I’d like to try to explain from one person’s perspective—mine—why hundreds of thousands of women chose to march across our nation’s cities today. If you saw images of the marchers and your first impulse was to dismiss them as special snowflakes or whiners or whatever, I’d be so thankful if you’d hear me out. You may not agree, but why not try to understand each other?
First, I don't speak for all marchers. I don't speak for any marchers, actually, because I didn't go. But personally, I am SO GRATEFUL we live in a land where we have the right to free speech. I cherish nothing more than our First Amendment rights. I cannot imagine living in a dictatorship where I wouldn't be allowed to write what I think, or peaceably protest, or scrutinize the actions of the powerful. My power is my voice.
And I am fearful that the right of free speech is in jeopardy. During the campaign, I listened to Mr. Trump's reaction to those that protested him at his rallies, and it made me sick. He offered to pay the legal bills of people who beat up the protestors, and talked about the good old days, when they'd be "carried out on stretchers.” He claimed specific protestors had themselves been violent in cases when they had not, and offered that as justification for someone to "knock the crap out of them." I listened to this--as someone who vocally and publicly opposed his candidacy--and I wondered: Am I next? Who knows who will heed or misinterpret these calls to violence? If you tacitly or explicitly say it's okay to hit people who oppose your candidacy, what will you say or tweet about those opposing your policies as President? (And this goes for violent looters on the anti-Trump side as well--they are despicable.)
We—as Americans—have the absolute, fundamental right to challenge our government, without fear we will be beaten, or persecuted, or worse. Now I realize that calling to have a few people at rallies knocked sideways is not the same as being tossed in the Gulag. But ever since the moment I realized we had a presidential candidate who actually called for protestors to be physically assaulted, I have been spurred to protest. Free speech is a fundamental American right. Long Live the Constitution!
Moving on: let’s be specific about the threat to women. I’m going to mention an article I read during the campaign: UnInvent The Washing Machine And The Pill. The gist of it is that women should not have access to birth control and should not work outside the home:
Let’s start with the device that forced women out of the home... and doomed them to perform unsatisfying tasks in the workforce in order to respond to new social norms: the washing machine.
This infernal contraption was celebrated as a means to making a woman’s life much easier, and is now hailed as one of the milestones of women’s liberation. Almost no invention or political decision in history affected gender relations like the washing machine, because it effectively freed up half the human species to enter the workforce.
You think this writer is being sarcastic? He’s not. He genuinely thinks women were happier when they could not control how many children they had, and when they had to spend backbreaking hours scrubbing clothes on a washboard. (And among his other anti-birth control arguments: Birth control makes you fat, and as we all know being fat is disgusting and should never be allowed in a civilised society.) This last point of view is summed up in another article entitled Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.
Okay, you’re thinking this is some fringe whackjob I pulled out of a crack in the Dark Web, and possibly the most applicable use of the term misogynist you’ve ever heard. This isn’t mainstream, and this doesn't reflect the President’s views. This is straight-up nuts.
Yes, it’s straight-up nuts, but no, it is no longer quite so fringe-y. These articles were published in 2015 and 2016 by Breitbart News, whose executive chair resigned to become Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to President Donald Trump. I’m going to say that again—Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, is the Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President of the United States. Someone who approved of the odious writer of the two articles I quoted, and many more affiliated with the alt-right, is advising the POTUS on policy. Please let that sink in.
This seems to me to be an excellent reason to protest. I like working, and while I am indescribably blessed to be a wife and mother, I am valuable to society in other ways too. Having twelve children would not make me a better human being. Women are not oppressed in the United States in the same dismal, soul-sucking, catastrophic ways they are in some repressive countries, and I for one would like to keep it that way. Therefore I protest you, President Trump, for bringing such an abysmal tool as Steve Bannon into the White House to advise you. You might want to rethink that particular choice if you don’t want people in little pink hats marching across Washington all the time.
Those are two of my personal reasons why I support the marchers. I know many people who protested for reasons that don't affect me directly, but I understand a lot of them. (Please—try to imagine how threatened you would feel if you knew some of the most powerful people in government were actively trying to dissolve your marriage against your will. That you could wake up one morning and find you were no longer married to to your beloved spouse because it offended someone else’s beliefs? Would you be a snowflake for crying then?)
I sincerely thank anyone who is still reading this, and I’d welcome hearing views that differ from mine. I do want the President, and by extension, the country, to succeed and we will have to cooperate in order for that to happen. Furthermore, it’s theoretically possible that I could be wrong about all kinds of stuff (although I can state with unequivocal certainty that having washing machines is better than not having washing machines.)
But yeah, I cried on election night. I cried because I am fearful that free speech is eroding, and that some very repressive people have the ear of the President. I cried because I hate the division in our country, which, let’s be honest, is not being helped by the tweetstorm of hatred whirling around, on both sides. I cried because I love science. I cried because I believe words—and facts— matter. I cried for my gay friends. I bawled like a baby for the things I fear we are losing—our quintessential American reverence for individual freedoms. But then I dusted myself off and got up and thought about things, and some of my natural sunniness returned. I still have power, and I’m wielding it right now. I can write. I can also reach out to people who think differently, and I can listen to them, and we can find common ground. So to the other snowflakes out there—those of you who cried on election night, and those of you who marched today— as many people have pointed out:
Gather enough snowflakes together and you’ll create a blizzard. Let’s do something good with it.