WashingtonAt the very last Hillary Clinton rally, in Raleigh, North Carolina, at midnight, 24 hours before she lost to Donald Trump, I stood in a multiracial, gender-mixed but mostly female crowd and sang along with a song my daughter loved in grade school: “No Scrubs,” by TLC. It’s a silly song, fun to sing. I was missing my daughter as I grinned wildly at her peers, liberated millennial women not just singing but dancing together to the infectious beat.

And then, as I sang along, I thought about the lyrics. It starts like this:

A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass

“His broke ass.” It goes on:

No, I don’t want no scrubs.
A scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from me.

“No Scrubs” is a song about men who can’t keep up, and thus get “no love.” It’s real-life confirmation (well, in song) of every bitter men’s-rights activist who thinks having a penis entitles him to the woman of his choice, and is furious she doesn’t agree. And looking back, I remember a premonitional shiver: the fact that so many brilliant and talented and beautiful young women in the crowd knew this song, sang along, loved this song; the fact that I did, too: What if we were getting too big for our britches? We were about to elect a female president. There would be a backlash, wouldn’t there? Shouldn’t we take it easier on the men? Maybe be a little more humble? Nicer? Smile more?

As it turned out, there was a frontlash. The most qualified candidate ever to run for president—“more qualified than Bill or Barack,” Michelle Obama used to tell the crowds—lost to the least qualified ever, and a serial sexual assailant to boot. Clinton’s very excellence, in fact, hurt her with many voters: She was Tracy Flick, or “your first wife,” or Nurse Ratched; the buzzkill lady who talked about “do all the good you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can.” The election sent a message to all those young women dancing in Raleigh that night: No matter how smart you are, or how hard you work, as Trump might say: You’re the scrubs.

And so I approached Saturday’s Women’s March with some concern, too; my late-boomer tendency to worry, still: “What will the men think?” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait told me what some of the men think last week, when he tweeted: “I think many men assume the ‘Women’s March’ is supposed to be women-only, which is why it was a bad name for the main anti-Trump march.” He predicted it would hurt turnout, and other men agreed with him. I hit back at Chait, telling him he could use his platform to tell men they’re indeed welcome. But it stung, a little: What if women threw a party and nobody came? What if nobody cared?

Nearly 3 million Americans, women and plenty of men, cared enough to turn out in dozens of cities across the country to march for a broad human-rights agenda. Hundreds of thousands more marched worldwide, from Antartica to Canberra to Dublin and Nairobi. In Washington, where I marched, organizers expected 200,000 women; they got an estimated 1 million—four times as many people as showed up for Trump’s inauguration here on Friday. You know those parade stands that sat empty along Trump’s parade route? Today many of them were full, as marchers made good use of them, to sit and rest, or take a moment to watch the incredible crowd, every race, every age, every religion, and men—so many men!—protest our sad new president. Where Occupy Wall Street protesters once chanted, “We are the 99 percent,” marchers today adopted the rhythm to yell, “We are the popular vote!” And it felt good.

You’ll have to go elsewhere to learn what the march speakers said on Saturday morning; I couldn’t get near enough to hear or see anything. For a time I worried that the march was hurt by its own success: As I approached, some people were already leaving—the Associated Press had reported that there would be no march, after the rally, because marchers already occupied the entirety of the march route, and nobody could move.

But then they moved… everywhere. We splintered, but in a good way. Every street was jammed, and even though we were ignoring the permitted parade route, law enforcement basically let us do it. Realizing that I would never find any of my dozens of friends scattered around the city, I joined a contingent that marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, toward the White House. And we could see parallel marches down every single street around us. It was lovely and boisterous and clever and peaceful. The crowd went wild as we passed Trump’s hotel. It’s an old post office, but now it looks like some hulking medieval castle, where you know people are locked away in the basement and abused. One woman held a sign: “I can see Russia from my house!” The crowd solemnly chanted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Someone had cordoned off the barriers with what looked just like police tape—it was the identical yellow color, except it said “Fuck off.” People were turning it into headbands and armbands all around me.

It stayed peaceful, except at one brief moment on Pennsylvania Avenue, when the crowd got heckled by a paunchy white man in a “Make America Great Again” hat standing atop some steps yelling, “We won, Trump won!” Some marchers began to yell back and give him the finger, but the majority began to chant, “Love Trumps Hate!” to drown him out. It was kind of thrilling.

I couldn’t hear the Trump fan anymore, but the African-American woman standing next to me said he was talking about “white power” and “white people won,” and just then a 20-something man of color jumped the barricades and confronted the guy on the top of the steps. There was some yelling and chest bumping, while the mostly female crowd chanted, “No, no, no. Stop, stop, stop.” I don’t know who raised the first hand, but the protester knocked off the MAGA hat and then got rushed by another Trump fan in a black cowboy hat—I’m not making this up, he wore a black hat, like a cartoon bad guy—and that hat went flying too. At that point the police pounced—on the man of color, letting the two white Trump agitators go. They scurried the other way down Pennsylvania, as though they couldn’t believe their luck.

The crowd did not like this, at all. We—yes, I admit “we”—began to shout that the white guy had started it, why did he get to leave? A chant began: “Go get the white guy! In the red Trump hat!” And miraculously, the police, who had been about to handcuff the protester, let him go. We cheered, wildly.

It’s worth saying that at the barricades, it was all women negotiating with the police, showing our photos and videos of what had happened, the black woman next to me shared the racist garbage she heard the Trump supporter say. Men had escalated the conflict, women resolved it. I don’t want to be essentialist here—and sometimes conflict needs to be escalated, and I hope if that happens, I’ll participate—but this was a good outcome. We marched on, buoyed by making a little bit of positive change.

When we got close to the White House, we realized it was fenced off to keep marchers, approaching from both sides, a block away. Chants of “Whose streets? Our streets!” took off there, followed by “Our taxes pay for these streets,” wrapped up by a spontaneous chant of “Pay Your Taxes!” But we couldn’t get any closer, and marchers took turns coming up to the gate, being told respectfully to fall back by Secret Service officers, and then peacefully reversing course.

At that point I tried to leave the march, to get somewhere to write, but the march wouldn’t leave me. Police let the crowd take over streets all over the area, and we had H Street to ourselves. The staff working in fancy stores came to their windows waving and carrying signs. When we got to Judiciary Towers, an apartment building, the mostly black tenants were out cheering from virtually every balcony in the complex, as we cheered back at them.

At that point, a man in the crowd behind me began to lead a chant, that was more like a call and response song, where the crowd answered every line. “Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell them, we are the women, the nasty nasty women, fighting for justice and women’s liberation.” It went on—for black liberation, brown liberation, Muslim liberation, queer liberation. It was hokey, but it was sweet too. Kind of like the flipside of “No Scrubs.” Even the cars we were blocking along the route were cheering and honking. (Some carried marchers trying to make their way home, just grinning at the gridlock we’d created.)

I know what you’re asking: What does it all mean? And I have to admit: I have no idea. There’s a lot of silly analysis around, saying the rally showed an enthusiasm Clinton herself couldn’t generate, but that seems ridiculous. Every single person I talked to said they voted for Clinton, even if some acknowledged they’d supported Senator Bernie Sanders first. Probably not enough of them made phone calls and knocked doors and left everything on the field to get her elected; that may be part of their urgency now. I feel like people learned their lesson—this can happen here!—and they want to make sure it will never happen again. I hope that’s true.

And while groups like Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List and NARAL Pro Choice America got involved and gave money to support the march, it grew out of grassroots angst over Clinton’s loss in the days after the election. It then widened to include women of every race and religion, and even a few who hadn’t been actual Clinton fans—and as painful as it is for me to say, I think that was the right thing to do.

But as progressive and inclusive as the march agenda was, it must be noted: Virtually all of its commitments were in Clinton’s platform, too. We had a chance to be pushing that agenda—some of us from the inside, and some of us from outside—and we lost it, for now. We can’t ever let that happen again.

The incredible march turnout was restorative to me—especially the robust presence of men, I have to say. No one can quantify the extent to which a misogynist backlash hurt Hillary Clinton, and no one wants to talk about it—male or female—lest it lead us to conclude we shouldn’t run another woman for about 100 years. But there’s no denying that discomfort with social change, and with the evolving and increasingly powerful role of women, drove the Trump campaign. “No one cherishes women more than I do,” he told us. And then on that Access Hollywood video he said he could “grab them by the pussy.” That’s the patriarch’s dream—protect the ones who are yours, defile the ones who aren’t, and don’t let any of them have autonomy and power. Because at some primal level, they are afraid we have all the power—“pussy power!,” as many signs read (and as those waves of pink hats signified). We are fighting something old and deep and powerful, and a lot of men—from billionaires to scrubs, including scrubs who are billionaires, like Trump—are fighting back.

On Saturday, we showed them who we are, and we showed ourselves, too. Even Chait acknowledged it was important in New York magazine—“Don’t let anyone tell you the marches didn’t matter”—although he couldn’t bring himself to actually say what the marches were about, or who organized them.

That’s OK. We know the marches mattered. And we know why. I’ll never forget what it felt like when I realized the marchers were everywhere; I couldn’t leave them if I wanted to. They were walking me all the way home, which is all we can do for one another in this world.

View photos from inside the D.C. Women’s March.

Listen to Joan Walsh discuss the next steps in the resistance to Trump on the Start Making Sense podcast.