Millions of women marched in cities across the country this past Saturday. Many others chose not to participate, and/or were unable to attend for various reasons. We rounded up responses from Weird Sister’s contributors and community members on why we marched—or why we didn’t—what these marches say about feminism, and how to move forward from here.
EVERYBODY WALKS IN LA
The trains pulling into the Lincoln Cypress stop on the LA Metro’s Gold Line were so full that no one could squeeze on. People teemed around the parking lot. We held space for friends in the ticket line and met someone’s mom. The platform was crowded, but the space between bodies felt stretchable, or collapsable, sky-activated. Clouds shed themselves at the edges, fat and shining—one blue morning parenthesized by days of rain. It’s a metaphor because that’s where description swerves, but the Trump administration just scrubbed climate change from the White House website, so I’m foregrounding the nonhuman now and forever, or as long as we last.
I.’s roommate popped out of nowhere, a first-time ever demonstrator who knows the city by bike and foot, so we hopped in his car and drove down San Fernando, past the river running high on its concrete banks, all that runoff whooshing out to sea because that’s channelization—sorry, drought—then parked in Chinatown, then walked. Tent kiosks lined Broadway on the way to Pershing square. Men from the organization Sikh Community served hot food. “We want to show who we are,” one of the men said. We ate hot garbanzo stew gratefully. We were hungry and it was delicious. Then we marched. To be a granule amongst granules, pivoting in unison now and then on the surge of a skyward cheer toward news helicopters, swarm without end, a headache running interference. We found our friends by their signs.
On our way out, we stopped on a freeway overpass on Hill Street, looking over a tent encampment. Over the Hollywood/Pasadena Freeway confluence, demonstrators waved more signs, everyone was taking a walk with language, or a drive. Solidarity honks dopplered up from the lanes. A block later, I asked I. if we could pause. “I’d like to regard this hole,” I said. Before us was a fenced construction site. Just a muddy foundation plus a couple tools for heavy digging. Behind us, the Pioneer Memorial. It used to be a fort, when California was part of Mexico. The history is fucked up, you should google it, but I’m over my wordcount. Now the commemorative panels show soldiers and families of European descent, like a commemoration to the minting of whiteness vis-a-vis Manifest Destiny. Around the monument walls interstitial weeds grew abundant, the kind of rare green you store up in sense memory for when the dry heat takes over again and rubs that kind of color out.
To parse what’s in front of me, I need to keep listening, reading, staying with, and so the other title of this protest document is Booting Up. After the protest, the protest kept happening online. A friend who is trans posted that the first thing he saw at the LA march was a group of cis women surrounding a trans woman, telling her to give the mic “to a real woman.” I understood, reading that, that the necessary math problem is multiplication not division. We have a chance to make a different kind of story about this historic resistance. I want my account to be inclusive, nuanced, fierce, loving, and allied, but/and I speak from where I’m standing, as a white person, cis-gendered, more or less. In New York, the artist Taeyoon Choi made posters in brushed ink, stating I stand with and then a long list. I’m riffing on his work when I say that at the next march, my sign will read: I stand with trans, indigenous, immigrant, brown, and black lives, against climate violence. I. said their sign would say, The future is non-binary. They borrowed the slogan from a Twitter friend.
– Amanda K Davidson
I marched in NYC with my husband and my three-year-old daughter. She made a sign with a drawing of “Donald Trump as a kid” and the caption, “BKAD” (“Be Kind”). We stood with friends and neighbors and strangers and sang “This Land Is Your Land.” We hollered at drones overhead, not knowing if they were press or cops.
People told me not to bring my toddler to the march. What if there are bikers? I should have left my child and husband at home, like those virtuous rich dads in Montclair who bravely held down the fort while their virtuous rich wives marched on Washington. A woman I knew in high school referred to me on Facebook as a “self-triggering SJW” and said how could I think the Women’s March was an appropriate place for a child? At the D.C. march, Madonna said the F-word.
Here’s a bad reason to keep my kid home: fear that she will hear Madonna say the F-word. The F-word is less dangerous than growing up in Trump’s America–or growing up detached from politics, not realizing that we have a responsibility to fight for justice.
That’s why I’ve always marched with my daughter, even when my husband could have stayed home. I want to dissolve the boundary between domestic and political life, the illusion that love for my child precludes love for my neighbors. This is easier to do because we’re white, because I—like so many white women marchers on Saturday—feel arrogantly entitled to safety. The sanctity of the white mother and child has been dangerous, even lethal, in American history. My sentimental attachment to my child does not make me more virtuous than another mother, another person. But it also does not exempt me from action.
The Women’s Marches needed children–not because the truest woman is a mother, any more than the truest woman has a pussy or uterus, but because we all need to show up and resist what neofascist white-supremacist patriarchal kleptocracy is doing to children, uteruses, pussies, women’s bodies without pussies or without uteruses, sex workers, trans women, people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, poor people, the planet. We are not safer at home.
– Caolan Madden
This past week, I was teaching Chandra Mohanty’s Feminism Without Borders to my students. I urged them to engage critically with Mohanty’s argument about the dangers of universalized unity. Particularly, I asked them to think about why intersectionality–why an anti-racist, anti-imperialist lens examining historical context and social location–is necessary. I asked them to think about why uniting as “women” can be dangerous. Dangerous because we tend to overlook women who cannot march, who do not have vaginas, who have to clean up the debris of discarded protest signs and coffee cups after hours. I ran into some women downtown after the LA Women’s March. I saw them dining at fine establishments, treating themselves to gargantuan meals after a hard morning of demonstration. My body ached as I watched these happy, empowered white women walking away, feeling accomplished. I am taken back to Fall 2011 when I was a junior at UC Berkeley. I was setting up a classroom for a townhall on affirmative action. Another woman was there and I asked if I could set up the room for the event. As I scrawled talking points on the board, she said I was selfish. Said that as a white woman, she was also entitled to the educational rights we were fighting for, and yet she felt the brunt of reverse racism when she had to transfer to UC Berkeley because some black student had taken the spot that should’ve been hers. I tried to reason with her but the anger and sheer emotional labor of always having to try and reason with such people exploded and tears gushed out of my eyes.
I saw that white girl again today. I saw her dining at Wolfgang Puck. I saw her dumping her Starbucks on the sidewalk. I saw her going home to her DTLA loft. I saw her yelling “MY feminism” as she spent a free Saturday jumping up and down while working-class women of color leave Saturday at dawn so they can get to work. This is not your feminism. You are just barely catching up.
– Maria Vallarta
I bought tickets for the Women’s March in DC soon after the election, for myself and my partner, who is a dude. I wanted to go with women friends, and I felt sad that I didn’t seem to have the tight-knit female community I craved. Most of my women friends live in other cities, or have kids, etcetera—all the very real life changes that shows like Sex and the City misrepresented with their portrayals of steadfast, brunch-every-Sunday female friendship.
Why do we feel the need to create false narratives of female unity, of female friendship and ride-or-die solidarity? We don’t live in a world of Sex and the City friendships, and we don’t live in a world where feminist ideologies will always be unified. Before the march, I read Jamilah Lemieux’s piece on why she wasn’t marching. I saw white women commenting on how Lemieux’s perspective feeds into the conservative media’s framing of the march as divisive, and the feminist movement as fractured. We could all agree, some mostly white women believed, that Trump was terrible for our entire country, and we should unite around that understanding. I felt this perspective’s presence at the march too, where mostly white women flooded the streets with signs that spoke more to white feminism than to messages of intersectionality. If rallying around a unified “women’s rights” movement means tossing the needs of women of color and other marginalized voices aside, then that’s not a rally for real meaningful feminist resistance and change.
I also keep thinking about my women family members who have never been particularly politically active. I appreciate that the Women’s March gave them a means to mobilize and start organizing. I think it’s important for spaces to exist for people who are just beginning to think about political resistance, as well as spaces for more incisive, radical conversations that push resistance in the right directions. Looking at the aerial photographs of the marches in the news, I felt proud to be part of this glaring message to Tr*mp and his administration of assholery that we are not going to sit quietly. I am proud to be part of a feminism that is messy, fractured, multifarious, flawed, always pushing to do better, and to work even harder.
– Marisa Crawford
A FLU CALLED DENIAL
At about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 19th, I felt a tickle in my throat. By the time the clock flipped to 12:01 a.m. on January 20th, my body was racked with aches and my throat was on fire. Needless to say, I spent Inauguration Day in bed.
On Saturday, the day of the Women’s March in Oakland, I got out of bed in the morning, determined not to be sick. I told myself all day, “I’m fine. It’s not too bad. I’m fine.” My mantra did not prevent my body from succumbing to sleep. It did not keep the pain at bay or a nasty cough from taking root in my chest. As I scrolled, from my bed, through the beautiful pictures of adults and children at marches across the country on Instagram, I couldn’t help but think about the hundreds of thousands of people not marching. For every poignant vagina sign, there was someone sitting at home, ignoring it all or raving on Twitter against it.
I wondered: are they too saying to themselves, “I’m fine. It’s not too bad. I’m fine,” despite the sickness that has clutched our country in its fists? Have they not noticed how a peculiar illness has pulled them into a political slumber?
Perhaps the fight against bigotry is similar to the struggle against the flu. Step 1: Acknowledge it, face it, own it. Step 2: Fight it with a mix of strong, combative medicine and TLC. Step 3: Steel your system to prevent it from returning. What strikes me about the Women’s March is how many people joined together to say, collectively, something is deeply wrong. That acknowledgement, that refusal to slide into dreamland will hopefully propel us forward toward better, healthier days.
– Jasmine Wade
I attended the Women’s March in LA with my friend Chris Tsuyuki (with whom I co-wrote a review of HER/LA’s Mothership feminist festival). It only makes sense that we write this reflection on the Women’s March in LA together, too.
We feel grateful every day to live in one of the most progressive states. We feel grateful for the warm, sunny weather we marched in. We feel grateful every day for Kamala Harris, our newly elected Senator, who is the first Black woman (and the first woman) to serve as Attorney General of California and the second Black woman Senator in history. Harris’ Twitter account—full of uplifting, gracious, humble, and empowering Tweets (as one would expect from a person in political power!)—is a glimmer of hope right now.
Reports say the LA march had 500,000 – 750,000 attendees, and that organizers expected 80,000. The mood was in the streets was positive. It didn’t feel like a negative protest so much as an empowering message of hope and inclusiveness, an affirmation of our humanity and sisterhood. We will not sit quietly through this administration but will use our voices, bodies and energy to create positive change. We are clinging to the positive feelings from the Women’s Marches all over the world, and the power we have as citizens through politicians like Kamala Harris. We’re also paying attention to the teenagers, the young women, and the toddlers who we saw at the LA march and on social media. Teenage girls being bold and unruly, Girl Scouts in their Brownie uniforms, “Babies Against Bigotry”: These are the folks we’re here for, and also the ones we’re listening to.
We were Daisy and Brownie Girl Scouts in the same elementary school troop. I wrote on Chris’ Instagram post, two days post-march, “Still glowing from this. If only our little girl selves could see us now. They’d be so proud of who we grew up to be!” May we all be the kinds of humans who make our childhood selves proud.
– Kristin Sanders & Chris Tsuyuki
I attended Atlanta’s sister march to the DC march, Atlanta March for Social Justice & Women. Like many people, I found the march troubling (to say the least): chants of “Love trumps hate” were infuriating reminders of a white neoliberal feminist ideology that posits kindness and love as the main ingredients for revolution (whose revolution?), despite the fact that all the love the world has to offer has never stopped racism, misogyny, classism, colonialism, or war.
I love feminism– it is the ethics that make life on this planet livable for me. My commitment to an intersectional movement that robustly centers women of color, transwomen, sex workers, and all those who suffer disproportionately under white supremacist imperialist hetero-patriarchy means that I can’t afford to not be critical of what I love, when I see the word “feminist” attached to representation that is not, in fact, feminist. Feminism, taking a lead from bell hooks, is NOT just the “radical notion that women are people” but rather the notion that there is no justice, no peace, and definitely no fucking revolution when racial, economic, and environmental justice are not being co-currently pursued.
When I saw a video of young women high-fiving cops after the Atlanta march my heart sunk: what does offering our support to an institution that outright murders Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people do for this allegedly feminist “revolution”? When we write and create signs that read “protest is patriotic,” what does that tell Indigenous people about the way we conceive of ourselves in relation to colonialism in this country?
I can’t say that I wasn’t initially heartened by the sheer numbers of the marches all over the world, but after all these marches represented “me,” at least to the watching cops and media: white, “non-threatening.” During and after the march this hope, a privilege to begin with, fell off quickly as the performance of an individualist, flattening, and “love” filled liberal feminism emerged. I don’t want love, I want justice; love alone does not and has never trump(ed) hate, and neither has a movement that overwhelmingly represents the interests of white women.
– Gina Abelkop
The pouring rain didn’t stop hundreds of people from joining the Women’s March in San Francisco the day after Trump’s inauguration. The weather almost seemed indicative and emblematic of the mood and sentiments shared by millions of women around the globe as the US political and cultural landscape change before our eyes. Inundated by media, whether it is social media or the evening news, Trump has wasted no time coercing America into a time machine that brings us back to the days when misogyny, racism, and xenophobia were commonplace. We live in a dangerous and chaotic world and it doesn’t seem to be progressing or advancing in the way I imagined years ago. Although it was good to be out, I couldn’t help but ask myself questions about the future.
America has always been sick, misguided, and infected with a righteous indignation fed from years of insidious divides that only seem to be widening amongst the people that make up its once untouched and natural land and seascapes. Digital life doesn’t help in furthering the gaps that exist between people. Do we even know how to be in respectful discourse with one another? Does America recognize the water protectors, the powerful black and brown women, the queer and trans comrades, and immigrant lives that fight every day and do not need a march or protest to take action? We don’t wait because our lives depend on our action, on our call to our ancestors to live. My heart breaks all the time. Action is necessary every single day especially for the next four years because the real work towards intersectionality, transterritorial dialogue, and a feminism that is not only a wave. We must create an ocean of possibility and an entire new world. It is absolutely imperative. What is the way in which we can transcend the anger and frustration that propels us into action? We have no choice, but to shapeshift and become magical. Yet, they don’t know…we have always been magical beings.
INCLUSIVE FEMINISM OR BUST
On Friday night, as we drove towards D.C.in the misty darkness blasting the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” I felt a nervous excitement, but a pang of anxiety: what if the march didn’t achieve the ambitious, intersectional goals the organizers had set out?
Saturday morning as my friends and I wended our way through the crush of marchers that stretched from the steps of the Capitol to the steps of the White House, my anxiety was replaced with jubilant, though tender, hope. Pussyhats were everywhere: a striking, uniting, visual symbol of grassroots networks, conversations between women, and taking time to craft and plan. A group of Arab women, holding a sign that read “Teachers Against Trump!” wore pussyhats over their headscarves. One was blind, carried a cane, the word “Inclusion” stitched onto her pink hat. A group of International Socialists banged on upturned buckets and chanted “Free free Palestine!” as the Washington Monument emerged from the fog. An activist dressed like George Washington held a banner that read “Trans rights are human rights!”
As we shuffled along towards the White House we fell in with a group of Black and Latinx teenagers, wearing rainbow flags like capes and chanting “Si se puede!” as we passed two women in their late teens with signs demanding “Abortion is healthcare!” The vintage carousel in front of the Smithsonian, full of full grown women with signs ranging from the march favorite of “Women’s rights are human rights,” to “Resist the Cheeto!” to “Diversity Makes American Great,” whirled around to the sound of calliope music and chants of “Black Lives Matter!”
This is why I came: for a manifestation of a feminist, inclusive, diverse, democracy which I still believe is possible. I thought of Rebecca Solnit and her writing that pushes us towards action and hope through dark uncertainty. I must believe that in those surging, pink hated masses fresh coalitions are being made, motivation sustained, and future leaders motivated. The march bolstered my resolve, but it’s up to us to create what comes next.
And to paraphrase Emma Goldman, if I can’t ride a painted pony, it’s not my revolution.
– Eleanor Whitney
My response is this gif. I kept working and working on a draft, but it never said as much as this gif.
– Elka Weber