When politics gets tough, American’s cope by using laughter. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert lead the way, of course. Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow get in a few good licks, as does Garrison Keillor. But for street genius, there’s nothing like a protest sign. Here, I’ll share a few of my favorites from the 2017 Women’s March on Washington D. C.: Men of Quality Don’t Fear Equality; I’ve seen smarter Cabinets at Ikea; Vaginas brought you into the world and Vaginas will Vote you out; We shall Overcomb; Hug a Journalist; Tweet others as You want to be Tweeted. My personal favorite is, Make America Smart Again.
Leslie Jamison gives a spirited account of the look and feel of the Women’s March, signs included, in her recent article. (“The March on Everywhere,” by Leslie Jamison, Harpers, April pgs. 25-37 ) Yet as uplifting as the event was in the hearts and minds of those who attended, a shadow hung over the day. One placard expressed it best: You White women, where were you when we marched for Black Lives Matter?
I was stung when I read the message and then angered. Why choose this time for accusations when the event was trying to unite people? Nonetheless, reading the words, I was forced to admit, I’d never put myself on the line for Black Lives Matter. I’d never demonstrated against that injustice.
A sad historical truth is race has never been at the forefront of the Women’s Movement. Black women had to force their way into the suffragette marches. (Click) Says Jamison, “Feminism has always been about white women not understanding black women.” (Ibid pg. 30.) Suddenly, the words that offended me hit me with the force of a kick in the gut.
I could have countered, “Hispanic lives matter.” I could have recounted the number of times my mother and I had been thrown off of buses, denied a roof over our heads, or the times I was forced to stand beside my parent while some white male bozo hurled insults, deeming us both inferior. But this isn’t a moment to compare hurt. This is a moment to listen and vow to do better.
Let us begin by recognizing The Women’s Movement isn’t a homogeneous mass. Differences exist within the ranks. Because of it, we have an opportunity to teach each other. That is the feminist way. That is why Gloria Steinem (Click) and Angela Davis (Click) could stand on the same platform the afternoon of the march and speak to our common cause. Perhaps we are unwise to dream of overcoming every difference and unwise to try. The goal of feminism isn’t to make everyone the same. The goal is to be inclusive.