Despite some last-minute male concern about how calling it the Women's March on Washington might have been "bad" marketing, attendance at the DC March and the more than 600 Sister Marches around the world, including an online Disability March, in response to Donald Trump's Inauguration exceeded all expectations. Via Politico, the Marches are estimated to be the largest protests in US history, with approximately 2-4 million attendees.
I found being in the physical presence of hundreds of thousands of other people opposed to Trump and his agenda to be a powerful bolster to my resistance. I say this while I also recognize the efforts of those who have been, and continue, resisting Trump and his fans online and off, apart from the Marches - writing, commenting, refusing to normalize deplorable actions, and speaking out when we can.
That we are living in a historic moment cannot be overstated. Trump continues to fill his Cabinet with unqualified extremists as though he has the strongest of mandates, even though by key measures he has no mandate to do so.
His electoral college win, temperament, lack of competence, lack of knowledge, and bigotry have inspired the largest protest in US history. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. And, via Media Matters, he is "the least popular president-elect since modern polling was invented."
For posterity, I note some reactions to this historic weekend.
Winner of the 2016 popular vote Hillary Clinton:
Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we're always Stronger Together.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 21, 2017
Meanwhile, loser of the 2016 popular vote, Donald Trump:
Two hours after that tweet, Trump (or someone) wrote another tweet recognizing "the rights of people to express their views." How big of him. Such a presidential pivot! Because the bar is so very low for this man, I'm sure he'll get some major props from some people for this basic acknowledgement of our constitutional rights.
Jill Stein of the Green Party, and 2016 presidential candidate, re-tweeted this statement:
I think that the March was "mainstream" is supposed to be a bad thing. And, if so, I strongly oppose this sort of "hipster activist"/non-pragmatic attitude among some segments of the left.
Listed as the number one value on the Green Party USA's Ten Key Values page of its website is: Grassroots Democracy. The Women's Marches were events in which millions of people were active participants in grassroots democracy. That these protests were extremely popular, even among celebrities and politicians, does not and should not detract from them. Rather, it is a testament to the marches for doing something the Green Party is rarely able to do: mobilize millions of people on the left, even if they're not yet sufficiently enlightened about social justice matters.
I suspect that if and when I get through the Trump years, I will be most grateful for the people who walked along beside me - physically or in spirit. We need to reject this type of cynical mocking of major resistance events as too "mainstream" and, hence, imperfect.
And, especially given the role that misogyny played in this election, it should be fundamental to every progressive movement to want large-scale resistance to misogyny mainstreamed.
Speaking of which, on the conservative side of things, I've heard that some folks have the vapors about the pussy hats some women wore, calling them "vulgar." This notion comes from an ideology in which [content note: sexual violence] saying pussy is worse than grabbing one without consent.
Relatedly, we also saw commentary of the always-creative "get back in the kitchen"/"you're ugly" variety. For instance, this headline at The American Thinker [sic], by Drew Belsky, tells you all you need to know [content note: misogyny]:
Meanwhile, Julie Bosman at The New York Times, in a piece entitled, "In a Rust Belt Town, the Women's Marches Draw Shrugs and Cheers From Afar," began her piece quoting a few women who hadn't heard of the Marches and mostly let non/anti-feminist women frame the piece. Sample:
"There are bigger concerns in Niles[, Michigan] than expanding the rights of women, many people said. They worry about the state of local schools, the cost of health care and the town's economy, which has struggled with the loss of manufacturing jobs.One day, I hope the mainstream media might stop gazing into the the navels of white Trump supporters long enough to learn that there are lots of other disgruntled folks in this country. Again, the election of Trump has inspired the largest protest in US history. Let's start centering more protagonists in that narrative.
Mr. Trump's campaign promise to 'Make America Great Again' had special resonance in Rust Belt towns like Niles, said Tracy Guetterman, 49, a retail manager....
'Personally, I'd love to see our country go back to one parent working, like the good old days,' she said. 'I want to be able to quit my job."
Also, note how this "economic anxiety" rhetoric parallels the "no identity politics" approach that some on the left take. The woman's quote in this article encapsulates my ongoing fear when people reference these "bigger concerns" people have that supposedly have nothing to do with gender or other aspects of identity. She worries about the economy and jobs, but also wants to see economic opportunities for women limited.
Economic issues are almost always gender (and racial) issues as well, even if that's not immediately apparent to some. Progressive politicians who speak about, and advocate centering, economic issues need to show me that they understand the intersections of identity and economics before I will trust them. We had that candidate. We don't anymore.
On the positive side, there were some fantastic speeches. Julia Serano shared the text of hers, after speaking at the San Francisco March:
Meanwhile, The Atlantic posted March photos from the around the world, and they are stunning."I would absolutely love to live in a world where I didn’t have to constantly navigate the fact that I am a woman, or that I am bisexual, or that I am transgender. But I don’t have the privilege of not thinking about these aspects of my person, because I am often treated inferiorly and targeted for harassment because I am a woman. And there are tons of people out there who hate me and wish to silence me because I am bisexual and transgender.Donald Trump ran a campaign that constantly stoked hatred against minority and marginalized groups. He selected one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-women’s reproductive rights politicians in the nation to be his Vice President. His entire platform and rhetoric were predicated on racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other prejudices. And yet, these pundits have the gall to claim that we’re the ones who are making this about identity?"
Also, people sang:
As the left continues to work through internal critique and dialogue, I hope we can do so while also keeping a wide view. To me, a man like Trump in power, with the people he's surrounded himself with, signifies an existential threat.These women never met till today and practiced this song online. Show them some love. #Icantkeepquiet #WomensMarch #WomensMarchOnWashington pic.twitter.com/rPA4dDTIYz— Alma Har'el (@Almaharel) January 21, 2017
Accordingly, I am grateful to the women who organized the March on Washington, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Linda Sarsour. I acknowledge their work even as I disagree with the decision to not list Hillary Clinton's name as one of women who has inspired the March, even as the website used Clinton's "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" quote without attribution.
It is still hard for me not to think about how hard Hillary Clinton would have worked for us as President, and how I trusted that she more than anyone else would have done what she thought best for the country in all its pragmatic complexities. I think about this every day. I was marching for many reasons but, in part, for her. For what she endured. And, for the pain many of us felt when we watched what she endured. To be a qualified woman and to lose to an unqualified bigot like Trump is a devastating testament as to how perfection is expected in female leaders while the grossest of imperfections are tolerated, and even celebrated, in men.
For this reason, too, I try to extend understanding to other progressive and liberal women, knowing that we do and will disagree, and that deep divisions exist. I say this knowing that the Democratic primary was a brutal one and I certainly took a side in that. And, at least some of the divisions were egged on by Russian agents (I have a strong suspicion/evidence my own blog was targeted).
Social movements and events often start out as exclusionary messes and are gradually improved, over time, with dialogue - dialogue that is hard, ridden with power imbalances, frustrating, and also hurtful at times. But, as we excoriate Trump for wanting to build a wall, we have got to get better at building bridges with each other on the left and question some some of the thinking that if a person makes mistakes then they are forever ruined.
We are stronger together, still. We have to be.
Perhaps this, too, is too much to hope for, but sometimes I imagine what political poetic justice might look like, for me. Sometimes, in my most hopeful moments, I imagine that Trump could do the impossible: unite a diverse left that is centered around opposition to him.