Snow and sleet peppered the city on January 18, 2020. Undaunted, thousands of New Yorkers gathered in two places, Foley Square and Columbus Circle, to listen to speakers and then to march and meet up at Bryant Park. On that day, around the Country, 180 marches took place in rallies calling for equality, unity and solidarity. The theme, at least for the New York rally, was “Rise and Roar.”
This was the fourth year in which women (and men, and children) marched to promote an America of inclusion. The first Women’s March, which had taken place in Washington, D.C. on the day after the Inauguration of President Donald Trump in January, 2017, was the largest single-day protest in U. S. history.
My photographs document a part of the latest march as its participants headed south to Bryant Park from Columbus Circle.
This No War sign, with an explosive red cloud as background, is clearly a reference to the incineration of two vehicles by Hellfire missiles fired from American drones at the Baghdad airport fifteen days prior to the Women’s March. The target of that attack was Iranian Quds Force General, Qassem Soleimani. An article in the Financial Times on that day headlined the risk of all-out war between US and Iran. The Iranian response, fortunately, was measured enough to avoid such a catastrophe.
But the March I am documenting is not an Anti-War March. It’s a March about amplifying women’s issues and voices, and for this reason, once I chose to include this photograph, I feel bound to expand the interpretations of this No War sign.
In these United States today, several “wars” are being waged on our own shores–by Americans against Americans. In each of these “wars,” the aggressor is the Republican Party and the recipient either the Democratic Party or liberal political positions. Allow me to enumerate a few of these:
War on Women: In 1996, lifelong Republican Tanya Melich published The Republican War Against Women (an insider’s report from behind the lines). She would only leave the Party two years later and become an Independent. I encourage you to watch and listen to this recent interview [26:35] in which Melich offers a fascinating political history of our country from the viewpoint of a dedicated and active Republican woman.
Of the many, frequent references to a “war on women,” one 2018 article by feminist author and journalist, Sady Doyle, says it all just in its title: “Misogyny has become central to the Republican mission–and the GOP is dying as a result.”
War on Truth: Everyone has heard about Fake News. It’s also fairly common knowledge that President Trump frequently lies, his false claims being documented: 16,241 in his first three years and an average of 22 false or misleading claims/day in 2019.
Beyond Donald Trump, the most egregious sources for untruths and false claims comes from elected Republicans and GOP officials (even as they know better). Columnist Paul Waldman’s recent article,“Why the Republican commitment to lying will outlast Trump,” best explains this phenomenon.
Given this “war on truth,” we all must ask, “So, who can we trust?” King’s College Professor Paul Glader, journalist, ethicist and director of the Media Project, answered this for us in a 2017 article titled, “10 Journalism Brands Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts.” It may be of interest to some (and obvious to some others) that FoxNews does not even rise to the level of Glader’s 17 “runners-up.”
War on Nature: A 1995 article in the New York Times described the several aspects of “The G.O.P.’s War on Nature” as a “masterpiece of legislative subterfuge.” Given that prior Republican Presidents from Grant to Harrison to Nixon and even George H. W. Bush demonstrated strong environmental stewardship, it was shocking to see how “The GOP Has Turned its Back on Conservation,” as Christopher Solomon stated in a 2018 article.
This “conservative abdication of environmental concern stands out as one of the most profound turnabouts in modern American political history.” So wrote J. M. Turner and A. C. Isenberg in their essential coverage of this subject, The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump.
The American linguist/philosopher/historian/cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky may have given us the most succinct take on this phenomenon in a short YouTube [2:01] titled “Dedicated to Destroying the Earth.” I quote from it as follows: “When you consider the stakes, it’s a fair question whether there has even been a more dangerous organization in history than today’s Republican Party.”
War on Democracy: Ari Berman, a Fellow at The Nation Institute, titled an article of April 2017, “The GOP Has Declared War on Democracy.” Citing examples such as changing rules to nullify (state) elections or ‘going nuclear’ to confirm Neil Gorsuch, Berman concludes that “one party believes in democracy and the other does not.”
Two years later, in April 2019, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote a similarly-titled article, “The Republican War on Democracy.” Bouie focuses on the American electorate, and concludes as follows: “Rather than try to expand our democracy or even preserve it as it stands, Republicans are fighting for a smaller, narrower one that favors their voters over all others so that their power and the interests they serve become untouchable.”
The liberal columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect, Paul Waldman, reinforces Bouie’s conclusion in an article in The Washington Post. Its title is, “Once again, Republicans are waging war on democracy.” In it, Waldman states that “There is no greater threat to Republican power than full, free and fair elections, where…both parties have an equal chance to win….The GOP would be routed….In fighting to keep that from ever happening, there’s almost nothing Republicans won’t do, and they’re pretty sure they can get away with it.”
Finally, How Democracies Die, a book published in 2018 by authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, clearly reveal how and why our democratic institutions and basic norms are being subverted by the autocratic actions of President Donald Trump, even as “democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible.” This quotation and their analyses are most easily accessible in an article published in January, 2018 in The Guardian: “This is how democracies die.”
America’s political landscape is war-torn, degraded to a degree beyond the memory of anybody still living today, even if we just consider the four “wars” I have cited (and I can think of a dozen more).
But, enough! I have Women’s March photographs waiting and an explanatory blog to write on them. So let’s get on with it.
I love these images of mothers and daughters braving the cold and elements. All seem happy and smiling. In fact, I saw no angry faces in the entire line of marchers. Watching them pass by made me proud to be American.
Here are two more mothers, providing their young children with their first exposure to political activism. Even with the enormous demands of motherhood, more women are “making political activism the center of their lives” (Michelle Goldberg) and becoming “so organized and loud it’s impossible to miss them.” (Jill Filipovic).
Social media sites offer one clear indicator of this increased level of women’s political activity. See, for example, Mothers Against Trump Twitter Page and a Mothers Against Trump for President Facebook Page.
This woman displays the words of the final sentence of the Declaration of the Rights of Women of the United States, July 4, 1876. At the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, five suffragettes–although denied the chance to address the audience–quickly took the stage just as Senator Richard Henry Lee finished reading the original, American Declaration of Independence. It was here that Susan B. Anthony read this Declaration of the Rights of Women.
She started by praising the original document and its principles of human rights. She then reminded the audience that “all women still suffer the degradation of disenfranchisement.” She lamented “a series of assumptions and usurpations of power over woman, in direct opposition to the principles of just government” during the past century. Reaching the present day, she then embraced with hope a new century in which women gained “full equality with man in natural rights” and which recognized “that woman was made first for her own happiness, with the absolute right to herself.” She then challenged and denied “that dogma of the centuries, incorporated in the codes of all nations–that woman was made for man–her best interests in all cases, to be sacrificed to his will.”
All of this set up the request and final sentence that we see in the sign above:
We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civic and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.
Just as Susan B. Anthony and her companion in the NWSA (National Woman Suffrage Association) were told to remain silent and not speak in Philadelphia in 1876, so women have been silenced for millennia. Christian conservatives would have us believe that it’s all Eve’s fault: she first disobeyed God, plucked the forbidden fruit, and caused humanity’s fall (from grace). Consider these dicta from two separate letters of St. Paul: “Women should remain silent in the churches…[and] must be in submission;” “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”
This subordination of women carries into our present, although it may no longer dominate Christian attitudes nor is limited to Christian culture. Nevertheless, the Christian silencing and oppressing of women has been given new life in Margaret Atwood’s fundamentalist dystopian novel of 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale.
Even today’s secular world continues this despotic phenomenon: consider the widespread use of NDAs by corporations everywhere, most notably in the case of Gretchen Carlson, who complained that she “was, essentially, forced into silence” by Fox News. Lift Our Voices emerged from her plight as a challenge to NDAs and other confidentiality provisions.
Finally, women (and men) everywhere remember the words of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, explaining why he silenced the senior Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, in 2017 as she was reading a letter by Coretta Scott King: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” This was the result.
Two important terms stand out in the signs above: Hysterical and Intersectional.
Female Hysteria had been a medical diagnosis of women until 1952, and it wasn’t until 1980 that this “woman’s disease” was fully deleted as a mental disorder. Even today, there are those who accuse women of being hysterical when, what these women say would be perceived normal if spoken by a man. Calling women hysterical “has a long, complicated, and dark history.” When a man calls a woman hysterical, “what it really means is that he is afraid that other people will listen…so speak up.”
Intersectionality (or intersectional feminism) refers to the complex overlapping of the various forms of prejudicial discrimination that exist within our society–prejudice of gender, of race, of ethnicity, of age, of class, of socioeconomic status, of sexual identity–and the need to see these as inclusive, as one, not keep them separate. In other words, “The whole purpose of intersectional feminism is to listen to different kinds of feminists–not just ones like yourself.”
The Elephant in the Womb refers to the various legislative assaults on the reproductive rights of women by Republican, male legislators. The goal of all these bills is to overturn Roe v. Wade and accomplish a total ban on abortion. When Alabama State Senate voted to ban abortions last year (HB 314)–even for victims of rape and incest–it not only encouraged other GOP-majority states to follow suit (ca. 30 abortion bans were enacted this past year), but even evoked the following comment from Charlotte Pence, the daughter of the Vice-President of the United States: “Personally, I would not encourage a friend to get an abortion if she suffered the horrendous evil of rape or incest…” So much for supportive friendships among certain conservatives!
These more recent legislative assaults, also called Sanctity of Human Life Acts, or Personhood Bills, take the totally-unscientific position that human life begins with the fertilization of a woman’s egg. Thus, a fetus, an embryo, a zygote must be afforded the same legal “protections” as a fully-developed, mature, educated human being. In answer to such an inane concept, one that would have us believe that “a six-week-old clot of cells is more of a person than any adult woman,” author Laurie Penny argues that “it is female personhood, not fetal personhood, that should decide the issue of basic bodily autonomy.”
Are men obsessed with a woman’s uterus? Well, maybe no more than women are obsessed with a man’s penis. Bear with me, if you will, because this sign has simply exposed the other side of a very old coin. Call the coin Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus Complex.
One side of the coin is penis envy. The other side is womb envy. Freud explained certain neuroses of women–see Hysteria, above–as stemming from the realization that they did not possess a penis and so felt inferior. Fortunately, the psychoanalyst Karen Horney posited the obverse of this coin within Freud’s lifetime; she would later be viewed as a founder of feminist psychology. As Horney saw it, because men were unable to bear or breastfeed children, it was they who felt inferior and so were driven to compensate through overachievement-in and control-of the outside world.
It maters little if the young woman holding this sign is aware of this history. Undoubtedly, however, she is aware of that Elephant in the Womb–again, see above–and of those 25 Alabama elephants–white male Senators–who assumed control over the uteri of their women. Regarding their passage of HB 314 on May 15, 2019, writer Jessica Valenti noted that these Alabama Senators “had trouble articulating the most basic facts about women’s biology” and she lamented that women’s autonomy was “being legislated away…by complete morons.”
Let’s leave the last word about womb envy (uterus obsession) to actress Nasim Pedrad. Playing Ariana Huffington in Weekend Update, an SNL skit of 10/13/2012 [3:54], Pedrad says this, half-way through the skit: If men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like Starbucks–there would be two on every block, four in every airport, and the morning-after pill would come in different flavors like sea salt and cool ranch.
When the feminist movement posits an equation between a malignant patriarchy and a healthful earth, it is referring to patriarchy as a system–a system of domination and control of nature (as well as of women). “Both women and nature are subordinated by our patriarchal capitalist system,” according to environmental activist Katie Hodgetts in her article of 2018, “Smash Patriarchy, Save the Planet!.” This is actually an interesting article in which she honors four amazing environmental activist women, one a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Africa and one from Honduras, murdered for her work.
An article by the investigative journalist and author Nafeez Ahmed takes a similar position through its title: “Patriarchy Is Killing the Planet–Women Alone Can Save Her.” Dr. Ahmed succinctly sums up the equation: “The global epidemic of violence against women and their systematic exclusion from the power structures that rule us are integral to man’s violent exploitation of Earth and her resources….The fight to save the Earth must begin with the empowerment of women.”
In a recent article titled, “Smash the Patriarchy to Save the Planet,” American journalist Belén Fernández cites a growing body of research in Sweden and America which shows that ‘right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate-denialism increasingly overlap.” She concludes that “patriarchal capitalism imperils not only women but the planet itself.”
With this, I leave it to you, my readers, to work out the details of this equation in which the 6,000-year-old system of Patriarchy embraces the Biblical concept of God giving man “dominion…over all the earth (Genesis 1:26) along with the various forms of Capitalism which first emerged about 500 years ago.
As you see here, the patriarchy is still with us. After all, to quote the British feminist philosopher, Jacqueline Rose, “If patriarchy weren’t effective, we wouldn’t need feminism.”
But in this photograph I wish to focus on the sign on the left and its reference to the Women of Sahel. The Sahel is a region of Sub-Saharan Africa which includes Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, among other countries; its people suffer from food shortages, instability and violence. Young girls, in particular, drop out of school, are forced into early marriages, and lose all economic potential. Countering this is a project financed by the World Bank: SWEDD (Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend), which keeps girls in school, helps them to later become leaders in their society, and, in the process, builds the economies of the countries.
Women represent the one, enormous, untapped economic potential of these countries. As such, a brief YouTube [3:14] encouraging investment in them assures us that “the girls and women of Africa are its future.”
VAWA stands for the Violence Against Women Act, sponsored by Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch and signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994. It was reauthorized by President Obama on March 7, 2013 with extended provisions for Native Americans and the LGBTQ community. A new, bipartisan version passed the House in March of 2019 after President Trump’s spending bill eliminated it the month before. However, the Senate refused to vote on it due to objections by Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa and also by the National Rifle Association.
Once more, I love this image of a mother introducing her child to political activism.
Neither Right Nor Left We Only Want the Corrupt To Go To Shit!
The main clause doesn’t translate well from Spanish into common English, so a better translation is: We Only Want the Corrupt Ones To Go Fuck Themselves!
The smaller image above of a girl writing on a wall is translated as “Feminism never killed anyone. Chauvinism kills every day.” This statement is taken from the writings of the French feminist activist, Benoîte Groult.
The hashtag at the top, #RenunciaPiñera, identifies this woman and the subject of her sign as Chilean. The people of Chile have been fighting unchecked corruption and enormous inequality in their country. Many demonstrators have been killed or injured, as President Sebastián Piñera deployed the army to quell riots and protests. Even as Piñera suffers an approval rating of only 9%, the Chilean Congress rejected a move to impeach him in December of 2019: a decision that should seem quite familiar to these American marchers.
Connected to this is a Chilean protest song, Un Violador en Tu Camino (A Rapist in Your Path), which became an international feminist phenomenon and has been performed as dance and song across the world by women demonstrators. This article of December 6, 2019 in The Guardian discusses that “anti-rape anthem” and also provides a video compilation [2:06] of it being performed in many cities around the world.
Mansplaining is a wonderful word, its meaning obvious even to someone hearing it for the first time. It became one of the New York Times “Words of the Year” for 2010, where the noun, mansplainer was defined as a “man compelled to explain or give an opinion about everything — especially to a woman. He speaks, often condescendingly, even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or even if it’s none of his business. Old term: a boor.”
Just as all men are not boors, so all men are not all mansplainers. As author Rebecca Solnit assures us, “mansplaining is not a universal flaw of the gender, just the intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.”
As to the We Are Sisters sign, Margaret Mead sums up that complex relationship as well as anyone: “Sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”
On the world scene, a United Nations report on Sustainable Development Goals states that “gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.” The Global Goals for Sustainable Development view gender bias as a “tremendous waste of the world’s human potential” and lay out nine goals necessary to meet full potential.
On the national, American, scene, we have just seen (March 5, 2020) Elizabeth Warren, the last of four of the most qualified candidates, ever, running for president–all women–drop out for lack of sufficient support. On that day, an article in USA Today pointed to a glaring anomaly: “The disappointment women may feel that the race has come down to two men is magnified by the fact that it’s the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote.”
Building on this anomaly in his program the following evening, Lawrence O’Donnell observed that You Had a Right to Feel that Women Were Next [8:27]. After listing several elected world leaders who were women, starting with Gandhi and Meir in the 1960s, O’Donnell reminded his listeners that “The United States is on its 45th male president, and you have a right to be tired of men running for president…you have a right to shed a tear today over where women are in American politics…”
Clearly, America, even more than the world, still needs work to attain gender equality, and it will most certainly need the support of men of quality in order to attain that goal.
Today is Sunday, March 8. It also is International Women’s Day.
Earlier today, I received a group family phone text from my younger daughter, who lives in Woods Hole, MA, wishing us all a “Happy International Woman’s Day.” My older daughter immediately responded with this GIF of a girl drifting her bicycle (with training wheels) with the comment. “we got this.”
I agreed with her assessment–women/girls got it–and replied that I needed to get out my blog post soon, but was only half-way done. Neither daughter accepted my excuse, and being a”man of quality” as well as a properly-cultivated dad of two strong kids, I listened to them!
So here is part I of my post.
Part II will start with the above image of Strong Women Scare Weak Men and will be published at a later date.
After all, the International Woman’s Day web page asks us all how we will “help forge a gender equal world?” It then encourages us to do three things on this day:
Celebrate woman’s achievement.
Raise awareness against bias.
Take action for equality.
“Reading the Signs: The 2020 Women’s March in New York City, Part I” is my contribution to this day.