vtn: closeup of small flowers (Default)
vtn ([personal profile] vtn) wrote2017-01-23 02:02 pm

Thoughts on the Women's March

Hi. *dusts off Dreamwidth account*

I've been thinking about starting up a blog again on and off for a while, and this seems like as good a time and place as any. Also will be posting publicly for now unless it turns out to be a bad idea, in which case everything will get locked.

So: I marched in the Women's March on Washington on Saturday. It was an empowering experience and joyously chaotic. I had some thoughts afterwards.

I was pleasantly surprised by the type of feminism embodied by the program. The Pantsuit Nation Facebook group that birthed the march has come to symbolize a particular kind of feminism that raises my hackles. Mostly white- and cis-centric, it's very congratulatory and celebratory without much acknowledgement of the battle many--most--of us continue to face. I think it's important to have positive and loving spaces that provide a respite from the ongoing war. (Yep, it's a war.) But that can't be the face of feminism going forward, or we're just going to continue moving backwards.

Thanks to the voices of others who agreed with me on this, the Women's March became in many ways an antidote to that sort of feminism. The original organizers promised to step back and let an experienced and diverse group of organizers lead the way, promoting a feminism that was intersectional and a feminism that inherently needs to be activism. I was really, really impressed by the program, which was unapologetic in acknowledging that the rights and the battles of women of color, trans* women (and femme of center folks who aren't women (hi, it me!)), women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, indigenous women, and women of all religions, were a central part of the movement that began on Saturday.

And moreover, yes, a movement began Saturday. It still isn't concrete for me yet, but the other theme that resonated throughout was that Saturday was day one. To join everybody and their brother in quoting Hamilton, "this is not the moment, it's the movement". I get the sense that I'm not the only person searching for next steps rather than patting myself on the back. Let's fight!

But...it was still really white. I stood and marched in the crowd and the faces I saw were largely similar to my own. There are a lot of reasons why this was probably the case, and I'm oversimplifying when I boil it down to these two that I think are the most important.
1) The channels through which the marches were organized, and the messages coming down those channels, were still largely white-centric. We need to fix that.
2) From a purely statistical and demographic standpoint, white privilege is the only reason that getting to the march for me was a simple matter of hopping on the metro at U St and heading a few stops down. I can afford to live in downtown DC (when women of color are disproportionately poor and are being pushed to the perimeter of DC), never mind the logistics involved if I traveled from elsewhere. I didn't work on Saturday (when women of color disproportionately must work multiple jobs to stay afloat). I didn't fear police violence enough to stay away (enough said). So, as a white person, it's invaluable for me to use my voice as a way of amplifying other voices.

America Ferrera and Ashley Judd killed it. Here's Ferrera blasting the Trump administration and demanding an intersectional feminist movement. Here's Judd with a powerful reading of a powerful poem by Nina Donovan.

It was chaotic, mostly in the best way. I headed down to the Mall a little after 8 AM, where I met up with a group of folks both local and from out of town. The crowd was already huge, and only grew. I believe the 500k crowd estimate is a significant underestimate because it was taken in the morning, when people continued to arrive throughout the morning and afternoon. Underlined for emphasis and my general annoyance that no one reported hey, this thing went on for SEVERAL HOURS after the closing time and TOTALLY SHUT DOWN DOWNTOWN DC until late at night (apart from reporting the wall-o'-posters on the White House/Trump Hotel/all the public parks downtown which was indeed awesome).

At around noon, an hour and 15 minutes before the scheduled march time, some people started chanting "Start the march!" and my group yelled at them because they were talking over the speakers and being jerks. I was also worried that headlines yesterday would show up all "Women's March Disjointed, Disorganized" which they didn't, thankfully. Anyway, something like 45-60 minutes after the march was supposed to start, the rally program was nowhere near over but by then people had already filled the entire route from start to finish and news stations started announcing the march was "cancelled". The Women's March organizers came out to say "No, we are marching," and provide route info, and then we were off.

We broke the route almost immediately. I lost most of my group. We made our way up Penn Ave to the Trump Hotel and shouted "Hands too small/Can't build a wall" and "No hate/No fear/Immigrants are welcome here" and "Black Lives Matter!" and "What do we want? Evidence based findings! When do we want them? After peer review!" I finally split off because spoiler alert, I was super hungry and needed to pee and thought I could stop by Tim's office (he had already gone home so I just walked the couple miles up to his place in Columbia Heights whereupon I ate an entire pizza).

A DC cop leaned out the window of his car to shout "we love you!" to the marchers. As we started to break from the parade route and disobey instructions, my worries ranged from oh god, they'll send out riot cops and tear gas us to oh god, Trump will institute a 5PM curfew to oh god, there will be mass arrests. MPD and the DC National Guard clearly had to improvise their response, but it was respectful and welcoming. Mayor Muriel ("no relation to the Koopa King") Bowser spoke and got the whole crowd chanting to "Leave us alone!" as Congress promises to gut our laws and strip our rights. So thank you MPD and DC Guard for assuring me that DC will fight and our institutions will help us fight.

Now, that being said, a lot of people have pointed out that this observation is closely connected to my previous observation that the march was super white, and white women are "safe" and "pure" and therefore our marches are inherently "nonviolent". That bias neatly wraps up racism and benevolent sexism with a tidy bow, hooray. (I apologize for not saving the tweet where I first saw this pointed out! I will do better in the future at not rendering WOC anonymous like I am doing here.) And so I will continue to hold the police in DC and elsewhere accountable for their violence against Americans of color, particularly black men. I can and will thank them for their treatment of us on Saturday and demand more from them in tandem.

Speaking of doing opposing things in tandem...

The march was centered on a concept of women as people with vaginas for good reasons, but that doesn't mean we can't do better at including trans and nb folks in the movement. When the tape of Trump's odious remarks about how much he enjoys raping and molesting women was released, he said "pussy". When Republicans attack Planned Parenthood under the thin guise of "lowering taxes" and "protecting life," (lololololol like they ever cared about either government spending or human life) they are doing it to oppress women. And their concept of woman is a person with a uterus and a vagina. In my opinion, as a nonbinary person (albeit one who is much more tolerant than most of being socially identified as a woman, so I'll acknowledge that colors my remarks here a bit), we are caught in the crossfire. This is about the systematic oppression of women, specifically, within an oppressive and hierarchical gender binary, and that has been made extremely clear.

But: if you are nb or trans and you felt excluded by the March, dude, that fucking sucks and I am here to say we need to create a feminism that is inclusive of everyone. So as we move forward, let's not limit our movement and our goals to protecting cis women. Let's listen to what we can do to make everyone feel welcome and let's fight to destroy restrictive gender roles and let's blow up the gender binary and push for advances in trans and queer rights.

(The first thing you can do right now, and this is kind of simple/stupid, but grated on me the whole time, is STOP SAYING "all the men, women, and children who are here" or whatever. "Everyone" or "all the people" or "men, women, and people of all genders" are all perfectly respectable substitutes and not saying them is either lazy, ignorant, or actively malicious depending on the context. (Oh, and "men, women, and trans people" is worse, so don't even think about it.))

Being reminded of my privilege gave me the perspective I need to feel optimistic. As many, many of the program speakers pointed out, some of us got to enjoy eight years of relief, where we knew that our leaders were going to try to protect us. But many of us didn't. If you're black or indigenous or trans* or Muslim or undocumented or [the list goes on] in this country, you are already used to living every day in panic and fear. This is nothing new. And yet, you fought for your rights. You got used to being strong in the face of fear. You got used to protesting, to speaking up, to asking others to amplify your voice. You lived your lives and found moments of joy among the chaos. This is already your life. And the voices I heard on Saturday said: we will keep fighting those same battles even as we push back against the erosion of our most basic rights.

So here's the part where I actually get controversial enough that I'm nervous about how this will be taken: it's no coincidence that a lot of the voices I heard saying "I am pants-shittingly scared and that is the overwhelming only thing I can feel right now in the wake of Trump's election" were voices of privilege. This is new to us, so it's going to be scarier. But the people I thought were the most vulnerable, overwhelmingly, in my life were the first ones to stand up and say "come at me". We all have something to learn from that. We don't have to be cowed. It's time to get to work.