By Steven Stajich
In what might reasonably be called the afterglow of the women’s march on Saturday January 21 it is worth noting that there were lots of men in the teeming crowds in major cities everywhere. As well there should have been. The march was intended to be inclusive, with minority and LGBTQ communities well represented. But since I was one of the men, let’s look at why men supported what turned out to be – true fact – a global event for women.
Not to be too glib about what four (or less) years of Trump in the White House could mean to all Americans, I think men are struck with the possibility that the new administration will turn back the hands of time whereas women are certain of it. Men possibly view the new administration more as having to deal with their cranky and backward-looking new boss at work; women view the reversal of rights as a very real and personal threat.
For men, the election results were perhaps akin to the announcement of a downward-spiraling merger occurring at the company they work for. But women heard the (now) President gleefully approving sexual assault and the condoning of criminal behavior against them and their entire gender. Men heard “As your new boss, I’m going to make a series of really dumb reversals of policy that will slow or stop American progress in the 21st century.” Women heard “As your president I believe women are chattel and can be assaulted whenever I’m in the mood. And there’s no telling what I might do to Roe v. Wade.”
So while the stakes were higher and more personal for women, the march resoundingly echoed the concerns of men that many important landmarks of social and governmental progress are about to be lost to an administration more attuned to grandstanding mediocrity than any sort of real progress. Both men and women feel the new “boss” is a bonehead incompetent, but women feel a personal threat at the level of their gender.
I didn’t carry a sign Saturday in Downtown L.A. because I felt my presence was a statement. I’m also too full of vinegar over the election to articulate any one feeling as a singular assertion of my anger. But for women, there was a clear bottom line: Not you. You’re wrong for this job and we don’t want you.
I carried a camera during the marching and visuals that spoke to what was happening abounded. I delighted in the fact (another fact, Kellyanne) that the knit pink hats were sly and pointed – not just the ears –at the same time. Consider that the souvenir of the election for some will be a red cap with the words “Make America Great Again” sewn by underpaid workers in China, and that the lasting symbol of the women’s march will be hats hand-knitted by American women in their own homes. Women gathered in preparation for a demonstration of resistance.
There was also a high degree of wit revealed in the signs that people carried, and a visit to Facebook will get you up to speed on that. My own personal favorite was a sign that utilized the fame of rapper Lupe Fiasco with a reference to the new President as “Toupee Fiasco.” Wit, of course, is the work product of intelligence. Intelligence can stop you from standing in front of a memorial to CIA agents killed in the line of duty only to make a self-aggrandizing speech to a sycophantic claque you brought with you on the bus. It can stop you from lying about inaugural attendance numbers, or later making that blunder worse when another person suggests that you were stating “alternative facts.”
Now, after the resoundingly clear messages of the march, how can men continue to work alongside women to keep the heat up and bring intelligence and leadership back to Washington? We can first recognize that resistance feels good and resulted in what many I’m certain felt was a “fun” day. Hitting the streets for what you believe in might mean another crowded ride on the Expo Line. I have not held myself in place standing up for as long as I did on the Expo Line traveling downtown since waiting to get into Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review in 1975. Both were well worth it; both rocked.
So to my generation who years ago followed the hippie urging of “If it feels good, do it!” I say let’s get together again soon. It was peaceful, it was impressive, and it was just the tonic many of us needed the day after the dismal inaugural. Had you been there you would never again say that young people don’t care, as they turned-out by the thousands. Come to the next march if you have any doubt that people are united in our United States. When I first viewed the maps representing how the voting concluded in November, I thought “Could there be civil war?” Now I think if men get out in the sunshine with women and everything remains peaceful, we’ll actually wake up from whatever bad dream lies ahead.