As I approached Denver’s Civic Center Park for the WMW Sister March, I saw vast crowds of men, women, and children converging. My wildest dreams were coming true. Instead of the 40,000 people who had RSVP’d on the march’s official Facebook page, HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of people were showing up to take a stand against the new regime in the White House.
The Denver march turned out to be the fifth largest march in the country in the largest mass protest in the history of the United States, if not the world. A conservative estimate suggests that the total number of demonstrators nationwide was somewhere between 3.2-5.2 million.
I asked a variety of people in Denver from diverse backgrounds why they were marching. Some talked about setting an example for their children in terms of standing up for oneself and what they feel is right. Others marched because they want to take control of what is said about them and their bodies. Others stated that they know they operate from a position of privilege, and believe they should stand up for those less privileged than themselves.
Many felt it was important to make a statement, to remind the world that there are more of us than there are of “them” — us being the forces of lovingkindness. Some expressed the idea of giving to others, instead of demeaning others. For some, marching was an end in and of itself. But there were many who saw the march as a starting point for something bigger. Many who marched that day had NEVER participated in a march or any kind of protest before — and they have not stopped there. The march was not an end, and it wasn’t really the beginning either.
A Rallying Point
First, there was an onrush of surprised comments from the media about how organizers needed to capitalize on the impact of the weekend. Because we had no idea about that, right? Plans were already in place to leverage the enthusiasm from the march to get people more involved in actions to resist the divisive policies already being put in place by the Trump administration. In fact, the organizers of the Washington march set up a four-hour session immediately following the demonstration to start planning what is next. In addition, MoveOn, Indivisible, and the Working Families Party held a call that Sunday night attended by 25,000 people.
This call helped undergird the organization of the first “Trump Tuesday” protests around the country. “Resist Trump Tuesdays” are due to go on every Tuesday during the first hundred days of the new administration at the district offices of members of Congress all over the country. The plan is for citizens to advance a bold, progressive agenda by making our representatives at every level accountable for their actions.
Since the election, people have been working in various groups throughout the country. The march was a rallying point that will energize groups like Together We Will and the Sister District Project with new members to help take up the cause. People know that Trump will not be swayed from his hateful and divisive course, but perhaps our congresspersons can be.
Trolls, Mansplainers and Blind Spots
The reactions and responses of people who did NOT march come from a different place. Of course, there have been insensitive and mocking reactions to all of the protests. Privileged male trolls especially do not care to understand what we are fighting for. They think we should just “suck it up” because Trump won and we lost. Supporters are both kindly and not so kindly pointing out to these folks that elections have consequences for everyone, and our first amendment rights did not end after the election.
Inevitably, there are the mansplainers, like good old David Brooks, who told us that we had entirely the wrong priorities for the march. He has been roundly raked over the coals for his asinine comments implying that women should not challenge the patriarchy by talking about the patriarchy.
Then there are the really lame responses that attempt to diminish women for participating in the marches by objectifying them. A judge in East Texas wrote on his Facebook page: “After just one day in office, Trump managed to achieve something that no one else has been able to do — he got a million fat women out walking.” The post has been removed.
One lawmaker in Nebraska was forced to resign after parroting the Trump-like line in a tweet that the women at the march were all “too ugly to rape.” This delightful gentleman was already under fire for using his state account for cybersex, so his misogynistic tweet put the last nail in his coffin.
Another reaction that gained widespread attention, garnering support from many women who did not see “the point” of the march, is from a woman named Chrisy Juhasz, whose Facebook post went pretty viral. She argues that she DOES have control over her own body and makes her own decisions. She deflects to other parts of the world where women have it “much worse” — a perspective that is both ethnocentric and disparaging.
First, the point is not that it might not be really effing awful for women in other parts of the world. But it’s no great shakes here either, unless you’re a nice middle-class white gal. What if you have to choose between going to the doctors or working that day so your kid can, you know, eat, have a roof over his or her head? The blindness of this woman to her own privilege is mind- blowing.
Opponents of social justice movements love to deny and deflect by trying to make the discussion about something else, like the giant vagina bodysuits found at many of the marches, or the alleged messes left behind by the marchers, or Madonna cursing at Trump. Madonna used the F word! Oh noes!
People are asking if rude talk and pussy paraphernalia are “necessary,” claiming it detracts from our message. But talking about specifics of particular protesters rather than the goals of the demonstrations as a whole diverts the conversation from what we need to talk about — i.e., equal rights, Trump is a wannabe despot, and we need to save our planet, etc. We need to keep directing the conversation back to the issues at hand because this presidency is the greatest danger our country has ever seen.
The pussies are important — whether or not they make people uncomfortable. They are a way of reminding the world that the new president of the United States has repeatedly reduced women to their body parts and was recorded saying that he believes because he is a rich man, he has the right to sexually assault any woman he pleases. Therefore, vaginas and who owns them are a vital part of the conversation, not a distraction.
Unsurprisingly, Trump has already reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option. Trump has publicly voiced support for anti-transgender legislation. Trump has made good on his promise to appoint a “pro-life” U.S. Supreme Court Justice and has nominated Neil Gorsuch, who is considered further to the right than the late Antonin Scalia.
Some people dismiss the protests because they feel that Trump has not done anything wrong yet. “Give him a chance,” they say. However, history proves that when it comes to despots and autocrats, when they tell you what they are going to do with their power — believe them. Our clueless leader does not even read briefings and instead takes his cues from what he has heard on the O’Reilly Factor. And he has already started to do many of the awful things he promised to do during his election campaign — like restrict the movement of immigrants.
Trump has also restarted the process of approving the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, despite a series of major pipeline leaks in other parts of the country. He has barred many government agencies from talking to Congress and the public. He has vowed to cut funding for the Department of Justice (DOJ) Violence Against Women programs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ. He has fired and replaced the attorney general. This short list occurred in a little over a week’s time.
But also in just over a week, the Women’s March on Washington and all of the protests in the U.S. and around the globe have made their impact felt. Altogether, the marches were successful — more so than perhaps we imagined they would be. Primarily, it brought people together from a variety of groups, including many who wouldn’t necessarily have met or interacted otherwise.
Despite all the people who did not see the point of the march and belittled it in some way, it is clear that the march was a massive show of unity that has mobilized people to engage, show up, speak out, and to act — whether it be in their own social circles, at congressional offices, or in airports. We are entering an age of everyday activism.
The ongoing protests, the press attention, and the social media discussions demonstrate the impact of the resistance. The organization of the march itself prompted extensive, and hopefully ongoing discussions about the intersectionality of oppressions, specifically in dealing with racism. We cannot predict what is next, but a sleeping giant has been woke.
People are organizing into different groups, both small and large. They are creating new organizations and attaching themselves to groups that were already active like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. People are campaigning against Cabinet picks and specific policies by utilizing new tools for making phone calls or petitioning their representative. Groups are building coalitions to see what they can do about taking control of marginal districts in the 2017 and 2018 elections.
There are more protest marches planned — one on tax day to call for Trump to release his taxes, and another organized by scientists to campaign for the continuation of policies that support real scientific research without political oversight. If each one of us finds a couple of areas that are meaningful to us and engage in individual and collective acts of resistance, then we can help stem the tide of the Trump autocracy. Together we will.
Mary Green is a writer, blogger, editor, and consultant. She lives in Colorado with her wife, her dog, and nine bicycles.