Last Saturday, I went to the Women’s March in San Francisco with one of my closest female friends. Many other awesome people I know were among the 100,000-person crowd. Earlier in the day, dozens of friends from around the country blew up my social media feeds with pictures, videos and posts from the marches they attended. It was glorious.
The event was powerful, peaceful and positive. Despite the constant rain, signs waved and chants echoed as we listened to speakers speak and singers sing, and then pushed past City Hall en masse, on our way down Market Street. People were focused and frustrated, but most also seemed excited and inspired.
It was a multi-faceted protest. Though the headlining issue was women’s rights, significant attention was paid to immigration, LGBT+ rights, religious freedoms, climate change, Black Lives Matter, media censorship and more. Still, for some reason, people have tried to delegitimize the Women’s March, and with it, the fight for equal rights.
Now, it’s time to put those haters on blast. Kellyanne Conway gets a serving. Donald Trump gets a damn five-course meal. Even Piers Morgan gets a nibble. Hell, I’ll help myself to a slice of humble pie at the end. Ready?
Much of the anger at the Women’s March was aimed at Trump, and fairly so; his campaign team and soon-to-be cabinet have ignored, shamed or insulted pretty much every minority group’s basic human rights in multiple outrageously disrespectful instances. But you know this already.
What you might not know is that some people claim (most notably Trump’s female Counselor, Conway) that the Women’s March was pointless. Some say women had nothing to complain about because they already enjoy equal rights.
Nevermind that Trump plans to cut funding to programs that protect women in need and re-enacted the “Global Gag Rule” under the guise of “stand[ing] up for all Americans, including the unborn.” In a cruel twist, that policy leads to more unsafe abortions than before and will do extensive damage to women seeking potentially life-saving health care in developing countries. But at least all the men in the room who witnessed Trump sign the executive order were considering our taxes, right?
Trump has threatened or executed dangerous legislation against women at least twice in his first week in office. He has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. He still believes he should have the power to decide what a woman should do with her body. But, yeah, women are equal and the Women’s March was a sham.
Give me a fucking break.
Here’s what I learned (or had reinforced) at the Women’s March: Millions of people around the world marched to make it known that women’s rights are human rights and that the way society (especially the President) treats them is unacceptable. And that they deserve equal wages for equal work. That they don’t deserve to be treated as an inferior gender. That they deserve paid maternity leave. That they don’t deserve to have their bodies controlled by anyone else. That they deserve the right to wear whatever the hell they want or weigh whatever the hell they weigh without being verbally or physically attacked for it. That they don’t deserve to be held to an insane standard of sexuality. That they deserved, after 44 men, to enjoy a woman in control of the White House, with shards of a shattered glass ceiling being swept off the desk by a male custodian. That they don’t deserve to be in a position where fighting for full equality is still a necessity.
And here’s what I think: the sad truth is that women are NOT equal, no matter how much ignorant men, sexist politicians or anti-feminists insist otherwise.
Take me, for example. I’m a straight, white, American-born male and that means I was made with the perfect ingredients for the most privileged pie there is. I’m smart enough to understand and acknowledge the advantages this recipe offers me: Statistically, I’ll probably make more money than a female with the same job, even if I do worse work. There is a very good chance I’ll never be cat-called on the street or raped in my own home. I don’t get compared to tall, tan models with bulging six-packs and I sure as hell ain’t expected to look like them. I will never give birth, and I will never have to make the dangerous, impossible decision of keeping or aborting a baby inside of me. And every President I have ever learned about, watched on TV or been a citizen under has been a man and was, at least in that way, relatable to me.
Those are just a few bullet points on a very long list of things that give men an advantage over women. It doesn’t matter that my sister was a faster swimmer than me by the time she reached Kindergarten. It doesn’t matter that the two smartest people in my high school class were girls. It doesn’t matter that every female colleague I worked with at my last job was more qualified than me, or that the majority of the office’s executive team were women, or that the entire global company was run by a female CEO. These people are better than me, no matter the gender. They’ve earned higher status. They should be treated as such.
So, frankly, I don’t give a shit if an Indiana Senator wants to make a fat-shaming meme out of the Women’s March. I don’t give a shit if Piers Morgan’s masculinity felt threatened by the movement. I don’t give a shit if Kellyanne Conway thought it was a pointless protest. I really don’t give a shit if Donald Trump himself reacted to the Women’s March with his typical lack of tact.
I don’t give a shit because the women who marched have heard it all before and they live through the prejudice every day of their lives. They may not give a shit about those reactions either, because they know where the Women’s March movement is going. They know it wasn’t just a 5-hour group therapy session. They know chanting “my body, my choice” through two miles of pouring rain wasn’t the end game. They know it wasn’t only intended to put Trump’s wrinkly, thin-skinned, science-denying, fact-twisting, journalist-jailing, media-censoring, white-washing ass on notice that the rights of women, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, LGBT+ and more would no longer be neglected.
They know the Women’s March was the first step of many in a long, loud process. Nobody expected instant gratification. Nobody demanded Trump be moved to tears, begging forgiveness, resigning his post by Sunday morning. But they do expect to push that snowball down the hill, roll with its momentum and ride it through the front door of the White House.
Here’s why I stand by the women I know, and the millions of others who marched, and even the billions of others who didn’t or couldn’t: A select group of old, rich, white men (who were, of course, once birthed by women) should not determine how a woman handles her body. The United States should not be the 45th highest-rated country for women’s equality. Chromosomes and genitalia are a really shitty standard for determining a wage scale. Our mothers, sisters, daughters, bosses, coaches, teachers, doctors, firefighters and athletes deserve better. A lot better.
I’ll admit I’m as guilty as any man of normalizing sexism – sometimes intentionally – and impeding progress towards gender equality with my words, actions and inactions. I hate that I’ve been that person and hate even more that I sometimes still am. I hate that I haven’t supported all the amazing, important women in my life to my fullest abilities. I hate that my mother has gone through shit like this for decades and it took me this long to realize it. I hate that my sister can be so independent but potentially still have no say in how she handles her own body. I hate that I’ve been close to girls my entire life and have still participated in “locker room talk” about them. I may not have hurt the pursuit of women’s rights like Trump has (and will surely continue to do), but I certainly haven’t done my best to help equality progress either. For these things, I am sorry.
For these things, I am sorry.
Now, I’m trying to participate fully in the Women’s March movement. It’s truly the least I can do. But I want to, anyway. It’s called being a decent damn human being. I’m following the Women’s March 100-day, 10-action campaign, designed to apply constant pressure to local legislators who can reach Washington. Wrote a postcard yesterday, in fact.
I hope other men who read this will join me.
Bottom line: Human rights are important. Equality is important. The Women’s March is important.
Respect existence or expect resistance. Which side will you be on?