Politicization of the Pussy: Women’s March Rhetoric Defies Politeness and Demands Equality

JOHANNA M. COSTIGAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF | January 22, 2017

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Even on 16th street, a thirty minute walk from the start of the Women’s March on Washington, it was clear that we were the majority. At a pussy-hat-packed coffee shop, the bearded millennial in front of me checked his Instagram feed, and I peered over his shoulder. Nearly every photo was of protest signs, with captions saying, in different words, “I’m ready.”

Fueled and fed, we walked. I detached from my group, eager to eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers heading to the National Mall. Most dialogue alternated between snide dismissals of our new president– “absolute narcissist, insecure idiot.” They marvelled with still-shocked laughter at his victory–and quieter, fearful remarks about the nominations he has made, what they could do, and who he could hurt.

Many of those people, the most vulnerable populations under this administration, were at the March. Immigrants, people of color, gay men and women, and transgender people were all accounted for; it seemed nearly every demographic could at least be checked off, if the largest group in attendance was still white women. And many of those who have been and will be offended and attacked by our “creepy tweeter of a leader” (as we chanted) were not there. I looked at the white college kids who surrounded my little bubble, getting buzzed off of coffees and conflict: were they too wondering if the woman who served them breakfast chose to work instead of march–or did she not have that choice?

Conversations amongst pussy hat wearers were loaded with words like, “fascism, democratization, equality, poverty, racism, misogyny,” while radical conservatives carried “Rape Melania” signs to the Inauguration, in an attempt to make peaceful protesters look bad. There weren’t many supporters of our orange president at the March, though maybe they were simply driven back into their hotel rooms when faced with the disturbing images of women attending an event without their husbands escorting them, and with no visible sign of an authorized permission slip. Maybe the image of so many vaginas, paired with the word “pussy” passing through the mouths of thousands like a giant joint, rubbed them the wrong way.

In all seriousness, one of the unique and vital aspects of this March was its vulgarity. He started it. And we will respond to it as directly and blatantly as possible. If the president can talk about grabbing pussies without consent, dismissing it as “locker room talk” instead of resigning to live the life he was meant to live — one characterized by tiny hands signing large checks to pay for expensive sex — then we are not going to let him have the last word about our pussies. If he wants to tell us how he really feels about our vaginas, that they, like us, are simply shiny objects for him to touch, poke, and legislate as he pleases, then we too are going to get gruesome with our language. Drawings of vaginas on many posters were not abstract; they were detailed, graphic, and accurate. One sign read: “I did not come from your rib. You came from my vagina.” The March was a hub of harsh truths, defiantly detailed, calling out a variety of issues, all of which exist and all of which matter.

In terms of civility, the March reminded me of a hippie music festival; everyone was polite and considerate, grateful and attentive. As we lined up, one woman spoke to strangers about the history of political protest. Another group drummed on garbage cans, sang, and danced. A Southern mother, prompted by its presence on shirts and signs,  explained the meaning of the word “dissent” to her two young daughters.

The kindness of the March likely had something to do with the fact that, for the first time in almost two and a half months, we were finally happy. I had expected to essentially unite in despair and frustration–to push our agenda and demands–but feel pissed off and put down while doing so. That was not the case, certainly for myself, and ostensibly for everyone I witnessed. Arteries of united “women and women’s friends” as Elizabeth Warren aptly put it, were elated to feel the power in numbers, proving through turnout: we won the popular vote, and we won it with the help of all kinds of people, not a collection of trust-fund bigots and white men whose egos were threatened by Hillary. Of course, other kinds of people voted for him. We mustn’t forget those who wouldn’t call themselves sexist or racist, but can tolerate it in their government and their president. These people, who trust anger more than evidence, who value unsubstantiated economic improvement over equality, should be heard as well. I’m listening!

As we marched past his hotel, we encountered some red-capped dunces standing in front of it, doing nothing, making America great again.

“Shame! Shame!” I shouted, along with my sister and a shrill drag queen. It seemed to be the ultimate, adequate characterization of that collection of “shady frat guys,” as one marcher near me phrased it. We then stumbled upon a float with more of them–about eight men stood on it, looking bored, hungry, and illiterate. They were joined by one white woman, who was engaged in an endless cycle of patronizing waving and smiling.

“IS CLIMATE CHANGE A CHINESE HOAX?” A woman next to me addressed the float of wealthy-looking deplorables, who looked as passionate to be protesting as Sean Spicer looks while lying.

“I love you,” the woman answered, nodding with faux understanding, like an under qualified guidance counselor. The woman next to me repeated her question. It remained unanswered, but she was again assured that she had the other woman’s love. I’m sure that was more than enough to appease her.

In the moment, I didn’t understand why the shady frat guys were there. What did they get out of renting a float and organizing a police motorcade to escort them, just to wave at, and look down on, a crowd whose relative size made them appear smaller than their president’s single ball? My confusion wasn’t clarified until later, when I turned to Fox News.

Fox replayed a video of Madonna cursing during her speech, editing the footage so that she looked like a cartoon villain. It was almost offensively immature. Fox’s strategy was to make protestors appear as violent and intolerant as possible. Now I was starting to understand the presence of the other side at the March. They wanted to be human triggers. It’s fitting that these kinds of hyper-insecure people voted a deranged infant into the White House. The fact* that something so small as the size of his tiny crowds sends him into manic obsession and utter incompetency is proof perfect that he is dangerously unfit to serve as president.

On the other hand, I was inspired and delighted by how CNN covered the speech he made at the CIA headquarters, answering the question that, of course, was most pressing to everyone there: how many people were at his Inauguration yesterday? No one wanted to hear the president voice his gratitude for the fallen agents whose memorial was visible behind him as he spoke. No one wanted to hear concrete ideas about foreign policy, or any policy for that matter. Instead, everyone needed to hear his comforting words, that the crowd at his Inauguration was huge! A million and a half people! It extended all the way to the Washington monument! The reporters at CNN, using photos, metro records, and estimates made by crowd size experts, objectively acknowledged these lies, as well as those made by Press Secretary Spicer.

They spent the segment analyzing why he lied, and why it matters that he lied. The consensus was clear: ignoring decorum, ignorant of context, and devoid of decency, this man will craft, condone, and spread any lie that he thinks makes him look good. We know this, but it’s important to repeat it. Every time we analyze the president’s words and actions we have to bear in mind that he is an idiot, and he is a liar. Make it your mantra if you have to.

The events of this weekend further prove the importance of language, and the vastly different approach various Americans have toward implementing it. One irony of the albeit radical “alt-right” population is that even the way they attempt to make protesters appear indecent shows how little respect they have for women, even those who are politically aligned with them. They didn’t consider how Melania might feel after seeing those signs; they considered the best way to make their guy look big and strong, and the attack on his wife’s sense of security was collateral damage. After all, she’s just a wife. Just a woman.

This may be a golden age for American journalism. On his first full day in the White House, reporters called him out on purporting blatant falsehoods. His entire administration was made a ridicule from day one; the president’s dominance and deftness doesn’t exonerate his willing tools. Journalists have the rare opportunity to objectively, in a non-partisan fashion, criticize the president on the basis of his intentional lies. This man continues to be a gift to ratings, but hopefully his moral failures and lapses in intelligence will do more: breed a generation of watchdogs, a nation of dissenters, and millions of nasty women.

 

 

Photo by Dylan Crow/ NYU Shanghai.

*Clarification:  here, “fact” means “fact.” Bears no relation to newly coined term, “alternative fact.”

To respond to this article, or to submit an op-Ed, contact bardwatchmanaging@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “Politicization of the Pussy: Women’s March Rhetoric Defies Politeness and Demands Equality

  1. Thank you for your article and the enlightenment of all these important issues that were caused by sir Donald Duck ‘s ridiculous ridicules of all common men and women. Please keep up the fantastic work and never feel alone in the truth. No alternative truths will hold true ever thanks to honest journalists like yourself . Much obliged very greatful.

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