25 January 2017

Why I Didn't March

Last weekend, there was this march.  Don't know if you heard.  

More than half a million women and their supporters marched in Washington, and probably a million others marched around the country and the world.  Maybe more, depending on which alternative of the facts you support.  Regardless, it was a lot.  

These citizens largely marched in protest of our recently elected and now inaugurated President Trump.  They also marched for women's rights and a slew of other progressive causes.  If you want to read the official platform, you can find it here. 

I didn't join these women.  

I am compelled to speak into the noise because of the misunderstandings I've seen throughout media, social and otherwise.  If one tried to respond to each position, well, whack-a-mole city.  But, I will endeavor to try to articulate a few.    

There are some popular reasons that women didn't march - reasons that don't apply to me and that I don't find compelling.  I will deal with a few: 

Approval or endorsement of President Trump.  My opinion of President Trump as man, politician, candidate, leader is pretty strong, and it's not positive.  He's definitely a misogynist, no matter how many of his daughters or female employees he trots out to attempt to prove otherwise.  People who speak of women the way he has don't respect women.  (I'll not provide examples - if you can't think of three off the top of your head, feel free to shoot me an email.  They are myriad.)  He's not a good guy, I'm not happy he was elected, and he's certainly not a victory for women.  I did not stay home because I'm happy with the Donald.  

We don't have any gender problems in modern America.  False.  Of course we do.  We have a pay gap, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and a growing, awful sex trafficking scourge. On a less dramatic level, in my every day life I often hear men speak down to or ill about women (their wives and others) in a way that betrays a lack of a respect.   This week, I saw a popular conservative blogger ask the question, "What rights do men have that women do not?"  The answer is none, but the idea that legally-granted rights eliminates a lack of equality is naive at best.  Think about poll taxes and literacy tests after the right to vote was granted to African Americans.  "Look how far we've come" isn't a justification for not wanting to get better.  We're supposed to be getting better until they lay us in the ground.   If there was a march to protest the pornography industry, I'd be there with bells on.  (Bells, I said, not a p**sy hat, but more on that later).  If there was a march to raise awareness of domestic abuse or sexual assault, I would link arms with anyone I could find.  If I could march to help the real and present race problem we have in America, particularly in my South, I'd be first in line to make posters.  We do have problems in America, and they do deserve political attention.  So, I didn't stay home because I think all is hunky dory.  

*I* don't need the march.  Well, pardon my french, but that's kind of an asshole thing to say.  There are a lot of things that I don't need.   Just because these issues don't affect me directly doesn't mean I am excused from my civic responsibility to deal with them.  Do unto others and all that jazz. (Which isn't jazz, but is, in fact, Scripture.)   I happen to be married to the most feminist man I know - he respects my opinions, intellect, skills, and contributions.  He thinks his two daughters conspired together to hang the moon.  I work for and with men and women who respect what I do and view my gender as an asset or an irrelevance, but never anything else.   I am a member of a church where women are treasured, and I count among close friends men who treasure their own wives (if they're married) and also treasure me.  But, just because I am currently in a situation in which I don't feel my gender causes problems doesn't mean I shouldn't stand in solidarity with my sisters who are abused, unloved, unappreciated, underpaid, and otherwise suffer because of the body parts with which they were born.   And, to be honest, there have certainly been times in my life where I have been mistreated because I am a woman.  In fact, there have been many times.  How shortsighted it would be of me to sit at home because, right this second, life is peachy.  So, my staying home was not because I believe that these issues don't apply to me or because I don't care about the issues.  I very much see the problems, and I very much give a damn. 

So, those are three reasons I've seen articulated that I don't buy as legitimate reasons to stay home.  

So, why didn't I make a sign and get out there?  

I couldn't find a goal.  One cannot just march against something; one has to march for something too.  I'm a J on the Meyer's Briggs, and my vocations of mother, teacher, school administrator mean that I am goal-oriented.  We don't just study - we study for mastery.  We don't just buy food - we plan meals first.  And we think about who we're going to feed - just my people?  Other people too?  People with allergies?  What is the goal?  Also, I spend a lot of my days explaining to my children - and the children I teach - the lack of virtue in complaint for complaint's sake.  "You are not a victim" is uttered often.  Fussing isn't helpful.  Justified complaint must be done with respect, and alongside encouragement, but most importantly, there must be a reason to complain - a change sought.  Maybe it's my lawyer father coming out in me, but before you file a complaint, you must have a remedy you're seeking.  I couldn't figure out what these marchers wanted.  To be heard - yes.  But, to what end?  What is the teleology of the fussing? It needs one other than volume.  I stayed home because I didn't understand what we were after.  

Violence, lewdness, and crudeness are neither effective nor moral tools.  It was unfortunate for these women that they marched less than a week after Martin Luther King, jr. Day, because the comparisons between this march and the march at which Dr. King gave the I Have a Dream speech do not cast our recent march in great light.  MLK's speech is set apart from any others in modern history because of his composure, his weaving in of biblical allusions, the perfectly crafted diction, and, most importantly, his respectful treatment of people who had legitimately wronged him - and all people of color.  And the contrast couldn't have been stronger.  It reminded me of a comedic juxtaposition of complete opposites.  But it wasn't funny.  Though I am riddled with faults, I am a stronger woman and a better person than to scream the word pussy at people to get their attention.  In fact, I am not a nasty woman.  I don't want to be, and the problems with misogyny in America are not solved by women embracing some kind of nasty narrative.  They are solved by women who are composed - because in composure we find power.  In self-control, there is strength. The country was forced to listen to Dr. King - he gave them no choice - because he stood, clear and strong, without sullying his stance with words meant to horrify or injure.  Dr. King famously said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."  In the same way, "my p***y grabs back" is a nonsensical response to Trump's famous lines about his own sexual assault of women.  It doesn't work.  I'm not talking about a southern lady decorum issue (though that too, yes).  I'm talking about a moral and effectual issue.  We are called to love our enemies - we don't get to retreat to screaming at them.  Screaming is the posture of the weak.  Come to my house - people yell, but no one yells when he or she is empowered, strong, in control.  An empowered woman states her case firmly, calmly, and with grace.  This is not defeat - it is the path to victory.  Read some of the early feminists.  I stayed home because the tone of the project was not admirable, and I am modeling for my daughters that their strength is found in light and love, not vulgarity and anger.  

The right to kill babies is not a feminist ideal.  This is the kicker, of course.  The organizers of the march were unable to divorce abortion on demand from their platform, and in that, they lost me as a supporter.  I won't march for the right to murder children; in fact, if I were in Washington this week, I'd be marching where I've marched before - the annual March for Life.  I am pro-life, but I'd love to stand with pro-choice women on other women's issues.  However, when we conflate them all, we undermine the half of American women who are pro life.  And we are told that makes us anti-feminist.  It doesn't, and just ask Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton about it.  Abortion is anti-woman because it kills unborn women, and it is anti woman because it once again puts forth violence against women to deal with a "problem" that a man fully participated in bringing about.  When I was a pregnant teenager, the father of that sweet baby put forth abortion as the solution so as to avoid any disruption to his life.  I am a cliche, because for thousands of years men have been asking women to kill their unborn children so that they, the men, don't have to deal with the results of their own actions.  The idea that abortion is a fight against men is comical, actually.  It is the very thing that men want.  Ironically, the modern feminist movement in America continues to play right into the hands of the enemy.   I did not march, because the organizers of the march made it clear that abortion was at the top of the agenda.  

In conclusion, there were bad reasons to stay home last Saturday, but I think there were good ones too.  My dear friends - and there were many - who marched have not lost my respect or my love, and I'd hope for the same in return.  I don't think marching was the right decision, and they obviously don't think I made the right decision.  And - and I know this is mind-blowing - that's okay.  Disagreement neither threatens my position nor my relationships.   We can disagree and then eat and drink together. I eat food every single day of the year with people with whom I disagree - and I even regularly make out with one such person.   I hope we all can become better believers in that model; challenging our positions, especially the tightly held ones, is the only path to growth and peace.  

Blessings upon all of you.  

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