I made the sad mistake of debating the various virtues of the Women’s March in the comment section of someone’s Facebook wall the other day. To quote a very famous man: Sad.
I should know better as it moves into the petty squabbling that is apt to characterize and belittle what is really going on in a more broad fashion. It is hard to focus and facebook tends towards a certain trolling tone that implies idiocy so broadly that one gets…umm…emotional, and fails to make a point, as one argument blends with another and my natural instinct to give credence to other reasonable points comes off as weak.
So below, up for debate, but not ridicule (which is to say, if you are going to dismiss a point outright, feel free to use words we can all understand and relate to) is my take on the women’s march…
It was awesome. I want to just end the analysis here. I wish I could. Over 3 million women around the world mobilized to show their power and their ability to unite and demonstrate peacefully. The is huge. Yuge. And worth of awe. Period.
That being said, I’d like to discuss the conversation around whether it could have been better focused or had a clear point…
First off: I think the fact that I have gotten into arguments over this point with more than one person is indicative, is in and of itself, that there might have been a clearer list of demands. However, I think we might be conflating two very different issues if we just think a bit deeper. I agree that a movement should have a clear and cohesive message.I think clear asks make for clear response.
THAT being said: I think “stop treating us like second hand citizens” is a clear enough message, given the CONTEXT. The context being: blatantly sexist platforms from the republican platform, the election of a man who makes sexist and arguably violently misogynistic statements, the appointment of key staff that have a history of creating disadvantage in the form of blocking women’s healthcare, the selection of a VP who has a horrific track record when it comes to women’s health and rights…I think this constellation of recent occurrences associated with the election create a broad context that would be belittled by focusing on specific legislation. Which is to say that I don’t think there was any real question of the point of that March. I think implying there is a both insulting and gaslighting. Much like broad reaching and systemic racism, sometimes there is a bigger point that just one law.
But I think understanding the clear message is predicated on an believing the message has merit. The REALITY is that many many women feel like this country, with the election that just transpired, is poised to make a horrible u-turn back to a place where we have less rights and where we feel less safe. Period. And I think this is based on what we are hearing people in power say and what we have seen them do. The real subtext of questioning the point of the women’s march is questioning the legitimacy of the complaint. And that is a much darker conversation.
THAT being said. Why now? Why that day. Why not wait for something truly horrifying? Why not last week? Last month? Last year?
And yes, for that I have two comments: You might be right. Maybe 12 months ago would have been better. Or when Trump picked Pence. Or who the hell knows when. Maybe if this march had gotten the vote out we would all be way way happier. Oh hindsight.
But, you know, I am a big fan of not letting perfect be the enemy of good, and I think it is useless to spend time pondering when the exact perfect moment is to make a broad “WHAT THE FUCK” demonstration. I will say this: a galvanizing piece of legislation may add focus, BUT waiting to start until that action runs the risk of both allowing the gradual erosion of rights waiting for the “big one” and also risks starting too late. It also legitimizes language and subtext during the lull and sends a message of apathy. Plus we can (and SHOULD) march again. And I think there is a strong and undeniable power to making the first thing our new President sees, in office, is one of the biggest protests or marches in history. Showing that more people will show up to that than his inauguration is a statement, and a big one. It was as good a day as any, basically.
That being said, I would also like to discuss the relative power of the march, to which I can only say: time will tell. Tea Parties gathered and demonstrated and changed the way the republican party worked. They made a fringe group seem bigger and more relevant than they are and I would argue that loose message snow balled. The women’s march was much much larger. And if the marches, the demonstrations, continue, if they follow up with galvanizing multiple generations around specific legislation or appointments, combining that with a “we are watching and next time we will make sure to vote” comments, then I think it is incredibly powerful. In and of itself, making our current government question how apathetic we truly are has power, as we have shown. But I do think what follows is just as important.
And finally, the question of: was it a march or a party or just a great big feel good outcry. I don’t think there is a simple answer an I don’t know that it matters. Characterizing it is a party is just a way to delegitimize the complaint. Personally, I think of it a lot like like I view gay pride, which is a big ol’ party…no denying it…but it is also inherently political, in that it is grounded in a unifying desire to make it clear that a group that understands they are repetitively discriminated against still can’t be held down. It energizes the group in question but also creates a presence. This movement understands it isn’t just one piece of legislation (although there are very clear big ones) or just one right, but a variety of things: from failure to convict murderous bullies to the right to marry that continue to serve as a reminder that their safety, their rights, and their abilities to just do what a lot of other Americans take for granted are continuously threatened. Similarly, a bunch of women saying “hey, this is so big that we can’t just focus on one thing” is a pretty big statement.
Which is to say, I think the women’s march was a big beautiful great big start. And also kind of sad, because I think it is acknowledgement that at this point we expect it to be coming from every side: more expensive and harder to access healthcare and family planning, a glass ceiling that just got passively reinforced, a clear statement that reporting sexual assault (and assault in general) isn’t worth it, tax laws (ehem, head of household) that affect single mothers most poorly, and in general a spin that blames those least fortunate for the sins of those most fortunate, creating a tail spin of squabbling that only serves to reduce everyone’s rights, across the board.
Am I being histrionic? I am sure anyone who thinks so also will not understand this point.
Because WHY we are questioning it is my entire point. We aren’t arguing about whether the women’s march had a point. We are arguing about whether it was timely and necessary. In that I find such a huge chasm in belief that I doubt facts and figures could dent resolve. And there ARE facts and figures that women experience barriers men do not. I could share them, but I can’t imagine what effect that would have when over half the human race could affirm that they are experiencing discrimination and you would still dismiss that as petty or irrelevant.