family one day. At age 30 without a current partner, she decided to freeze her eggs. She said healthcare should “embrace science and enable women to have children.”
Venkatapathy spoke about her battle with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or EDS, which caused her joints to not support her and forced her to spend almost five years bedridden. She wanted to share that disability might be something others seek to empathize with but might never fully understand. She said citizens should be humble and helpful when it comes to disable individuals’ search for healthcare and support.
Erin Tapahe, representing her Navajo heritage, said that Salt Lake City, Utah, was the ninth leading city in missing native women.
“As native women, we are students, we are educators, we are lawyers, we are doctors and we are mothers,” she said, “We are brilliant, we are living and we are still here.”
Lauren Crowley, a junior in majoring in art, said, “I feel that a lot of the work that is being done strongly benefits white women — which we want women to be benefited — but we are leaving out minorities and we are not letting all women’s voices be heard.” She brought her sign with a quote from her favorite feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde.
Musician Michael Gross, known as Whisperhawk, performed his original song “Wild Rose” in honor of the lost indigenous women who are missing or have been murdered. The Jingle Dress Dancers also performed for the audience to support their fellow Native American sisters and the crimes committed against them.
The event ended in a similar manner that it had started. Many gathered together to take selfies or group pictures, admire each other’s signs and, more importantly, share in the conversation.