It takes a Trump presidency for strangers in Boston to smile at one another on public transportation. Don’t get too excited: it was still a New England grimace, not a warm Southern greeting. But as I entered the Red Line with my poster in tow, strangers bearing unfortunately shaped hats, plastic bags, and colorful signs all acknowledged each other as comrades on the way to the Boston Women’s March.
This Saturday, I joined my parents, friends, and millions of folks across the world to march in protest against the rigged election of Donald Trump. After meeting my parents, my mom’s colleague, her partner, and their young son for breakfast, our motley crew headed over to the Boston Common to join a sea of people.
I really appreciated the first speech made by the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, who honored all of those who could not march due to their disabilities, place on the autism spectrum, mental health needs, or work schedule. I loved her suggestion to applaud by shaking a raised hand so that the deaf community could feel it. Other speakers were equally as amazing: from the First Nations women who sang Amazing Grace, to Senator Elizabeth Warren (accompanied by her sidekick, Sen. Ed Markey), the crowd was fired up and ready to march.
And then we stood. And stood. And stood. By the time the endless parade of speakers ended, the organizers let all of the folks in the Boston Public Garden out to march, while those of us who had arrived on time waited for over an hour to even move our legs. It was a nonsensical structure that really could have been changed, as it effectively punished those who came early. Honestly, my family and I didn’t even march: after standing for three hours, we made a break for it and went to get lunch (or in my dad’s case, ice skating).
Though it was an inconvenience, I am glad for all of the inactivity. It made it impossible for me to equate the march with true activism. I was brutally reminded that all I was doing was standing still and waving a sign. Is it true that I physically stood up for my beliefs, and was physically counted as one of the millions of people who refuse to take a Trump presidency lying down? Yes. Is it true that millions of people, including many children, had their first taste of protest? Yes. But in the end, we didn’t change Trump’s mind. We didn’t alter any policies. We didn’t give food and shelter to the homeless, amnesty to the undocumented, healthcare to the sick, or justice to the systemically oppressed. That work, and many other tasks, have to come after this march. Many people in our communities have already been doing this work for decades and we have to join them.
I also had some time, as I stood, to think through the problematic aspects of the march. I came to a couple of conclusions:
Can We Not with the Word Sisterhood?
As the Boston Children’s Chorus led us in “America the Beautiful,” some folks changed the word “brotherhood” (as in “and crown thy good with “brotherhood”) to “sisterhood.” This word inadvertently causes me to do this:
People!! I thought we left thiscrapbehind inthe1970s.
Please stay for this brief history lesson on why the word “sisterhood” is problematic.
Once upon a time, white women organized themselves under the rhetoric of “sisterhood,” proclaiming that all women had the same life experiences due to their gender. They organized consciousness-raising parties, looked at their cervixes in mirrors, worked for the ERA’s ratification, marched regularly, and faced a ton of systemic sexism. This was all fine and good until women of color were like “wait, hold up, you know that our experience is different because of race and ethnicity, right?” And the white feminists were like “no no no we’re all sisters please stop talking about race.” So the women of color feminists were like “Girl bye we’re making our own movement” and they did.
Considering that these marches started by appropriating the name of a 1997 demonstration by black women, The Million Women’s March, and their white organizers haven’t always been receptive to valid critiques by women of color, we need to ensure that further demonstrations are not done in the name of sisterhood, or white feminism. Or, if you truly believe in sisterhood that much, show up at a Black Lives Matter March or an immigrant rights march and actually help out your “sisters” of color (as well as “sisters” in different socioeconomic classes, religions, abilities, sexualities, gender identities, etc, etc).
Not to mention that the word “sisterhood” is rigidly gendered, which brings me to my next point:
I Really Fucking Hate this Pussy Shit
Pussy. Ugh. It’s not a word I use to describe my own genitals, nor one that I’m all that interested in reclaiming. Not everyone feels the same way: in response to Trump’s confessions of sexual assault of how he can “grab women by the pussy,” many people chose to don “pussy hats” as a symbolic reclamation of the term.
Except. Repeat after me: Not all people who identify as women have “pussies.” Not all people who identify as women have vaginas, vulvas, clitorises, uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries, breasts, etc. I thought we left all this transphobic bullshit to the TERFs (Janice Raymond, lookin at you), but every once in a while it likes to rear its stupid head again (thanks a fucking lot, Michelle Goldberg).
A pussy hat is in itself exclusionary, because it equates a certain set of genitals with womanhood. Just like I’m not here for racially exclusive feminism, I’m not interested in excluding our trans siblings from this fight. They are often more vulnerable to the Trumpian menace than cis people, so let’s just all agree to make their lives easier, leave our aggressive hats at home, and work for justice for people of all genders.
In conclusion, here are three things we need to leave behind to the 1970s:
- White feminism
- Coat hanger abortions
Melania Doesn’t Need Our Help
I saw a couple “Free Melania” signs in Boston, which just felt weird to me. Melania does not deserve our help or our pity. No one is forcing her to be married to Trump. She has a ton of money and a ton of privilege and could probably leave him any time she wanted. No one held a gun to her head and made her plagiarize Michelle Obama’s speech. She is part of a machine that enables and supports the cheeto rapist and is just as complicit as the Trump children in aiding and abetting him.
I mean, if you ever leave the dark side, Melania, we’ll welcome you with open arms. But please, put down your “Free Melania” sign, grab a black Sharpie, cross out Melania, and write “Assata.”
Shout-out to My White Dad
The final comment I want to make about the Women’s March on Boston is to congratulate my white dad for attending. My dad is sixty years old, bears the same first name as Trump, and benefits from the patriarchy on a daily basis, yet he chose to accompany his wife and daughter to the march. He made his own sign (“Our nation is governed by laws, not tweets”), stood with us until the bitter end, and put our needs first. I was also touched by his kindness to my mom’s colleagues, who were juggling their young son along with two signs and a baby carrier. He frequently held things for them and offered to help fasten the child into his carrier, joking with them about how he remembered being a young parent and never having enough hands to do all the things you needed to do.
I mean, when was the last time you saw a sixty year old white dude being nice to two queer parents?
Not everyone’s middle aged white dad was there, and I’m proud mine was. Is he perfect? No. But I learned a lot about awareness, inclusion, and kindness from him. I will carry those lessons, as well as the ones I developed through the words of intersectional feminist thinkers, into my post-march activism. The work has just begun.