On January 21, 2017, my father, mother, wife, son, father-in-law and his wife, and I gathered at the Oklahoma state capitol for the Women’s March. The stated purpose was
to come together in solidarity to express to the new administration & congress that women’s rights are human rights and our power cannot be ignored.
Based on picket signs I saw, the issues included a response to President Trump’s remarks about his privilege as a celebrity to grab women’s genitals, demands that women receive equal pay for equal work, concerns that President Trump will not take into consideration women’s reproductive rights, and above all that women’s rights are human rights and that women’s power can no longer be ignored. And then there were signs that were blatantly anti-Trump and pro-Hillary. I’ve also read that LGBTQ rights, affordable healthcare, environmental concerns were among issues raised, and anything Democrat were a part of this.
Norman, Oklahoma marchers gathered first in the parking lot of the Oklahoma History building for pictures and the beginnings of a rally with the energy of celebrating and empowering women. We all shivered for awhile. It was a lot chillier in OKC than in Norman. I saw the first of many “pink pussy” hats. One of my first thoughts was of the normalization and ownership of the word “pussy” which is often used in a demeaning way.
On the way to the march, my mother tripped and fell. I grabbed her purse and put it over my shoulder and she took my arm for awhile. I’m not unaccustomed to carrying a purse for a woman in my life, but I could just picture the meme that one of my conservative friends would post of a “pussy” or “snowflake” man carrying a women’s purse at the march. I carried it anyway.
As we gathered on the lawn of the capitol I was struck by the positive energy of a growing crowd which numbered 12 thousand at it’s peak. Incidentally, there was not a single act of violence reported. It felt like many more than 12k. I reflected that this feeling must be one of the reasons the Trump camp may have actually thought their inauguration crowd was the largest in history, though it was factually not.
Smells of food from the food trucks wafted over us, but people were not focused on food at all…well maybe me a little bit. I would say that a good 75% of the crowd were women and the rest were men and children. There were speakers and enormous cheers, but we were too far away to hear what was being said.
After about an hour of rallying, we marched. The march itself was full of positive activity; chanting, cheering, talking, taking pictures of each others’ signs. It wasn’t a long march, but it felt very significant. I wondered, at one point, if it would translate to any sort of change or if it was simply a way of expressing how we were feeling in light of a Trump presidency. Time will tell. My mother remarked that it reminded her of the 60s. After the march, many rallied again for more speakers, but we decided to get some Vietnamese food instead.
Afterward in the car, my wife asked what I thought the march was for. I explained that for me it was about supporting the women in my life, that I wanted my daughter to live in an America that respects and honors its women; their bodies, their contributions, their talents, and their rights. I can’t really say what it means to not be respected and honored in these ways. I don’t know what it’s like not to have it. I likely have privileges that I take for granted. My wife referenced all the times we entered a house or car sale without being acknowledged by the sales person. She expressed outrage at the notion that President Trump could walk into our home and grope her and our daughter with no consequences. All he would have to do is deny and denigrate. It’s been a successful strategy for him.
I think the march was different for my wife. There’s a difference in standing up for someone you love and standing up for yourself; making your voice be heard over the din of disrespect, hatred, privilege, and so-called alternative facts. She wasn’t just standing up for an idea or a principle, she was standing against the inequalities she personally had experienced which I’m barely aware of.
Perhaps above all, this global event is a starting point for a national discussion. Women’s issues so often get cast aside for issues which men have historically been more interested in. It’s true that it’s a different world than the many previous millennia. Women are just as much a vital part of any of these “men’s” issues, but there’s more. Many women still feel that their treatment is not equal. They feel that their voices are not heard even to the point where their cries of rape are dismissed. Their pay is not equal. They still get passed over for promotions which they have earned. They feel they have to work much harder at their jobs to get any kind of respect and they get criticized for being “ball-busters” or “bitches” when they do. Their need for women’s health care is threatened with the defunding of programs which support it.
We…I say we because women’s issues are human issues…have come a long way for sure. But we would be remiss in believing that we have arrived. You can discount that all you want, but you cannot discount people’s feelings. Women feel the way they feel. And it’s such a significant consensus that we all need to take a stronger look at what many women are saying.
So yeah, maybe I’ve never had to think about these issues because I was born with the privilege of being a man, but maybe it’s time that I should.