Los Angeles, January 21st, 2018.
By Magaly Marques
The best part of a protest or demonstration is to witness the creativity with which people express their motives for being there: the signs! At yesterday’s Women’s Anniversary March in Los Angeles, we could see the difference between what motivated people in the 2017 Women’s March and what led people to the streets this weekend.
“Still here, Not going anywhere”, was the most obvious sign of resistance to the unchanged status quo. But, because things do change in spite of the backlashes that keep coming against our daily feminism, we also saw signs that read: “Build this Wall – between Church and State”, “We are All Women, Trans, Immigrants, LGBTQIA, Black Women, People of Color, etc.”, “Health Care is a Human Right”, “Boys will be Human Beings”, and “Patriarch Won’t just Implode”.
In one year, protesters in the U.S. went from yelling “Not my President” to declaring that the oppressive environment we live in today –and one that has been building up for decades of liberal, conservative, racist investment in reinforcing barriers to feminism and human rights—, must change. This time, we are not back on the streets to demand our right to vote. That’s what our great-grandmothers accomplished at the turn of the 19th century. Now, we are making it explicit that by voting we expect our vote to count, our voice to be heard, and our platforms to be taken seriously. Demonstrators don’t get up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to endure subway lines, walk several miles and stand up in unfriendly weather for peanuts. Do we do it for the collective energy that we unquestionably absorb by being amongst folks who, like us, believe that the pursuit of justice and happiness is worthy of our efforts? Yes. Most definitely. However, it might be more accurate to say that we do it to demonstrate how serious we are when we say “Enough is Enough”, and how powerful our movement for “Rights, Justice, and the Rule of Law” is.
Suffragettes didn’t stop until women voted, until it became normal and no big deal that women voted. And in the process we normalized birth control, women in higher education, and women in politics. Still, it does happen that those who regret the fact that, today, women vote are the same people who try to roll back history into its own spool. If in power positions, these people or institutions will attempt to re-write the narrative, re-count the facts, and re-build barriers, walls and gaps between people who are “different” and certain rights and social and scientific benefits that humanity has accumulated over time. So we march. We march because we know that we must claim our gains, our rights and our narrative. And because we must resist the counter efforts that seek to treat rights as privileges.
Of course some of us are tired of protesting the “same old same old &*#!”, and some of us may fear that nothing is really happening. Why would yet another march make a difference? But that’s exactly what we feared before the #MeToo movement when we asked ourselves: Why expose ourselves and break the silence? Why endure yet another humiliation if the power if on the other side? And that’s when we must resort to memory and solidarity to remind each other of what and how change happens. As we remember the moment when a millionaire news anchor, or film producer, or politician, media guru, journalist, or a CEO is finally removed from power because of one too many voices. That’s the shift that matters.
It seems to me that industries and markets, institutions and governments, more than anything want the steady flow of business and resources, even more than they might have wanted to protect their own in the past. Consumers, voters, Millennials, educated young professionals, union workers, students are ready to wear their pink pussy hats at any time. One look out the window or at a TV, phone or computer screen this weekend suffices to a savvy businessperson to conclude that if crowds of people are taking to the streets again to remind them of where they stand, then they should take note of that fact. The time when power was the result of privilege and biology is coming to an end, and will continue to crumble because of people wearing pink pussy hats and demanding justice.