Was the Women’s March on Washington and around the world a one-day event — a one-time venting? It looked to me more like the women’s protests of the 1960’s. My irascible, tireless friend, mentor and fellow professor, Betty Friedan, would have been overjoyed to see over a million women crowding the streets and walkways of their cities. She would have agreed with Gloria Steinem that the wake-up call finally happened. For so many women walking and watching, it was a moment of precious light in the mist of looming darkness.
We get it now. The job is not over. The work of feminists before us need not have been in vain. In fact, we now realize that so much of what was accomplished is at risk. Women around the world have heard that message and we are a force with which to be reckoned. This is one time when “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” actually applies.
One of the beauties of the Women’s Marches was the depth in age. There was no sense of generations divided. Women from diverse backgrounds mobilized. It took an instigating force, a man who won the presidency despite his crass disparagement of women. It took a sinking-in period after the election to alert women to the dangers for themselves and their families. It took Hillary Clinton to show us how a woman who gave it her all, who was — in Barack Obama’s own words — far more qualified than previous presidential candidates, was nevertheless held to a different, higher standard.
To borrow from sociologist Irving Goffman, we give male politicians more idiosyncrasy credits. In short, they’re more readily excused for less than exemplary actions and character. If we don’t understand that we’ve been inadvertently trained to be more critical of women, then we are victimized by our socialization.
People wanted to be excited about Hillary Clinton as if all elections can be like that of Barack Obama. Many of us were unforgiving of what were touted by the media as her faults. We fell easily into the trap of exaggerating her shortcomings because she is a woman.
How often I’ve been asked, “But wasn’t she a flawed candidate?” as if Donald Trump is flawless. The absurdity of that angers many women. It reminds them of double standards to which they’re held at work — the slippery criteria not used to judge men.
This election reminded women of how easy it is to find fault with us — to denigrate our appearance – offense often perpetrated by men who should look in the mirror.
We were reminded over the last few months to support each other — to avoid slipping into the cultural trap of picking women apart based on the ways we cut our hair, walk, and express ourselves. Many of us were reminded that “bitch” and “nasty woman” are disparaging labels from which we needn’t flee. They are used to unsettle us, to render us demure.
As I’ve said at the beginning of many of my speeches, “You’re looking at a bitch!” It brings laughter. But to me, it means that I refuse to run from labels used to silence — and haven’t for some time. Such easy labeling hounded Hillary Clinton. And when that wasn’t enough, Russia and James Comey had to help stop her in her tracks.
This time we need to make sure that our mutual support sticks. That means at every level, not merely during marches. We must remember the anger — renew and refresh it. We must be as one no matter our age or stage. We must write, post, and speak out and never let our senators and representatives think we have become quiet again.
We need not have voted for the same candidate or voted at all. We’re awake now. As California Senator Kamal Harris said, women’s issue are the economy, climate change, defense, safety, infrastructure, health and education — to name only a few. Women’s issues are all issues that make America and the world better places to live.
The Women’s Marches showed that we have the power to make a huge difference. Let’s keep the feeling strong in our hearts firing our determination. Let’s assure that we use our individual and collective power. Let’s refuse to allow men confusing great privilege with greatness to smirk, dismiss and patronize as they obstruct our rightful path.