Yes, I marched. How could I not march? As a long-time Chicana activist said during her visit to our university, “How could I not go where a million women plan to be?” There were detractors of the march—both valid (representation of women of color and the history of this in feminist movement[s]; see this National Public Radio piece here; Zeba Blay’s “mixed emotions” about the march in The Huffington Post) and invalid (Trump’s self-defensive criticism of the march via Twitter; reported here by PBS). But there is no denying that a seven-continent protest of the new president, his managerial shortcomings, and his inhumane policy proposals and hires makes an enormous (go ahead and say “uge”; I know you’re thinking it) statement. This multi-million-person statement is important for the start of this regime and for the annals of history. As this new person in charge charges through, hiring inept people and signing devastating orders, we have protested, and we have done so en masse.
My husband, our two children, and I joined a group from our small town on the trip to Washington, D.C. Several buses carried others from our town, thus revealing strong numbers from our area and signaling that people were definitely going to show up. On our bus there were women and men, adults and children, black, brown, and white people, English and Spanish speakers (and speakers of several other languages), people born in our rural area, in other parts of the United States, and in other countries. Poster messages ranged from embracing diversity, to promoting peace, to expressing frustration and/or fierceness, to citing great feminist thinkers, such as Angela Davis and Audre Lorde. Many people sported pussy hats—in the standard pink, but also in black and rainbow. The overriding political issue seemed to be profound concern about the president’s fitness for office, with each person having her or his “subthemes” or issues in which they were well versed, including Black Lives Matter, the environment, Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ rights, and immigration policy.
I loved the sheer numbers at the march and its sister marches, the diversity of issues covered, the humor and compassion displayed in so many of the protest signs, the peacefulness of the protest, and the sense that the D.C. march layered over—step by step of every single inch of the packed protest route—the inaugural activities of the day before. A lot of people said they went to the march for their daughters. I went for me, my partner, both our children, and for the people around me whose futures are less secure under this regime.
I went to the march because I feel deep shame for my country and a profound worry about its/our future. I needed to join a group who would make a loud and visible statement about what we have done, whom we have elected, and why it’s all wrong. I wanted people in other nations and my own compatriotas to know that a gigantic sector of the United States disagrees with every move the new president is making. My daughter wore the pussy hat a friend so kindly made for me. I see the pussy hat movement as representing a stage in feminism—an early “girl power” stage that is important for many people, and likely for many young girls, boys, and people of the gender of their choice. The hats also mark the tradition of women’s crafts and the solidarity in creating beautiful works and wearing them with a sense of purpose. I sense myself in a different stage in which I appreciate the expression of girl power but long for a more nuanced interpretation of women’s (and gender’s, in general) place in the world. As a long-time feminist, I recognize that my views and political platforms must evolve according to analyses of others’ writings and according to emerging needs of those around me. I work often in a Latinx community and therefore practice a feminism that is necessarily crisscrossed by questions of citizenship, race, class, and language. But I know as a feminist who is white that this intersectionality has to be a deliberate choice every single day because it is too easy to luxuriate in white privilege. This is why I understood the “Fuck White Feminism” sign held by someone two steps away from me at the march. (Check out this Gender Shrapnel blog post that takes issue with the term “white feminism,” but not with the problems of it.)
I loved hearing America Ferrera, Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Janelle Monáe, Sophie Cruz, and Angela Davis speak. At times it was hard to follow who was speaking and what they were saying because the business of being in a jam-packed crowd, especially with children, was challenging. One thing I heard before the crowds pinned us in were the words of Charlie Brotman, the man who has been an inauguration announcer since Eisenhower but was eschewed by the Trump crew. I was miffed by his tin-eared decision to label the Women’s March crowd “Charlie’s Angels,” and I called out that he should get over himself and stop colonizing women. Van Jones was generally great as a “private in the Love Army.” Nevertheless, I thought I heard him mention men’s need to “protect our women” and took issue with the implication of women’s weakness and his use of the possessive. These were minor issues in the grand scheme of things.
In his New York Times opinion piece of January 24, 2017, David Brooks wrote: “Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.” Oh, Mr. Brooks, can you not be a little more nuanced? Party politics is part and parcel of social movements, and it should be the case that, in turn, social movements are a part of party politics. Marching in Washington, D.C., and all around the world does accomplish something, did accomplish something. I don’t know anyone from the march who is not now more engaged in local, state, and national political processes than they were before the march. This includes the children. If “mass therapy” means that half a million people gathered on a two-mile stretch of the nation’s capital to express vociferous discontent with the incapable person we’ve elected president and then harnessed that group feeling to become politically active, then go ahead and use the patronizing term.
David Brooks also fawns all over Mark Lilla’s Nov. 18th (2016) op-ed in The New York Times, claiming that, “Times readers loved that piece and it vaulted to the top of the most-read charts.” I was certainly a Times reader who read the piece, but I thought it dripped in white privilege and expressed a misbegotten nostalgia for when “politics” was only for white men. (See the Gender Shrapnel blog response to Lilla’s piece here.) Brooks concludes that the “anti-Trump forces” need to “offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.” Methinks Brooks doesn’t get that many March participants don’t seek “a better nationalism,” and, if they do, it certainly need not hearken back to capitalist and Christian tropes that got Trump elected to begin with.
In the end, I marched because we elected a megalomaniac who continues to erode the constitutional rights of many people in the United States. I couldn’t stand for it—I had to march.
(“Hear Our Voice” by Liza Donovan; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/womens-march-poster-art_us_5873c531e4b02b5f858a2b1d)