"The movement of love and inclusion has just been unleashed."
. . . That's what my friend Kathleen
was compelled to declare after participating in last Saturday's Women's March in St. Paul, MN, an event that I too was honored to be part of.
As I'm sure you know, last Saturday's event was part of the nationwide launching of a movement centered on the Women's March on Washington, D.C. This launching may well have comprised the largest protest in U.S. history
, with an estimated 2.9 million people taking to the streets in cities and towns across the nation.
I participated in the Minnesota Women’s March on Saturday with my friends Tim and Colleen. The event drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Minnesota State Capitol grounds and is believed to be one of the largest protest gatherings in Minnesota history.
Like I said, it was part of a nationwide surge of massive rallies and marches aimed at both protesting President Donald Trump’s positions and statements on women’s rights, immigration, the environment, and climate change AND
offering hope and alternatives to Trump's political agenda
and to what has been described as his "sordid immorality
" – his bigotry, ignorance, misogyny, and vulgarity. Sister marches were held on all seven continents
, including Antarctica
The alternative vision for our world put forward by the Women's March organizers and participants is beautifully and succinctly described in the image below.
As for the sign I carried . . . well, as I noted previously
, I had decided about a week before the march that I wanted to carry a sign that shared a positive message from an inspiring woman. I therefore decided on words of hope and encouragement from legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie
. They're actually lyrics from her song "Getting Started
" (from her phenomenal 1992 album Coincidence and Likely Stories
). The image incorporated in my sign is one I took of Buffy when I saw her in concert last summer
in Bayfield, WI.
Understand in time
It’s a sweet investigation
We’re learning rope by rope
Climbing hope by hope
In every combination
And that’s okay
No, it’s not the way it should be
But that’s okay
It’s wild and it’s unique
And that’s okay
Yeah, love’s the magic number
And that’s okay
Come on, we’re only getting started . . .
– Buffy Sainte-Marie
Excerpted from “Getting Started”
(from the 1992 album, Coincidence and Likely Stories)
Speaking of getting started, here's a picture of the Women's March in St. Paul getting underway.
This beautiful puppet was created by the good folks at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
, renowned for, among other things, the annual Mayday Parade and Festival in south Minneapolis. (For The Wild Reed
's coverage of past Mayday parades, see here
, and here
My good friend and housemate Tim and his girlfriend Colleen – Saturday, January 21, 2017.
Behind Tim and Colleen are women wearing what's come to be known as "pussyhats." In his January 27 San Francisco Chronicle piece
about the pussyhat and the "power of pink," Tony Bravo documents the history of the "fashion signature" of the Women's March movement.
From Washington, D.C., to San Francisco, pink “pussyhats” seemed to become the new uniform for the rising fourth wave of feminism. Most were homemade, many using the knitting pattern found on www.pussyhatproject.com. The pattern itself was developed by the Little Knittery owner Kat Coyle, also from Los Angeles, whom various media sources credit with launching the hat movement. . . . The Pussy Hat Project was launched by screenwriter Krista Suh and architect Jayna Zweiman, both from Southern California, over Thanksgiving weekend. Its name and feline silhouette came as a symbolic reference to the notorious recording of Donald Trump telling former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush in 2005 that because of his celebrity, Trump could grab women “by the p—.” From vulgarity came a kind of community as knitters around the country made hats for themselves and sent hats to other demonstrators to wear to the marches. . . . The feminine qualities of the hats, seen en masse, formed a strong aesthetic rebuke to the perceived toxic masculinity of the Trump administration.
in The Nation
, Katha Pollitt admits that, at first, she was dismissive of the pussy hats. "What a colossal waste of time, energy, and money," she wrote. "And besides, pink? Please. Cute and adorable is the last thing women need to be in Trump’s America."
But then she recounts an epiphany of sorts.
[T]he first person I saw when I got off the train in Union Station the day before the march was a large white-haired woman, festively layered in many shades of pink topped with a vividly striped pussy hat, who had planted herself on the platform and was greeting everyone with “Aloha” because “it means both hello and goodbye.” She filled me with cheer, as did seeing groups of pink-hatted women in the train station, at the feminist teach-in at Politics and Prose bookstore, and around Washington well into the evening. By the time my daughter and I set out for the march the next morning we couldn’t wait to have our very own, so thank you, Heather from Pittsburgh, who gave us two made by her friend Andrea, who couldn’t come to the march but wanted to be there in spirit. I am wearing my pussy hat even as I type these words. I may wear it every day that Trump is president.
The lesson I take from this experience: Don’t be so quick to carp and reject. It’s a big world. Other people may have some good ideas from time to time!
Above and right:
Making our way to the Minnesota State Capitol.
In promoting last Saturday's Women's March in St. Paul, organizers noted the following:
We march in solidarity with those marching in Washington D.C. and more than 300 sister marches happening simultaneously around the world.
Why are we marching? Because the rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us. We will march in numbers too great for administration to ignore on their first day in office. We march and stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.
Following are more of my pictures from last Saturday's Women's March in St. Paul. They are accompanied by excerpts from various articles and commentaries about the inspiring and empowering event that was the global Women's March movement.
The task in the US, inspired by the millions of women in pink hats, is to create a workable alliance of progressives. It can, with solid groundwork, remove at least the lower house from Republican control in 2018 and defeat Trump in 2020. But the horizons of resistance should be immediate.
That resistance will, of necessity, start out as fragmentary. The domestic workers will go back to Queens, Phoenix and Los Angeles to fight to defend migrant women from deportation, and fight for the $15 minimum wage. Black communities will face off-the-leash policing, its impact more random and brutal as the rule of law is eroded, egged on by white supremacists who publicly fantasise about genocide.
Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley and Wall Street, progressive employees will go to work this week more determined to resist the corporate rollover to Trump. But the Women’s March showed – in a gesture as inchoate as it was decisive – that these struggles can be united in the face of a common enemy. What’s more, there is network of millions of people who have now done one thing together they had never done before.
Trump, like all authoritarian kleptocrats, will rule by gesture. Herein lies the great weakness of liberal democracy, with its tendency towards rationality, restraint and proportionality. It is not only by obliterating truth that the authoritarian beguiles the masses, but by constant recourse to drama: the midnight speech, the military parade, the unexpected deal, the overnight invasion or the extrajudicial killing of an enemy.
But the Women’s March showed us the gestural power of mass action. Yes, it could end up as ineffectual as the anti-war demos of 2003 were at stopping war. But stopping social injustice should be easier than stopping war for one obvious reason.
In a war, the enemy is someone else. In the social war Trump is about to unleash the enemy in us. And – as the disappointed white petit-bourgeoisie who love him now will soon discover – you can’t eat racism; military parades do not raise your wages; owning eight guns and having 4chan bookmark does not matter if your home is repossessed.
The Women’s March has revived, recreated and strengthened the networked, cultural opposition of 2011 but on a bigger scale. It’s up to everybody to keep the energy flowing.
"Intersectional feminism" is much more than the latest feminist buzzword. It is a decades-old term many feminists use to explain how the feminist movement can be more diverse and inclusive.
If feminism is advocating for women's rights and equality between the sexes, intersectional feminism is the understanding of how women's overlapping identities – including race, class, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation – impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.
A white woman is penalized by her gender but has the advantage of race. A black woman is disadvantaged by her gender and her race. A Latina lesbian experiences discrimination because of her ethnicity, her gender and her sexual orientation.
Intersectionality has received increased attention in part due to how the Women's March on Washington came together. The rally, which began organically on Facebook, was initially criticized for failing to include any women of color as organizers. Now its leaders include Tamika Mallory, an African-American civil rights activist and former director of the National Action Network; Linda Sarsour, a Muslim who heads the Arab American Association of New York; and Carmen Perez, a Latina activist who directs Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice. The march's policy platform is called "Unity Principles," which include the belief that "gender justice is racial justice is economic justice."
Women everywhere. Pink hats, black hats, hard hats, no hats. A crushing polite crowd, well prepared with healthy snacks and tissues. A crowd so sprawling, it nearly covered the march route end-to-end. It was mighty and powerful.
Best of all, there were men there. Thousands of them. Some wore the pink pussyhats. Some were just there to condemn President Trump.
“I just hate him. I am totally against Donald Trump,” one guy told me, when I asked why he’d come to the Women’s March. “The women are fine, they’re strong.”
No worries, dude. We’ll take you. We’re all going in the same direction, anyhow. Come along.
And that’s the key.
The success of the marches should put to rest the critique of “identity politics” as a divisive dead end, although it probably won’t. Because for some the most important question was naturally, what about men? Swooping down at the last minute, after all the work was done, came New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who feared that calling it a women’s march left men feeling uninvited. Never mind that women constantly have to write themselves into language that does not specifically mention them – the Constitution, for example – and imagine themselves into stories written by men about men. It was a women’s march because that’s what the women who got the idea on the very night of the election called for, and that’s what the thousands of people who immediately bought train and plane tickets signed up for. The United White Male Pundits of America could have called for a genderless “March Against Trump,” and spent eleven weeks knocking themselves out to make it happen. There are certainly enough of them! But they didn’t. It’s like the story of the little red hen who gets no help to sow the seed and reap the grain and mix the dough to make her loaf of bread, but when it’s finally baked and smelling delicious, all the other animals want a slice. (Is it an accident that that modest, determined, and industrious fowl was female?)
My own belief is that calling it a women’s march attracted far more people than it repelled, because it appealed to a deep sense of outrage and injury felt by women that went deeper than Trump’s policy positions. That the least qualified man, a self-confessed harasser and molester to boot, beat the most qualified woman, despite getting fewer votes, told women that no matter how hard they tried and how excellent they were, they were always going to be second-class citizens, always going to be passed over in favor of men, and that disrespecting, insulting, and even assaulting them was perfectly okay in 21st-century America. The shock of that recognition awakened something profound in women, including many who had not been active in politics before. There were a lot of newbies at the march. As one sign put it, “Hell Hath No Fury Like Millions of Women Scorned.” In any case, as Chait seems not to have bothered to discover, people of all genders, including men, were invited to march from the very beginning, although word seems not to have trickled down to Montclair, New Jersey. I’m delighted to say there were lots and lots of men in the crowd.
I’m not going to lie; this march was pretty damn genius. . . . There were many white women in attendance who had “Black Lives Matter” signs. Being able to say the words is a huge leap. A huge first step. However, are these white women compelled to show us how? Will these white women bring their might in numbers to aid in protecting black women, for example? While I saw numerous “Black Lives Matter” signs and shirts, does any of those white women know the name, “Sandra Bland”? How come I didn’t see Sandra Bland’s name anywhere? When it comes to intersectionality there’s always the risk that the fears and struggles of the minority will be drowned by the majority. Many white women fear speaking on racism. Many of these same white women with these shirts and signs, fear discussion on how they still exist under white privilege. Many of the struggles the white woman places on the chopping block are still struggles, yes, but does abortion rights stack higher than the fear of being murder by an officer of the law on trigger-finger reflex? I’m not saying that one should totally toss out their fight, but it can be said that when black people prosper, everyone prospers. Aiding black women – black people – actually helps whites by default.
It would be great if this many people showed up when black people are practically begging for their lives. Will a million white women — or even a thousand – show up in the defense of black women? I always maintained that white women’s feminism is a large appropriation of how black women function. With that being said, when will white women return the respect? Return the favor? Use their inherent white privilege as white women, against the system?
The United States has just experienced a corporate hijacking. If Trump's inaugural speech did not alert you to the fact that they intend to come after all of us, then you are not paying attention.
The scale of the attack is as deep as it is wide, and this means that we will need a mass movement to confront it. To organize such a movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated – those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop the arrogant and moralistic chastising of anyone who is not as "woke."
The women's marches in Washington, D.C., and around the country were stunning, inspiring and the first of a million steps that will be needed to build the resistance to Trump.
But look around social media, and you can read critiques and even denunciations of the marchers: Where were all of these people before? Why are they only getting involved now? Why doesn't the march have more radical demands? Why did march organizers, who are politically liberal, allow only . . . liberals to speak?
All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.
Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank god. The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren't homogeneous – they are, pretty much by definition, politically heterogeneous. And there is not a single radical or revolutionary on earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas.
Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of the existing system mock, deride or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.
This isn't leadership, it's infantile. It's also a recipe for how to keep a movement tiny and irrelevant. If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed, then you and your select friends should go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump.
. . . The women's marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths.
If the left doesn't engage with the aim of contending for leadership and influence, we just concede these forces to the Democrats and liberals, who will certainly try to confine the new upsurge of opposition to the political limits they want to define.
The point isn't to bury our arguments, but to learn how to make them while operating in political arenas that aren't just our own if we want to win people to more radical politics. Revolutionary socialists have a long and rich tradition of building united fronts, which seems more real now that 3 million people were in the streets.
We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want. But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.
There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches and much more to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together and stand up to this assault together.
Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Women’s March is the Biggest Protest in U.S. History as an Estimated 2.9 Million March – Jason Easley (PoliticusUSA, January 21, 2017).
On President Trump's First Full Day in Office, Close to 100,000 March in St. Paul – Peter Cox (MPR News, January 22, 2017).
Around Minnesota, Women – and Men – March for Women's Rights – MPR News (January 22, 2017).
90,000-plus People March in St. Paul with Message for Trump – Erin Golden and Aimee Blanchette (Star Tribune, January 21, 2017).
100,000 Minnesotans March in St. Paul to Oppose the Sex Offender-in-Chief – Susan Du (City Pages, January 21, 2017).
Pictures From Women’s Marches Around the World – The New York Times, January 21, 2017).
Uplifting, Heartbreaking, Enormous Crowds at Women's Marches Around The World – Mother Jones (January 21, 2017).
From Resisting Trump to What? – Les Leopold (Common Dreams, February 2, 2017).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• Quote of the Day – January 21, 2017
• Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
• On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
• Something to Think About – January 20, 2017
• Inauguration Day in the Twin Cities
• "It Is All Connected"
• Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
• Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
• Election Eve Thoughts
• Carrying It On
• Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
• Trump's Playbook
Images: Michael J. Bayly.