By 7 a.m. Saturday morning, my Facebook page was filled with photos of women across the world. They were marching. There were photos from Lilongwe, Malawi; Vienna, Austria; Frankfurt, Germany; Cape Town, South Africa, Riga, Latvia; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Sydney, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya; Newton, New Zealand and Tokyo, Japan.
By 7:35 a.m., more photos were pouring onto the page. These were from London, Mexico City, Edinboro, Sydney, Dublin, Geneva, Seoul, Rome, Aukland, Munich, Wellington (NZ) and Berlin.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of American women were taking cars, buses, trains and planes into Washington, D.C. In hundreds of cities across the United States — including Cleveland — from Alaska to Hawaii, and coast to coast, hundreds of thousands more made their way to the Women’s March.
If you are blowing them off by concluding they are unhappy Donald Trump is president, you are making a mistake. In my opinion, a big one.
Yes, many are unhappy about the election result. However, I believe it is worth our time and consideration to look a bit deeper at the reasons they marched.
A little background may help to provide context. Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington say “their mission is to stand in solidarity, not just for women, but also for minorities and immigrants and the LGBTQ community.” For those opposed to things the president said during the campaign, there is a visceral fear these groups will be targeted by and suffer under this administration. For those who supported the Trump candidacy, his campaign remarks addressed concerns they had about the direction of the country. And there it is, again. America is divided. Badly.
Some marchers carried signs supporting victims of sexual assault. Some carried signs supporting equal pay. I’m a little puzzled why anyone would not support these two causes.
There were other signs supporting gay rights, gay marriage, civil rights, reproductive freedom or climate change. Other signs opposed racism, sexism, misogyny (although it was stated in some pretty colorful ways that I leave either to your imaginations or your own efforts to look them up on the internet). There were anti-Trump signs. And, there were those pink hats.
Grandmas, moms, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, students and children marched. They were all ages. I saw photos of women in their 80s and 90s. They were all races and all faiths. They came from every state to Washington. They didn’t come to party. They came for a cause — actually, for many causes. They took time off work, left the comfort of their homes and paid their own way. Men marched in support of women. A few babies were pushed in strollers or carried by their moms, proud for them to attend their first protest.
This was one of the largest marches in U.S. and world history. I noted — with some dismay — Big Media is being very careful about reporting numbers. I conclude this is due to the flap about how many attended the inauguration and the strong rebuke by both the president and his press secretary over “the number.” Media is reporting the numbers who marched in the U.S.: 500,000 in Washington; 200,000 in New York; 150,000 in Chicago; 100,000 each in Boston, Denver and Los Angeles. Then there was Madison, Wisconsin: 75,000 – 100,000, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department; Atlanta: 15,000, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Lansing, Michigan: 10,000, per MIRSnews.com; Montpelier, Vermont: 7,000, per Burlington Free Press; Memphis, Tennessee: 6,000, according to the Commercial Appeal; Sioux Falls, South Dakota: 3,300, per the Sioux Falls Argus Leader; and on and on. According to Cleveland Police, 15,000 marched in Cleveland. Feel free to challenge me, but I believe the number in the U.S. was 2 million. Add hundreds of thousands more from around the world.
Here’s another thing to consider: this thing — let’s call it a movement — was pulled together in 10 weeks. How many of us could pull off a major task, with worldwide reach, in 10 weeks that, by the way, included the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays?
While it remains to be seen as to whether their disparate causes can be — or even need to be — joined into one, one thing I do believe. This march did not end yesterday. There are about 2.5 million reasons why. I also believe there are many more who regret sitting it out, and are now ready to take action.
My belief in the potency of the 2017 Women’s Movement goes beyond numbers to the story of American women. It was less than 100 years ago that women earned the right to vote. I write “earned” because that is the truth. In 1913, as Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration approached, 5,000 American women marched right up Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., demanding the right to vote. They did not stop, even though some were beaten, jailed, and died. The 19th Amendment was ratified by Congress on Aug. 20, 1920. It took time, but they never gave up.
Now, like then, American women, and the “enlightened” men who support them (oh, c’mon – smile), will continue to speak up and fight for the issues they believe in. Now, like then, they acknowledge some will be beaten and jailed. I pray no one dies.
But before anyone raises a hand, angry voice or a discriminatory piece of legislation to them, keep this in mind: there was not one single act of violence or property destruction at those marches. That speaks volumes. The overriding message of the march will be remembered: “Respect my existence or expect my resistance.” More importantly, it will be acted upon.