Katherine Siemionko quit her job in New York City at Goldman Sachs two years ago to run the nonprofit she created, the Women's March Alliance, which organized the second biggest Women's March in New York.
But this year, Siemionko had worry about more than march logistics. The more famous Washington, D.C.-based Women's March, Inc. recently launched a New York chapter — and created a rival event.
What might seem like a petty turf war actually reveals the broader debate within progressive politics — one over intersectionality and what role race and ethnicity should play in the direction of the women’s movement.
Women's March Inc. is what most people probably think of when they hear about the Women's March. Its leaders have become the recognizable faces of the event, ones that rally around the idea that women of color are critical to the movement.
Siemionko's Women's March Alliance, on the other hand, focuses less on the idea that there’s no universal experience of being a woman but that oppression based on class, race, disability, and sexuality all interact. Instead, the Women's March Alliance promotes the singular message that all women must come together to force change.
“The moment you say you're white, therefore, you are racist .... I can't say, ‘You're black, therefore;’ ‘You are Latino, therefore’ .... We are all one," Siemionko told VICE News. "We have to stop looking at each other as skin colors.”
Siemionko is relatively new to the women’s movement. She remembers being in business school at St. Louis University in Missouri and seeing a workshop called “Shattering the Glass Ceiling.” She didn’t get it. But her experience on Wall Street began to open her eyes.
Still, she’s deeply aware of how her words are perceived, particularly now that she's not the only Women's March organizer on the New York scene.
“Your speech is inhibited by this concept that any words you say may offend somebody, and we have to get over that. We have to say look we're doing the best that we can,” Siemionko said. “I have to be careful with my wording because it will get picked apart. That's the society we live in. I cannot speak my thoughts. I have to filter them."
This segment originally aired January 23, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.