Some disorganised thoughts after the Women’s March(es)

22 Jan

So yesterday (21 January 2017), for anyone who doesn’t already know, the day after the tragic inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the (not-so-) United States (I will not give him the dignity of the office and refer to him as President Trump, he’s a loathsome despotic buffoon #notmypresident), was also the day of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in major (and not-so-major!) cities throughout the US and beyond.

Here’s the official Women’s March site and the Sister Marches page.

I was marching in Philadelphia, the most practical one for me to get to (I did consider trying to get to DC, but it wasn’t feasible for me, especially considering I’d had to work a night shift the night before and timing was already tight). I was pretty exhausted in all honesty, especially without caffeine and without much food all day, but it barely mattered; it was a bit of a struggle to get to the station on time, but the sheer energy kept me going from the moment I got on the train (nearly the entire train was people going to the march and everyone was talking about it, and I’m pretty sure the train conductors and such were also supporting us because they didn’t collect tickets).

I wish I’d thought to take photos of the signs, there were some really brilliant ones and it was an absolute pleasure to see, though there were so many and there was so much going on that I barely remember anything. Here are a few links that show some of them.

I didn’t have a chance to make a sign of my own or anything, which I felt a bit guilty about, but I was at least wearing my It’s Time 2016 pin (designed for the DNC by my uncle Brett, actually; here’s a good image of the design) which elicited some nice comments too. I’ve refused to stop wearing that since the election; I wouldn’t feel right without at least some indication that I am not a Trump supporter and I am not okay with this.

Anyway, I wish I had better words to describe what the protest was like. It was really something. I’ve been to a few other protests/rallies/etc (probably not as many as I ought to have, truthfully) but I’ve never seen anything remotely like this.

(As a brief aside, at one point somebody thanked me for being there, as a man. While it feels nice to hear I don’t think thanking me for that was appropriate, and I was far from the only man there, nor the only man there not part of a group that included women. This stuff is important and I felt I had to be there, that I had an obligation to stand up for ideals that matter to me and people who are going to be harmed. That’s basic human decency and shouldn’t be considered exceptional.)

I will say that there was something very reassuring about being in a huge crowd of people, and being able to strike up a conversation with anyone there and know they’re on your side and vice versa (I met and had discussions with a lot of really interesting people). To the extent that the march was as much for us as it was for the purpose of sending a message, I think that aspect was certainly successful (case in point, I observed that some of the signs I saw were very highbrow and e.g. talking about the importance of intersectionality, and on commenting to someone that I thought that message might be too subtle for the people we hope to reach, that very point was made to me).

At the same time, on some level I do have to wonder where all of this energy was before the election. Did we just feel like we didn’t have anything to worry about? I was certainly anxious, as were a lot of people I knew. Were we shocked out of complacency? (While I agree with the sentiment, when someone said to me that Trump had no redeeming quality whatsoever I found I had to respond that maybe we should consider the way he’s galvanising the Left and driving so many to take action, that his very odiousness is useful in giving us something concrete to oppose. It’s not much of a silver lining and I don’t really think it’s a comfort, and the price of Trump’s election is far too high for that result, but it’s still worth acknowledging.)

The magnitude of the protests are also making me question the legitimacy of the election on more levels than I was before; I hesitate to say this because it smacks of conspiracism, but especially in contrast to the inauguration attendance numbers the scale of the Women’s Marches (and the degree to which their attendance vastly exceeded expectations in so many locations) makes me wonder if the vote numbers really could have been fiddled with (even beyond the fact that Popular Vote Loser Trump had three million fewer votes; we cannot stop emphasising that).

Please excuse me for a moment, I feel like using some video game metaphors.

It’s been observed in many places (I wish I could properly attribute this but I don’t know where it originated) that Trump, as a walking embodiment of patriarchy, misogyny and white male entitlement, among other things, was the perfect “final boss” to Hillary Clinton’s explicitly feminist campaign (and larger career). I agreed with this sentiment at the time, but after seeing the result I think my disbelief is better explained by extending the metaphor a bit.

Final bosses exist to be defeated and triumphed over. But games often have other kinds of bosses; for instance, there’s a trope called “Hopeless Boss Fight” for when the game intends the player to lose. Sometimes this is just done by hard-coding it so that nothing you do works, but sometimes the game allows you to have a bit of hope first (or even a slight reward for going against the narrative), and if you work hard enough, train hard enough and use the right tactics, you can pull off a victory in spite of the intended result (after which usually there’s some kind of hard-coded ass-pull to get the plot back on track). In other cases, winning when you’re not supposed to just makes the game crash, or arbitrarily force a game over screen. “Fuck you, you weren’t supposed to be able to win! Game over.”

I can’t help thinking that what happened in our election looks something like that. The contrived-looking, bizarre nature of Trump’s “victory” (a margin of just under eighty thousand votes, across three states, to flip the Electoral College numbers in spite of a massive popular vote loss) reminds me of those moments when a player accomplishes a task they’re meant not to, and the writers, as an outside force, use arbitrary contrivances to get things back to where they want them. (Why hello there, Mr Putin. Obviously I don’t have proof of that, but it’s looking more and more likely with every bit of information that comes out. To my mind the only questions can be about the extent of the interference, not whether it existed at all.) So a part of me looks at the results of this election and thinks they look obviously manipulated, and must be rejected as invalid (I’d hoped for the Electoral College to take action there, but in failing to do so they have destroyed any remaining justification for that institution’s continued existence).

But life isn’t a video game. Life doesn’t have writers dictating how the plot is meant to go. Why are so many people seemingly willing to go along with this, and to allow it to be normalised? Are people seriously saying that (irrespective of potential Russian involvement) the bigots and xenophobes and theocrats and the rest of their despicable ilk worked so hard for this triumph that they deserve to have it at the rest of our expense?

It’s clear not everyone is. The Women’s March shows that. Democratic Senators grilling Trump’s deplorable cabinet nominees shows that. Congresspeople boycotting the inauguration shows that. But there is undoubtedly more we can do, and we must do it.

Resist however you can, and be seen doing it if you can. This cannot be allowed to stand.


Posted by on January 22, 2017 in mitchell


Tags: , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Some disorganised thoughts after the Women’s March(es)

  1. sbe

    January 23, 2017 at 4:45 am

    I agree with you completely regarding the positive energy of the march. I marched in Los Angeles — it was the most hope I’ve had since the election, and post-march, the best night of sleep since this waking nightmare has started. I’m a long-time lurker here, but seeing your post inspired me to comment (commiserate?).

  2. All-I-need

    January 24, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    Fully agreed, Mitchell! I marched in London and it was absolutely amazing to see so many people get together, even though we are only indirectly affected by that cheeto with a dead ferret on his head.
    I loved the energy of the march and the sense of togetherness and unity it gave me. From the moment I stepped into the crowd I couldn’t stop grinning (except for the times when we were all booing the Dump). I saw a fantastic sign that said “Women are magical” on one side and “Dumbledore would never have let this happen” on the other and I thought “Loten and Mitchell would have a lot to say about this!”. You guys have turned me into a cynic.
    Anyway, it was a fantastic event all-around. Even Antarctica participated!
    Some of my favourite signs/moments from around the world:
    – Sir Ian McKellen holding a sign with a picture of Captain Picard facepalming.
    – “I have seen smarter cabinets at IKEA”
    – Sign held by an approx. 80-year-old woman: “I can’t believe I stll have to protest this shit.”
    – the hundreds of Princess Leias holding “A woman’s place is in the resistance” signs
    – “My arms are tired from holding this sign since the 1950s” – held by another old lady
    and, perhaps the best of all, a sign that was stitched: “I stitched this sign because I needed an excuse to stab something 3000 times”


  3. janach

    January 24, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    “I will say that there was something very reassuring about being in a huge crowd of people, and being able to strike up a conversation with anyone there and know they’re on your side and vice versa.”

    This feeling of unity and support and comfort is something everyone craves, and the Trump supporters feel exactly the same way when they’re in their own rallies. They feel the liberals and progressives, the immigrants and the gays and the pointy-headed intellectuals are not on their side and don’t have their backs and don’t understand or care about their problems. I’m not saying this is our fault. I’m saying this, in itself, is the fundamental problem: the nation is divided into two groups who do not trust each other, and do not feel they are supported by each other. We all want the feeling of safety and support, and do not trust the other side to give it to us.

    The vast majority of Trump supporters are not evil haters. Like us, they want to feel safe in a world where their fellow-citizens understand and support them and aren’t out to screw them over in inexplicable ways. That doesn’t mean we should bow down like wimpy tolerant liberals and give in. Personally, I think we should resist them every step of the way (screw bipartisanship). But we do need to recognize that this human desire for a unified community full of people who understand and support us is common to the Trumpsters and us, and is at the root of our conflict.

  4. Dove

    January 29, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    As far as terms to refer to That Person Currently Legally In Charge Of The United States, I’ve been going with “His Fraudulency”, personally. I feel it concisely sums up my feelings and level of respect regarding the whole thing, without needing to go compile a revolving list of synonyms for ‘orange dictator’.


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