Burqueños march on International Women’s Day for equal rights, respect

Originally published on the Daily Lobo
By Celia Raney

More than 200 men, women and children joined in the singing of the so-called Battle Hymn of the Suffragists outside the UNM Bookstore Wednesday evening in celebration of International Women’s Day.

“You have told us to speak softly, to be gentle and to smile, expected us to change ourselves with every passing style, said the only work for women was to clean and sweep and file,” the collective sang. “That’s why we’re marching on.”

Hosted by the New Mexico Party for Socialism and Liberation, the event was inspired not only by International Women’s Day, but by the increasingly negative rhetoric toward women, thought to be amplified by the Trump administration.

Speakers rallied crowds with chants of “Fight the system,” and “Up with women, down with patriarchy,” while marching first to the UNM president’s on-campus residence, then to Lomas Boulevard, eventually looping back to the bookstore.

An official holiday in more than 25 countries, International Women’s Day has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1909.

The yearly celebration reflects on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by women in their communities. In a time of political tension and social unrest, it took on an even bigger meaning this year.

“Look around and see all the women that are around you, and see how capable they are,” said UNM junior Lauren Salter, after sharing with Wednesday’s crowd a story of how feminism has helped her family.

“I’m standing here, going to college, being able to talk to you because of the feminists in my family,” Salter said. “Women are strong, we’re very strong and we’re capable. We aren’t emotional; we’re practical, we can lead, we can change.”

An evolutionary anthropology major, Salter said she is regularly a victim of sexist behavior.

“In science, a lot of times you’re surrounded by men, and you have to say your idea two, three times for them to acknowledge that you’re even speaking,” she said. “It’s a whole other issue for (men) to agree with you. I’m not taken seriously. I do experience sexism.”

Dani Foster, a student at UNM, said he marched because he is simply “a leftist,” and wanted to show his support for women while fighting for reproductive and LGBTQ rights.

“Women are totally undermined, on every level,” Foster said, adding that he has on multiple occasions heard women speak to men, who then “pretend (she) didn’t say it.”

UNM alumna Kristen O’Connell said the most vivid memory she has of experiencing sexism firsthand was when she worked as a cashier at Twisters.

“I told them I’d rather be a cook, because I like cooking, and I was literally told that I should stay up front because I had a pretty smile,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell worries that women also face sexism outside the workplace and that student harassment is “a huge issue” on campus.

“Walking around on campus or Central (Avenue) as a girl, you always get catcalls,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you wear; it doesn’t matter what you look like. Women just get catcalled all the time.”

Many protesters did not march solely to defend and promote women’s rights, but to continue fighting for better education, relaxed immigration laws and LGBTQ rights.

“I tutor African-American refugees on the weekend,” marcher Julia O’Connell said. “They’re so cute and sweet. It’s sad to see there’s so much prejudice around them.”

While outside the president’s house, one speaker said that while marching through campus is important, “we need get out on the streets so people can see our message, we to demand better for the girls and women on this campus.”

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