Despite momentous accomplishments for women, St. George Women’s March participants say ‘we can do better’

Participants hold up signs at the St. George Women's March at Vernon Worthen Park, Jan. 19, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With the mindset of educating, advocating, elevating and celebrating women, Southern Utah residents gathered with their signs and pink accessories to participate in this year’s “St. George Women’s March.”

Participants at the St. George Women’s March hold up their signs at the Vernon Worthen Park, Jan. 19, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

More than 150 people gathered at Vernon Worthen Park Saturday to participate in an afternoon of marching, inspirational speakers, dancing and music. Women, men and children began marching around noon, holding signs in support of equality, women’s issues and some in protest of President Donald Trump.

Linda Stay, one of the organizers, said the St. George Women’s March is not synchronized with the national Women’s March on Washington, which has received backlash this year over accusations of anti-Semitism with the march’s organizers. Instead, Stay said this Southern Utah march is more about celebrating women who are rising in the community, rather than “screaming” about women’s rights.

“This is a celebration,” Stay told St. George News. “This isn’t a bash session. It’s not about dividing.”

Although Stay said the march was about celebrating, a few counter-protesters disagreed and said the movement doesn’t represent all women. The counter-protesters, who were all women, stood to the side as marchers walked by and held signs that criticized the march, with such phrases as “I am not a victim; I am an American” and “In America the law says the same for women that it does for men.”

One of the counter-protesters, Shannon Emery, a St. George resident of 20 years, told St. George News that she found the women’s movement to be offensive and that it only represents a minority of women.

“I am just done with them telling me, ‘These are the women, and look at what women want,'” she said, referring to the people marching. “I don’t want that.”

Counter-protesters hold up signs of disagreement at the St. George Women’s March at the Vernon Worthen Park, Jan. 19, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Another counter-protester said the pink beanies with cat ears called “pussy hats” that a lot of the marchers wore were offensive and shouldn’t be acceptable in public.

Despite the counter-protests, the afternoon continued with speeches and entertainment.

A lineup of speakers at the St. George Women’s March included Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop; Tashsa Toy, assistant vice president for campus diversity at Dixie State University; Shirlee Draper, director of operations at Cherish Families; Marlee Kanosh, of Paiute Tribe in Cedar City; Renee Renick, a nurse and health coach; Aerial Turner, of Intermountain Healthcare; and St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

Most of the speakers discussed the achievements women in the U.S. have accomplished this past year, such as Congress having a record number of 102 women elected to office, including the first Native American woman and first Muslim American woman.

Toy was the first to take the stage. Even though women have come a long way since the first women’s march, she said communities can still do better.

She shared statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, such as 57 percent of women are in the workforce and women in the workforce earn 69 percent of what men earn in pay.

“We need to empower our girls, our women, in skills that make a difference in the workforce or even giving them or empowering them to launch their own business,” she said.

Another speaker to share statistics on women’s success and hardships was Draper, who left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 15 years ago.

“In this country, our political leadership and in our board rooms and in our business leadership, the population does not reflect the population of our country,” she said to the crowd, adding that women make up 50.6 percent of the country’s population.

She also mentioned that out of the governors in all 50 states, only nine are women.

“We need to make our representation in leadership, in business and in politics look more like the rest of the country.”

Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop speaks at the St. George Women’s March at the Vernon Worthen Park, Jan. 19 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Despite the minority of leadership in the U.S., organizers of the march wanted to celebrate the women who did earn a leadership position, specifically Jessop, the first female and nonmember of the FLDS church to become mayor of Hildale. She and her husband took their family and left the FLDS church six years ago. Although she was raised in the church, she said she was lucky because she came from a long line of strong women.

When she ran her campaign for mayor, she said she was called names, yelled at and spat upon. In her moments of self doubt, she would turn to the women in her life to help uplift her.

She shared the story of first day as mayor. When she went to city hall, she was told by the city manager that there was no office for her. She demanded that an office be made for her.

She said women are needed in local and national government.

“We’re stronger when we stand together, embrace one another and march side by said,” Jessop said. “It is our responsibility as educated, powerful women to step out of our comfort zone and take our rightful place at the table.”

Dancers from Desert Nomads, a belly dance collective, perform at the St. George Women’s March, Jan. 19, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Other speakers, including Renick, discussed women’s issues, such as reproductive rights and access to contraceptives. Kanosh, a victim’s outreach specialist and activist for Native Lives Matter, spoke about how 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. She said women need to believe and stand up for each other when it comes to sexual assault and rape.

Besides marching and listening to speakers, participants received entertainment from Southern Utah artists, including musician Amanda Barrick, soul singer Lisa Macfarlane and the rock band Holly Good Head. Dancers from Desert Nomads also performed, a belly dance collective in St. George.

The march wasn’t the only women-focused event to take place in Southern Utah. Students for Reproductive Freedom at Southern Utah University also held a gathering Saturday to rally behind women, minorities and marginalized communities.

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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  • NickDanger January 19, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Dear God in Heaven. What are these people even protesting? I see signs for women’s rights, racial equality, and dumping Trump.

    And what do women want this time? They already have it all and then some. Women now have so many rights that most men are scared to get within 10 feet of them.

    Mindless protest by attention junkies.

  • Comment January 19, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    stuff like this makes me understand why people support trump.

  • Wayne January 20, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Great Article.

  • Wayne January 20, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Great article. Thanks for the news.

  • Carpe Diem January 20, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I hope they are marching over to Summit for a much needed workout! And then Target for a new wardrobe.

    But seriously, Orange Man Bad!

    More seriously, this “moovement” has it’s leader in Linda Sarsour, the Sharia law loving, anti-semitic muslim. Kind of funny seeing a “feminist” with islamic ideals, some of the most oppressive people on the planet. Keep that headscarf on now! She is barking up the wrong tree. The TDS is strong in some folks.

  • Carpe Diem January 20, 2019 at 8:49 am

    I saw the normal looking person and had to check out who that was! OH! It’s the Mayor! Hi Jon!

  • David January 20, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Those who make the anti-semitism excuse for avoiding the Women’s March are ignorant of the reality that this accusation is a worn-out Jewish Zionist, straw-grasping attack on some of the March’s leadership who refuse to overlook the vicious, racist crime called Israel. So, the irony is that the very act of not participating in the March based on this “reason” is itself racist.

    • Comment January 20, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      Yeah, but breitbart loves israel, and the right wing clown circus considers everything they spew as the holy word.

    • Carpe Diem January 21, 2019 at 7:56 am

      OK, David says the leaders of the women’s march aren’t anti-semitic, but then immediately goes on an anti-semitic screed. We’ll use you as an example!

      Thanks David! And add “Racist!” to “Orange Man Bad!”

    • Captain Oblivious January 21, 2019 at 9:55 pm

      How is Israel a racist crime? And why do you throw that word around so much? We live in the least racist nation right now (Well, as long as you were to shut off the TV and take a walk outside).

  • Redbud January 20, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    This whole event promotes division and hatred, and those who organized and participated in it should be truly ashamed of themselves. Trump 2020!

    • Carpe Diem January 21, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Yes… there are a few Obama and Hillary voters lingering about, they are easy to spot!


    • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 10:43 am

      I’m starting to appreciate your sarcasm, satire and irony more. You need to work on the execution of your trolling a bit but the caricature is dead on.

      • Comment January 21, 2019 at 10:26 pm

        i don’t believe it’s sarcasm, satire, or irony. I’m not sure he’s trolling either, esp since I saw he’s been around since 2017!

        • bikeandfish January 22, 2019 at 12:45 am

          Yeah, I’m aware. At this point I’m just highlighting the absurdity of his posts. I included sarcastic emoticons in two of my posts but evidently they don’t translate. I’ll figure out a better way to highlight my sarcastic response.

          When he stops parroting Trumpian rhetoric idiosyncratically than I’ll treat his comments as something other than farce. I’m not predicting that will happen soon. Especiall after he tells women to “keep their legs closed” just after saying peaceful marchers should be ashamed of themselves for promoting hatred and division. Its almost a Benny Hill sketch.

  • jaltair January 21, 2019 at 3:06 am

    Sorry, but women have the right to do whatever they like these days, so shouting obnoxious slogans doesn’t work any longer. Those stupid pussycats need to go, they are so demeaning. My lib moments happened in 1981 when I worked my butt off to get through nursing school while worrying how I’d do it all with 3 children. I had wonderful friends, they saved my life more than anyone may know, no luxury of .

    • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

      I’m sorry you think that about these individuals but your claim that “women have the right to do whatever they like these days”. Women across the country do not have medical/bodily autonomy/rights to “to do whatever”. There are state laws that criminalize women for making medically appropriate decisions. There are laws that make it so they have to carry a unviable fetus to term. Put plainly, there are states with laws that prioritize the uncertain life of a fetus, one 100% dependent on the mother or costly technology, over the life of a living, breathing independent citizen of our country. A country that can and does jail women for accidentally harming a fetus most definitely isn’t s country that protects a women’s right “to do whatever they like these days”.

      • Redbud January 21, 2019 at 2:12 pm

        I think women should be able to have abortions in certain circumstances at their discretion if the pregnancy was a result of incest, rape, or if there is sufficient threat to the life and health of the unborn child and/or mother. Any other instance is murder. Also if the pregnancy was caused by sleeping around, and she doesn’t want the baby since it’s an “inconvenience” for her, she should have kept her legs closed.

        • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 2:45 pm

          There ya go. It only took linking an article about medically needed abortion, in this case a fetus that could not be born alive, to get you to expose your ideas that clearly “promote division and hatred”. Its the perfect example of how the notion that “No one is taking that (safe access to abortion) away.”. There is definitely an organized attempt to do just that.

          Glad you present such a nuanced, compassionate view that unites us all ?

          • Redbud January 21, 2019 at 5:39 pm

            It is my right to hate murder. There is no compassion in murder, so there’s nothing to be divided on.

          • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 6:33 pm

            Redbud, cute response.

            Murder: (verb) the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

            The use of legal abortion doesn’t qualify as murder by definition.

            But nice job trying to deflect attention from being hypocritical to the standard you set yourself just hours ago. In your own words, you
            “promote division and hatred” with and lack “compassion” with oversimplifying reproductive freedom to claims they “should have kept her legs closed.” The compassion is oozing from your words like pus from an infected wound.

            PS…. no one brought up your rights or an attempt to infringe on them. Rather ironic given your statements are oriented towards denying rights recognized for decades under Roe v Wade.

      • Captain Oblivious January 21, 2019 at 9:59 pm

        The solution is simple! Stop screwing around! Why Is that answer not appropriate anymore? There are consequences to every action we make. If you dont want a certain consequence, dont do the action that may lead to said consequence.

        • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 11:16 pm

          Its normally critical to read the links. The linked article deals with denying a woman, whose doctor deemed the fetus unviable, access to a medically needed abortion. There is also a case reported in the same article about a woman prosecuted for accidentally mishandling a fetus delivered stillborn at home. That not remotely in the context of your response. These are cases that highlight the troubling trend of states enacting conservative backed laws that place the life of an unborn fetus over the life of an adult women. Ironically, the two reactions to my nuanced post help explain just one reason women have been marching across the country. These laws, like feticide and fetus personhood, inherently infringe on a women’s reproductive freedom and personal liberty. Conservatives are using the state to interfere in a decision and life event that should be between herself, her partner if she has one and her medical team.

    • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 12:07 pm

      And the Native American women at these regional/national marches (and who presented to Congress) would disagree.

    • Carpe Diem January 21, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Almost wish they lived under Sharia law for 10 years so they could appreciate and be thankful for what we have in America.

  • Lucy2018 January 21, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Is this all just about abortion? No one is taking that away, if Roe Vs Wade was ever overturned, it would turn in to a state issue. But that will never happen, there is too much money to be had in the abortion industry. The founder of Planned Parenthood believed in Eugenics which is PURE HATE. But HATE TRUMP, someone who believes in AMERICANS – IN ALL OF OUR POTENTIAL TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL. Is he perfect? NO. Is anyone perfect? NO. We all try to do our best but we all HAVE TO FACE DIFFICULTY to become better people. Just because you are a woman and you have to face difficulty that doesn’t make you unequal or that your rights were trampled on.
    I didn’t see the signs that said “Babies’ lives matter” but did see plenty of hateful signs. I wouldn’t want my young girls to attend an event where “Holly Good Head” was an attraction and people were wearing uterus hats on their heads. It fosters victimization and ugliness.

  • stevenxfiles January 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    I see no real problems or solutions being discussed at this event. Only mindless division and victimization politics. Political correctness is the elevation of virtue signaling over facts.

  • Carpe Diem January 21, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    50% of viable fetuses, of color, for years and years, are aborted. How are they planning to ramp this up a notch?

    #MargaretSanger wants to know.

    • bikeandfish January 21, 2019 at 6:42 pm

      Are you just saying Sanger was an imperfect individual for accepting the later discredited eugenics philosophy of her time? If so, I would agree.

      Or are trying to resurrect the tired old canard that she was trying to eradicate the black race and so is Planned Parenthood? Variations of that claim, from Carson to Cruz, have been shown to be fallacious summaries of her work and goals. Its lazy, malicious allegations that requires cherry picking her words and actions.

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