Editor's note: this story includes profanity.
By Jill Farschman
I am old enough to remember a few other waves of feminism. Old enough to recall that before she became a leader in the women’s rights and social justice movements, Gloria Steinem was a Playboy Bunny. Yes, kids, we used to think of that magazine as porn.
Arriving at the state capitol building just before 9:00 in the morning, I was struck by the number of people already present. All stripes, ages and genders were represented. Kids in strollers pushed by young couples, groups of teens, extended family members, elders. Honestly, the diversity surprised me.
A sea of signs in front of the Colorado Capitol Building. Estimates put the crowd at over 100,000, and with the other like protests worldwide, some estimates are this day of protest could have been one of the largest ever. Photo by Sara Hertwig.
Lewd, humorous, vitriolic and clever homemade signs abounded. Selected examples:
“Make America Think Again,” an obvious take on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
Variations on “Respect my existence or expect my resistance.”
“I’m with Her” borrowed from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, except showing arrows in all directions.
“I can’t believe we’re still fighting this shit” or similar versions.
“I’m not really a sign-making kind of guy, but for fuck’s sake!”
There was call and response chanting “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.” “Hey, hey, here, here. Immigrants are welcome here.”
Lots of pink “pussy hats” and references to female genitalia as a source of power rather than derision or weakness. There were numerous effigies of Trump with many references to his small hands and orange pallor. Apparently such personal attacks have replaced critical thinking and thoughtful public discourse. Maybe that’s what happens to a society when sexual assault and penis size become acceptable topics during a presidential campaign.
Although branded as “Women’s March on Denver” (marchoncolorado.org) those present clearly represented a range of causes, origins and locales. Most causes were subsets of the progressive agenda being systematically dismantled by Trump’s administration. Climate change, immigration, Affordable Healthcare Act, religious freedom, free press and social justice were the strongest themes mixed in with vehement support for women’s equality and reproductive rights. The malevolence towards the current administration cannot be overstated. One thing was crystal clear, the audience was chock-full of Trump haters.
The actual marching was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t begin walking until almost 11:00 purportedly because the number of marchers was so great it actually doubled back on itself, creating gridlock. Final numbers vary, but Denver organizers expected 40,000 whereas the actual number reportedly exceeded 100,000.
While our amended constitution protects citizens’ rights to free speech, peaceable assembly and free press, be reminded it still doesn’t guarantee equal rights for women. The “Equal Rights Amendment” proposed in 1972, expired unratified in 1982. This proposed amendment to Article 3 of the constitution, was simply worded as “Section. 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Women only gained the right to vote in 1920 after years of painful struggle featuring violence and incarceration. So, I have lingering questions: will protests like Women’s March continue, grow or dissipate over time? Was this march a bucket list item (participate in a women’s rights march, check!) or indicative of a sustainable social movement?
Perhaps the actual end game should be about more than just abhorrence of Trump and everything he stands for. Perhaps the result could be equal rights regardless of sex finally being codified in our constitution.