Sunday, January 22, 2017
OVER TWO MILLION MARCH IN CONTUMACIOUS CELEBRATION OF FEMINIST IDEALS
Yesterday’s marches of protest against the FBI-assisted ascendancy of Donald Trump were vigorously attended throughout the nation, in large part because enormous numbers of people were willing to give up their hard-earned personal time to affirm the feminist movement. The rallies in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland attracted hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. No one will have to stand at a press conference today and exaggerate the number of marchers in order to massage the egos of its organizers.
Once again, the ability of social media to mobilize a movement far exceeded expectations. When Teresa Shook first proposed a Women’s March on her Facebook page soon after Election Day. she certainly didn’t stretch out on a couch and immediately begin fantasizing about speaking on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C. And yet, yesterday, she found herself in a line-up of social activists and cultural workers who spoke to a crowd much larger than the one that witnessed Trump’s clamp-down taking of the presidential oath of office the day before.
In an update, over six hours after the original posting of today’s entry, I wish to correct the crowd count. The total number of marchers was over two million people in the United States alone. I am struck by how the mass media refuse to acknowledge breaking this “glass ceiling” of numerical defiance. My own original impression from media reports was that the total attendance at all of the marches exceeded one million, but that is a vast underestimate. It’s one thing to top the one million figure for any given one-day public event. Two million is exponentially more massive. The scale of this “stand your ground” message to Trump, in fact, is on the ominous side of predictions. The attendance seems closer to the number of people who might turn out for an anti-war rally. Indeed, the fear that Trump is already drawing up invasion plans in hopes that a war will “unify” the country is more than amply justified. It should be noted that it was not just the largest cities, such as Los Angeles, that featured enormous crowds proportionate to their population. Smaller urban areas such as San Jose, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also had significantly attended rallies.
I was not impressed with the coverage of the mainstream media. I happened to watch a bit of the march on the L.A. Times link to the ABC news, and noticed Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” erased him from the screen. In fact, a kind of misogynistic voyeurism seemed to take over the control booth. Rather than show Maxwell singing, the camera panned across the dispersal of the crowd, as if to diminish the meaning of Bush’s lyrics. What was really disturbing was how the camera awkwardly swooped across the crowd to find signs with the word “pussy” on them. It was as if the control booth of the ABC network was being directed by young teenage boys who couldn’t get enough of seeing a “forbidden word” being bandied about. What must have attracted them even more was that one sign had a set of curves suggesting the inner and outer lips of a woman’s genitals. That the camera would linger on this sign together with a nearby one on a green board that also featured the word “pussy” in large letters seemed not to be a moment of transgressive affirmation, but rather an attempt to reduce feminist protest to an essentialist taunt.
At least Aja Monet’s performance of her poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” was spared this imposition of male scopic power. Monet, a performance poet who won a major slam contest at a very young age, attended Sarah Lawrence College for her B.A. and has a MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poem she read is the title poem of her most recent collection of poetry. That a poet would be asked to be part of this protest and perform on the main stage is hardly a surprise, though. Writers Resist, an informal collective of protest readings by writers the week before the inauguration, was one of the major preliminary groundswells of protest against the outrageous plutocracy that Trump has assembled as his administrative bureaucracy of American government.
I believe it was in a column by Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, that I saw a protest sign with the best comment of the day: “Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.” My compliments to the Palimpsest-in-Chief.
President Trump took note of the demonstrations, but seemed to overlook their impetus. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” he tweeted.
Excuse me, Mr. President, but they did vote. That is why you lost the popular vote by a margin equal to the entire number of voters in Arizona. Losing the popular vote has consequences. It means that you failed to win the respect of the electorate, and the daily disrespect has just begun.
Media coverage post-script: As Larry Goldstein noted in an e-mail today, at least CNN refused to act as if it were Fox News light and roll over in accepting Sean Spicer’s outrageous exaggerations about the size of the inaugural attendance. See the following article in the NY Times for a scientific report on the crowd size of these events.