Reading “The Trump Effect, One Year Later: Thousands of Women Running for Office” in yes! magazine prompted me to think about the Women’s March that took place around the country and world last January. I’m posting the photos I took at the St. Petersburg Women’s March for posterity.
I had a lot of fun painting my sign. I procrastinated until the night before, and both Walgreens and Target were all out of white poster board, so I bought black instead. I didn’t finish painting my sign until the morning, and it was still a little wet when I met up with my friends.
On one side, I put “Let’s grow like weeds.” This was my favorite side, although I don’t think many people understood it because people kept stopping me and asking what it meant. Maybe because they think of weeds as inherently bad? I liked the analogy. My focus was on growth. You try to get rid of weeds, but they just keep coming back. I dunno, it seems straightforward to me. The weed angle also gave me an excuse to paint flowers and leaves. I viewed it as a positive way of approaching resistance.
On the other sign, I painted the word “LOVE” in pink, with the symbol for woman taking place of the “O.” I chose this because I like the vintage aesthetics of the woman symbol (which, I recently found out, is a symbol of Venus and the male symbol is a symbol of Mars). It’s not a secret that I’m somewhat enamored with the spirit, culture, and style of the civil rights era. I felt like I did a good job of channeling that with the “LOVE” sign.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what to put on my sign, and purposely chose things that felt happy and encouraging. Even though the Women’s March was a protest, I wanted my experience at it to feel like a celebration, a moment of community and encouragement in the midst of a dark time. It felt exactly like that, which was exciting and fulfilling.
I hesitated about using the woman symbol, and about wearing pink, after reading advanced criticism of the “pussy hats” people were planning on wearing. I didn’t want a pussy hat, but only because I didn’t like how they looked. I can’t find the exact article now, but the general criticism was that the pink pussy hats and any other sort of resistance gear focused on female anatomy were excluding trans women who do not technically have “pussies.”
This was a surprising argument to me, mostly because I hadn’t heard anything like it before. Being a woman and being feminist are both fairly large parts of my identity. I don’t feel like embracing my body, sex, and gender is negative in any way, and initially, even though I had no desire to wear a pussy hat, I felt a little defensive on behalf of those who were planning on it. I fell down a rabbit hole of articles and came across a term I’d never seen before–TERF. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism.
Learning about TERFs sort of blew my mind, and was the reason I began questioning whether or not I should wear pink and paint the woman symbol. I suddenly wasn’t sure if I was making offensive mistakes I hadn’t yet realized. I definitely don’t want to be a TERF! I hope to be as inclusive as possible. I really had to sit down and reflect on the differences between sex and gender in light of this new information. The argument against pussy hats was that not all women have pussies. I was forced to confront that, prior to that moment, I had been thinking that all women do have female genitalia, which meant I had not been thinking of trans women as “real” women.
I read quite a few other criticisms of the Women’s March. Most of them were similar to the criticisms of feminists in the civil rights era, saying those who participated were really only marching for the equality of middle- and upper-class white women. Where had they been for Black Lives Matter? Etc.
Later, the Washington Post asked, “Was the Women’s March just another display of white privilege?” Marchers across the country were allowed to march without a permit (the march I took part in, in St. Petersburg, Florida was supposed to happen on the sidewalks, but of course it didn’t). The marches were peaceful, and many critics said that’s because marchers were white, so the police didn’t do anything to instigate conflict.
Even though the Women’s March wasn’t perfect, and even though many of the criticisms were likely true, I am still grateful I took part. I still think it had a major impact. I think it will be taught in history books one day, and I’m glad to say I was involved. As white woman who thinks of herself as an intersectional feminist, all I can do is receive the criticism openly and try to do my best to be fair, consistent, and open-minded moving forward. I have a lot of learning to do, and so does everyone.
The energy at the Women’s March was contagious, as they say. And the people marching weren’t all women, and they weren’t all white. The crowd spanned all ages, as well. I teared up, multiple times. It was wonderful to see the sheer numbers in the crowd, to know that the narrow-mindedness, the hate, the prejudice being so openly espoused from the highest office in our country was not shared. That many Americans–people who do not consider themselves “political”–were willing to get out in the streets to show their support for a more loving, fair, and kind society. I hadn’t marched in a protest for a few years, since moving out of Chicago, and I’d forgotten what a magical experience it can be.