Families Unite in Making History
January 21st, 2017, thousands of women took to the streets of Washington D.C. and many other cities nation and world-wide to peacefully protest and stand up for a world that marchers believe as equitable, inclusive, and safe for all. This march marked the largest peaceful protest in American history. However, women weren't alone: they brought their families and loved ones along to stand beside them, holding posters and marching in support of an equitable world.
According to an article written by Dana R. Fisher, Professor of Sociology at University of Maryland, one third of the marchers were attending their first protest. Also, according to Fisher, "Nearly one quarter of respondents reported being Asian, Black, Latino, or multiracial." Representing a similar distribution to the racial and ethnic distribution of college educated Americans. An NPR article, draws in on Erika Abril, an Ecuadoran mother and her two daughters. Erika expressed, "It's just hard to be out of a country that sometimes you don't like what is happening in there, then coming here and thinking everything's gonna be okay, and then not knowing what is going to come. That is the hardest part." She further explains her motive in bringing her daughters to the march: "I just want them to be part of this - making history." For many, protest serves as a vital form of political participation. This participation can also serve as a place for political socialization, which is, “the process through which adolescents and young adults acquire political beliefs, attitudes, and identities and begin to understand and engage the political world around them” (Greenstein 1965). Thus, while protesting with family, parents are exposing their children and loved ones to their political thought and ideology. “As different family members access and pool together different information sources, networks, and institutional experiences, intergenerational communication and interaction can increase all members’ knowledge and participation” (Bloemraad & Trost 2008).
The Abril family is just one of many multigenerational families in attendance at the march. Each family has their own individual motives in marching, but “extant research overwhelmingly shows that the family, parental influence specifically, is the single most important political socialization agent” (Ojeda & Hatemi 2015). Thus, marching with children seems to be an active method of political socialization. Further, Ojeda and Hatemi argue that, “children observe and often imitate parents attitudes and behaviors, but they do so critically.” Continuing with the Abril family, Erika is providing her daughters the opportunity to critically engage in the political stance she is taking. Further, “When information, opinions, and experiences were shared, the possibilities for widespread participation increased” (Bloemraad & Trost). These key thoughts bring about the importance of political socialization in the family via protest. Bringing family along to protest not only allows children and loved ones to be exposed to your political ideology, but also allows them to critically engage with it, providing them the opportunity to make their own judgments in time, and stimulate their own political participation, perhaps especially for first time marchers.
Not only are individual families socializing their political beliefs with each other, but with the protest body as a whole. At the Women’s March on D.C, protestors voiced opinions on a variety of political topics, allowing others to be exposed to them. Thus, each family represents a micro-family in the midst of a larger family that is the protest body. The march embodies the unity of a family and the ability to maintain peaceful protest amongst millions of people speaks to the familial dynamic occurring at the march. Not only does marching with family impact individual families, but the protest body as a whole.
Please explore the familial experience of Muhlenberg's own Heiman & Clark family, as well as that of first-time marcher and Muhlenberg student, Devin Domeyer!