The dust has settled on the Women’s March, which took place around the country and around the world on the Saturday after the presidential inauguration. It has been praised and maligned in the weeks since, called everything from an important, unprecedented movement to a hissy fit, a hormonal tantrum. But we women are used to our behavior being chalked up to our menstrual cycles and hot flashes. We are nothing if not resilient. We aren’t packing away our pink hats just yet.
As a woman who marched, I can attest that the day provided hope and inspiration to many of us who were feeling despondent and dispirited by the election. The spirit of the march, however, encompassed far more than sour grapes for Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
The march in Los Angeles was a glorious union of many just causes that are threatened by an American president who has shown himself to be a misogynist and a bigot, a person of low compassion and high bravado. People marched for women’s equality, civil rights for LGBT and minority and migrant people, universal health care, reproductive rights and the survival of Planned Parenthood, environmental protection, voting rights, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, sane gun control laws, educational equality, equal pay for equal work, religious freedom and freedom from state-imposed religion, and a return of human decency to the highest level of government.
These issues, which have in common the need for respect, were upheld in a celebration of democracy.
In downtown Los Angeles, I joined my sister and daughters and cousins and friends and an amazing turnout of people, mostly women, but men and children too, carrying witty signs and serious signs, singing and chanting, and wearing those pink hats. We held up more than half the blue sky that day. We heard there were 250,000 of us present, then 500,000, then 750,000. But this massive crowd was kind to one other: no arrests, no meanness, no trouble. We were little girls in pink T-shirts and nuns in habits, teenagers and elderly women, moms and dads, clergy and lay, native-born and foreign–born, gay and straight and lesbian and bi and trans, of every shape and color, fired up and serene, yelling and quiet, but completely determined and committed and unified. We were heartened by the love we saw and felt and gave, and by the peaceful completion of our march. I slept well for the first time in awhile that night.
And woke up with the pressing question: Now what?
Back to an unkinder reality, there was the inevitable letdown after such an inspiring day. Let’s do it again next weekend, a friend joked.
Well, maybe not, but there will be more marches, more protests, more gatherings. We know we need to carry on. Most of us are not veteran protestors or community organizers. We have been catapulted into action, shoved out of our comfort zones, as it seems that society’s forward progress has taken a step backward. Every day brings news of more indignities, more betrayals of our American ideals and constitutional laws. Every day brings a reason to march.
And every day, there are many small ways we can make a big difference. We can donate to the nonprofits that fight the good fights. We can speak our minds, write our pieces, and insist on facts. We can mobilize, organize, motivate, agitate, vote, and run for office. We can be kind but firm, teach our children, aim high, go high, and love, love, love.
Of course, we face the real danger of resistance fatigue.
After hearing the outrage du jour, we may be tempted to give in, and to stash our hats in the back of the drawer. One remedy to feeling overwhelmed is to focus on one or two causes that speak to us, because we can’t be everywhere and bear the weight of everything. We must take care of ourselves and each other. We can remember the huge number of people who marched, and take comfort in knowing that there are enough of us to support every cause. Creative groups everywhere are working on follow-up events and meet-ups. My daughter and daughter-in-law in Portland, for example, have hosted a Rebel Craft Night, a group of friends wining and dining and sending strongly-worded postcards to elected representatives. It all matters.
We must also keep in mind that social progress is not achieved by one donation or one postcard or even one magnificent march. History teaches us that justice is done in increments, in minor victories, and in persistence. We lay foundations for the future. We shall overcome.
The words we marchers chanted linger in my mind and lend a cadence to my step these days: This is what democracy looks like!
Yes, it is. Yes, we can.