Feminism

The Women’s March is a Culture War

I was raised to be a culture warrior.

As a member of Generation Joshua (the first generation of homeschoolers), I was supposed to be a well-trained advocate for the theocratic Christian fundamentalist cause, through any means I had access to. In college I picketed reproductive health clinics, I protested, I went door-to-door getting signatures for ballot measures, I went to political rallies. I spent the bulk of my life trying to convert people to Christianity, or persuading more moderate Christians to join my causes– young earth creationism, King James Bible Only-ism, complementarianism, the stay-at-home-daughter movement … One of the issues I cared about the most was abortion, which I saw as murder and wanted to restrict through any means necessary. If that meant forcing those murderous clinics out of business, or making it too difficult for women to get an abortion, so be it.

I saw it as my Christian obligation to convince as many people as I could that women are supposed to submit to their husbands, and that feminism is a lie from Satan meant to pull women onto the path of destruction. I believed that being my version of a godly woman would shine like a beacon into the world and demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity. To me– to most of us, I think, the Culture Wars were never just about changing the laws: it was about changing the culture around us. Taking back my country for Christ couldn’t possibly be accomplished unless most of us were fundamentalist Christians, and that meant we needed more than just mere conversion. I wanted to radically and fundamentally alter the way my culture saw social, historical, political, and religious issues.

It’s perhaps ironic that none of that has actually changed. Oh, it’s changed in substance, but not in form.

***

I went to the Women’s March on Saturday, in DC. I marched with a group of straight, bi, lesbian and trans women, non-binary people, Jewish women, a Latina woman, and one straight cisgender white male ally. Most of us had gotten together for a sign-making party the weekend before, and chose a variety of phrases for our signs. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, was a favorite. I’d been torn between a few ideas for my own sign in the weeks before. “Fear is the Mind Killer” from Dune, or “I will be Non-Compliant,” a reference to Bitch Planet, topped my list of possibilities a while. I was trying to figure out what I wanted the Women’s March to mean to me, what I wanted to remember about it and why I’d gone.

Eventually I settled on a quote from Susan B. Anthony: “Organize, Agitate, Educate must be our war cry.”

I chose it for a variety of reasons– I’m a huge nerd being one of them– but mainly I chose it because it’s what I wanted the March to do. I want every person who marched to become a part of the resistance against hatred, bigotry, and totalitarianism; I want us all to agitate to make our voices heard and make our message clear; I want those of us who can to educate the people who don’t know what’s at risk and what they can do to stop it– or change it.

So I imagine you’ll understand that I find some of the reactions to the March … disheartening. Over the past few days I’ve seen a slew of facebook posts and articles going through my newsfeed, most accompanied with something like “THIS.” There’s one about how men not being patriarchal enough is why we marched. Or another condescendingly and patronizingly “apologizing” to women who have it so much worse than these ridiculous American women who just don’t know how good they have it and how selfish they are (to address the claim that American women have it so good, please read this, this, and this). It’s been frustrating, to say the least, because my vision for Marching was so clear, but I didn’t know how to explain to my friends how we’re seeing that protest in fundamentally different ways. There’s a lot of language being bandied about how vulgar it was, how demeaning, how disrespectful, how pointless and all I could articulate to myself was arrrrrgh!

Finally, one friend asked “Which rights don’t I have that I’m supposed to be marching for?” and that’s when it finally crystallized for me what the people I know aren’t understanding about the Women’s March. It’s not about formal, legal, written-on-paper, law-of-the-land capital-R Rights. Technically, in America, women have “Rights.” We can vote, we can own property, we can serve on juries, we can be autonomous legal agents, we can inherit, etc. Coverture is gone and suffrage is here. In the words of Ainsley Hayes, “The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.”

The Women’s March is many of the women of this country declaring a culture war on misogyny, hatred, bigotry, racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, femmephobia, and one Party’s intent to destroy not women’s “Rights,” but all of our freedoms: The freedom of the press, the freedom of speech, the freedom to peaceably assemble. It’s not just our Bill of Rights that are under a war of attrition, either. Women marched this past Saturday because our realities are not all the same, and we have to protect each other. Some women are complaining that they feel “demeaned” by the March because they don’t personally feel that they needed it. Like Ainsley Hayes, they feel “humiliated” by the very notion that some women don’t think we’re equal (which, hate to break it to you ladies, we’re not).

I could go on. The list is, for all practical purposes, endless. I didn’t even begin to touch some of the other horrific and nightmarish problems we have in this country. Many of the ones I’ve listed above affect men as well, obviously. And even though I’ve highlighted a few places where women don’t have Rights, the larger problem isn’t whether or not we have laws in place that enumerate these rights. In some cases we do, in some we don’t. Regardless of a legal reality, it’s not a practical, livable reality until all people are truly seen as equal.

I will organize with others to enumerate or protect our rights. We will agitate against a government that wants to strip all of us of our protections, to hamstring every attempt to fight violence against women. Together we’ll educate others on the risks we face and how to fight.

I decided not to let my fear keep me voiceless, motionless, actionless, so I marched. Not to be vulgar, not to sow division, not to be angry and bitter. I marched because who we elected president is a symptom of a cultural problem, not its cause– and it’s a culture I will go to war against.

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  • I was there too! I like your sign. I’ll probably be blogging about the March as well, once I get all my thoughts together.
    The people complaining about the March really don’t seem to understand what it’s about. The ultra right-wing faction is out to make the country a better place for white, straight, hard-core evangelical christian, science-denying, male billionaires. Everybody else is screwed. The March is about supporting and giving voice to that “everybody else”. We marched for women, for gays, for black people, for brown people, for immigrants, for the poor, for the disabled, for unions, for healthcare, for science, for education, and for honesty in government. The alt-right has declared war on being a decent civilized nation, and I’m not willing to let them take us down to their level!

  • “The Women’s March is many of the women of this country declaring a culture war …”

    That’s perfect! Even more so because it’s language drawn from a common frame of reference that people on the other side should understand.

  • Jackalope

    I think some of it too is that the new regime is wanting to change things so dramatically in so many negative ways — the March was a method to a) get everyone fired up and passionate (I know a lot of the political organizations I support have been emailing me all week) and b) send a message to the world that we are not going to take things lying down. It was in many ways symbolic only, but symbolism can be powerful stuff.

  • I too was raised to be a proactive culture warrior, and I admit I still feel strange at the irony – I’m still proactive and fighting, but now I’m fighting for basically the opposite cause. Like…you know, helping other women in this life instead of advancing conservative Christianity. :/
    It feels weird sometimes, even though I have hardly any doubts about the need to change our bigoted culture, or my willingness to fight it.

  • Telleapp

    These past few days (months) have been difficult for many of us, but if we are to endure I think we should also find ways to have fun along the way. So here is my contribution: in support of the #WomensMarch movement and women’s rights: I designed (free) stickers to help women express themselves and their attitude (nasty or supportive, depending on the situation) when they text each other (or anyone). There is nothing like showing facial expressions, and these are the most expressive stickers I’ve seen. I wanted them to be chic, diverse and uninhibited. In the Women’s March edition, the characters wear adorable Pussy Hats. Because we need to express ourselves now more than ever.

    If you are so inclined, download the stickers and show your support and attitude when you text message friends (a sticker is worth a thousand smirks 😉 – I’m keeping them free so anyone can have as many as they like. If I can, I’ll keep them up for the next 4 years 😉 Use it to text your friends, show your attitude, and keep as a souvenir (not sure what iMessage stickers are? – we have the world’s easiest tutorial on the website).
    Enjoy! http://www.tellestickers.com

  • Well said.

  • RavenOnthill

    When I encountered one of those unctuous people, I answered, “Life and freedom.”

    Having been told by another of these people that they will pray for me, I have been left reflecting that prayer with evil intent is black magic. Brrrr.

  • Thank you, ladies! I’m recovering from a health issue and could not go, so all of you did it for me, and I so appreciate it.

    If there is a good thing about this disaster, it is that they are so eager to crush us for our net worth and leave us to die that they have made a tactical mistake. They are “supposed” to pick one target so the others feel like they need to keep their heads down and go along, lest they be targeted.

    Well, in their hubris, there is no safe space. There is no one who is safe. And their ultimate plan is now so clear one has to be mired deep in denial to think otherwise.

    Don’t despair over the people who don’t get it. They don’t want to.

  • Melody

    🙂 “It’s perhaps ironic that none of that has actually changed. Oh, it’s changed in substance, but not in form.”

    I was thinking precisely that as I was reading that paragraph. You’re still in the business of changing people’s opinions and building arguments.

  • Chuck Geer

    I regret that while this march was going on, I was having to drive an NS crew from Bristol, VA to Roanoke at the time. I was with you in spirit.

    I was appalled that “conservative Christians” (please note the quotation marks) reacted in the ways that they did. However, knowing lots of them, I was not surprised. The lion’s share of them falsely believed that the march was strictly about abortion. While abortion was obviously an important issue, there were a host of other issues, many of which you covered in your article. Unfortunately, far too many people had the take of Anne Graham Lotz: http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/category/messages-from-gods-word/latest-from-anne/. Not surprisingly, Ms. Lotz voted for Trump.

    Back in my much younger days, I thought I would NEVER see the day in which “Christians” would give up their alleged most heartfelt convictions in order to elect a President. Boy, was I wrong. Turns out their most heartfelt convictions were not ones explicitly stated in their confessions of faith…

  • Heh. I know a lot of Canadians who joined in, and a lot more of us would have if we could have.

  • Carrie Cadwallader

    I marched in Denver with my mother, sister-in-law and husband. My sign had a picture of Princess Leia with a blaster in hand that said “FIGHT like a GIRL!” — which is something I taught to my karate students. “Don’t back down. Stand up and fight like a girl!” My sensei and I always made sure every student, male or female, knew that hitting like a girl was something to be proud of, never an insult. If the kids walked away from class with nothing else, as long as they could say girls are every bit as strong as boys, we had done our job.

    I am privileged. I make a higher salary than most men. I have a secure home, health insurance, relatively healthy kids, a good brain and a network of support if anything should threaten all of that.

    I marched because not every woman has the rights I enjoy as a college-educated white woman in a relatively moderate state.

    I marched because birth control is healthcare and bodily autonomy is more important than someone’s idea of when life does or doesn’t begin.

    I marched because women are shamed for being victims of rape, domestic violence and discrimination.

    I marched because this world is unfair enough without people pushing you down because of your race, gender, creed or sexual preference.

    I marched because enough is enough. I’m not backing down. I will plant myself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world “No, you move.”