I was so wrong about the pussy hats. When I first heard that crafty women were knitting them by the thousands I thought, What a colossal waste of time, energy, and money—and besides, pink? Please. Cute and adorable is the last thing women need to be in Trump’s America. But the first person I saw when I got off the train in Union Station the day before the march was a large white-haired woman, festively layered in many shades of pink topped with a vividly striped pussy hat, who had planted herself on the platform and was greeting everyone with “Aloha” because “it means both hello and goodbye.” She filled me with cheer, as did seeing groups of pink-hatted women in the train station, at the feminist teach-in at Politics and Prose bookstore, and around Washington well into the evening. By the time my daughter and I set out for the march the next morning we couldn’t wait to have our very own, so thank you, Heather from Pittsburgh, who gave us two made by her friend Andrea, who couldn’t come to the march but wanted to be there in spirit. I am wearing my pussy hat even as I type these words. I may wear it every day that Trump is president.
The lesson I take from this experience: Don’t be so quick to carp and reject. It’s a big world. Other people may have some good ideas from time to time!
Speaking of carping, did you notice how negative the press coverage was in the run up to the big day? So many articles about quarrels and dissension (catfight!), so many predictions of failure, so many thumbsuckers about what was feminism, anyway. Even after the triumph of the actual day—at least 3.5 million around the country, perhaps the largest demonstration in US history —the note of skepticism had to be sounded. In The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe saw similarities between the march and pro-democracy demonstrations in Moscow that had backfired by making Putin clamp down on dissent. The morning after the march, The New York Times ran a front-page story from Niles, Michigan, where the women stayed firmly in their place (“‘I don’t think my husband would support me going,’ said Stephanie Palmisano, 26, a medical worker who supported Hillary Clinton but whose husband voted for President Trump”). And many of the “men on the street” the Times interviewed were, well, men: The Times checked in with Montclair, New Jersey, and found men exhausted by the struggle of caring for their own children alone while their wives marched. (“After his dutiful Saturday, Mr. Coyle went off to play tennis on Sunday morning. It was part of the deal he had struck with his wife.” Because marching for justice and equality against our raving nutter president is sort of like getting a mani-pedi with the girls.) Thanks for sharing that, NYT!
Of course there were bound to be stumbles and blips in what was surely an intense, semi-chaotic process. (You try putting together a mass march—or as it turned out some 500 mass marches around the globe—in 11 weeks!) There was ample coverage of the brief appearance of anti-abortion groups on the list of march sponsors, much of it edged with criticism of feminism as narrow-minded and non-inclusive. Because maybe a march dedicated to reproductive rights and co-funded by NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood should welcome as official sponsors groups that think birth control is evil, Planned Parenthood should be shut down, and abortion providers should go to prison! The brief disappearance of the platform’s support for “full solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement” was also duly noted. So was the failure of the organizers to acknowledge Hillary Clinton in any way or to respond meaningfully to calls for her name to be added to the rather arbitrary list of honorees, which was indeed strange given that it was rage over her Electoral College loss and its implications for all women that sparked the whole shebang.