Yesterday, history was made. Across the country and the world, millions of women came together to march in Washington, D.C., in Seattle, in Boston, in Paris, in London, in Antarctica, and hundreds of other cities and towns. They came together to make their voice heard and to say, quite clearly, that things are not okay.
I’m proud to say that my wife Ashley was among these empowered individuals, along with her sister, mother, and other family members. She left Friday evening feeling excited but with a few fears. She was worried that someone may try to do something harmful to the movement, but she explained to me that, “the message of this movement outweighed the fear”. She was also concerned that the March would not get the coverage it deserved and that the voice of the movement would once again be drowned out.
When she came home last night, she was exhausted, but burning with an energy I’ve not seen in her before. More people turned out, she told me, than that had even dreamed would show–over twice the estimated amount. The speakers energised her, and seeing so many like-minded people made her feel a hope she has not felt since before November ninth. The March, it turned out, was an incredible success, and the first step in a greater process.
And yet, today, less than a day after this amazing feat of humanity and empathy, people are attacking and questioning the Marchers via social media and news outlets. Just through Facebook alone I’ve seen a significant amount of negativity. My wife’s experience has been no different. People have asked her why she marched, or why it mattered, and when she answered, her responses were deleted.
So today I wanted to respond to each of the major criticisms or questions regarding the Women’s March. Not because I need to defend my wife–she needs no help from me–but because I believe in this cause, and I think folks need to hear how they sound.
“Non-peaceful protests are un-American.”
While America’s education system is lacking (something many of these women marched for, in fact), I always understood history was one that was pretty solid. Just in case, though, let’s have a quick history lesson:
In the 1700s, the thirteen original colonies were ruled by Britain, and this included controlling their taxes. Citizens of the colonies were unhappy that they were taxed but had no voice in British Parliament. A number of protesters boarded cargo ships in Boston Harbor and dumped tea into the Harbor–a direct violation of the Tea Act. This became known as the Boston Tea Party, and was one of the events that lead to the American Revolution.
In other words, America was founded largely in part on a non-peaceful protest.
Beyond that, the Women’s March was actually an incredibly peaceful event. There were, in fact, no arrests made throughout the entire event in D.C. What is being “reported” as violent protests at the Women’s March were in fact anarchic protests on the day of Trump’s inauguration. Ashley told me that one of the greatest parts of her experience was the feeling of friendship and unity that tied the Marchers together. “Everybody cared about everyone else. We were brothers and sisters.”
“Get over it, he’s the president!”
This argument is an incredibly minimalising one. It’s narrowing all of the reasons that people marched yesterday down to one, very specific reason, and it’s wrong. The Marchers moved for countless reasons, and trimming them down to dissent over the president just propagates the issues that led us here in the first place.
With that being said, if someone marched in protest of his presidency, that is her or his right as an American citizen. I’m right there with them. Lest we forget, we have the right have our own opinions, and to share those opinions in peaceful manners.
“Trump’s only been president for 24 hours. You haven’t even given him a chance.”
I responded to this idea a little bit the other day. We did give him a chance while he was on the campaign trail, and he ruined it discriminating against anyone who disagreed with him. More importantly, yes, he has been president for one a day. And in that day, his only actions have been to increase the cost of mortgage insurance, and to continue his war with the press. He’s not acknowledging that there is an astounding amount of civil discord, and is continuing his history of ignorance.
“Obama’s opponents didn’t protest when he was elected.”
Yes, they absolutely did. In fact, members of Congress went on the record saying that they would fight Obama every step of the way. People created papier-maché likenesses of Obama, then lynched them and lit them on fire. Racist posts littered social media. The major difference here is that, while Obama’s opponents spoke out with hatred and ignorance, Trump’s opponents speak out with love and thought. We all have the right to share our mind; the importance is in how we choose to do so.
“Trump got more fat women in one day to march than Michelle Obama did in eight years.”
The first time I saw this, I almost couldn’t believe it, and now it’s become a meme. It’s this kind of blatant disrespect, this exact ideology, that the Marchers are fighting against. What’s truly ironic is the degree of hypocrisy here. People are posting filth like this and then in the next breath demanding respect for their agenda. After all, you have to give respect to get respect.
“If these people had gotten off their butts and voted, they wouldn’t have to march.”
They did. Remember, Clinton won the popular vote. I’m not rehashing that whole argument, just pointing out that this line of thinking is lazy and factually inaccurate.
“The march didn’t matter.”
That’s exactly how people reacted to the March On Washington or the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. But yesterday’s march does matter; women are using their voices and anyone that says the march didn’t matter is trying to suppress that beautiful sound. Try telling Ashley that it didn’t matter, and she’ll just laugh at you. As I mentioned, she came back form the March feeling energised and with a renewed sense of hope. If for no other reason than that, this March mattered.
“Where were these protests when [insert tragic event] happened?”
I’m not going to lie, some of us are late to the game. There have been hundreds–thousands–of times that we should have organised and stepped up before. Unfortunately, we didn’t then. But we can and have now. We’re learning from our past mistakes, and taking action in ways that we’ve never done before. I’m not saying to forget the past, but instead let us learn from it and grow from it moving forward.
“Their reason got lost in translation.”
That’s because there wasn’t just one reason. As at least one sign at the protest exclaimed, “Too many issues to fit on one sign”. That’s why this was such an important and historic event. People across the world came together to say, “enough is enough” and to make their voices heard. Remember, this wasn’t a celebration of human rights–it was a demand for them.
And so participants marched for dozens of reasons. They marched for women’s rights. They marched for immigration. They marched for wage equality. They marched for LGBQT+ rights. They marched for reform in education and the criminal justice system. They marched for Muslim-Americans and Native Americans. They marched for those not able to do so on their own. They marched for the rights to their own bodies. They marched for their family, for their friends, for respect, and to have a voice. But most importantly, they marched for a better future.
“What next?” or “Now what?”
Now we keep this momentum moving. We don’t let the voices and issues that have been raised get quieted in the night. We make efforts to educate ourselves, to learn about what is wrong, and to fix it. We stop ignoring, covering up, or mansplaining the facts, and instead actually listen to what is being said. Already there is follow-up to the March, in the form of 10 Actions/100 Days, and a call to communicate to our senators and representatives. We need to let them know that things are wrong.
Above all else, we need to learn to be kind to one another and to accept each other’s differences.
And for me, personally, as I reflect on what I have seen and experienced, and as I listen to my wife’s experiences, it is a reminder to me that I will support my wife in whatever she does and with whatever she needs.
Special thanks to Ashley for sharing her experiences with me, and for allowing me to share them with the world!