sexist reactions legitimize the women’s march

sexist reactions legitimize the women’s march January 31, 2017


While I never hid the fact that I was critical of several aspects of the Women’s March – especially after the controversy about inclusion of pro-life feminists – I also was clear about my support for the overall intention of the March, as a protest against the Trump regime, and as a gesture in solidarity against inequality, injustice, and violence. Since the March, I have been happy to read a number of accounts of participants who were encouraged by the overall attitude of welcome. One of the most gratifying outcomes even of the controversy has been that lines of communication between pro-life and pro-choice fmeinists have been opened. I’ve long believed that such communication is vital in our creation of a pro-life culture, so I have great hope in spite of the many obstacles that I face – as a pro-life advocate, and as a feminist.

But there were other reactions to the March as well: sneering, sexist, misogynistic attacks. Some of these were inevitable, since wherever independent women gather, it’s a guarantee that men who are threatened by equality will lash out in fear. In some cases, though, I was surprised at the degree not only of the malice, but of the sheer stupidity. And I was disheartened to find that so much of this came from fellow-catholics who, even if they didn’t understand the purpose of the march, ought at least to have received an elementary education on the dignity of persons – even female persons.

Both men and women were posting memes with images of the march, and such captions as: “Men finally enjoying relaxing Saturday with women out of the house.” Or: “What happened to all the ham sandwiches that were supposed to be made?” Or: “Look, Johnny! An angry liberal woman with purple hair wearing a vagina hat is here to lecture us about human dignity!” – which could actually be taken as an insult to two of the most vocal and active pro-life feminists, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, and Aimee Murphy,both of whom have fabulous hair. But the people who post these memes will not admit the possibility that “pro-life feminist” is a real thing.

(One wonders what sorts of peculiar sexual experiences the men posting these memes have had -or not had – if they labor under the delusion that a vagina has cat-ears).

Now, it’s a common misunderstanding that feminists have no sense of humor. That’s inaccurate: one has to have a sense of humor in order to survive in a world in which we’re told simultaneously that men are more rational and less hormonal, AND that we have to cover ourselves with sacks or men will be led into wild paroxysms of lust when they see us in yoga pants, because they Just Can’t Help It. The problem is not with our lack of humor: the problem is that these sexist tropes are so hammered into the ground, they ceased being funny about three minutes after they were born.

There was the usual body-shaming: Republican state Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion on Sunday retweeted a comment by on a picture of three women pictured with signs protesting Donald Trump’s comments about touching women inappropriately: “Ladies, I think you’re safe.”

And sundry variations on: “Michelle Obama couldn’t get that many fat women out walking in 8 years!”

(Dear sexist dudes: are you really sure you want to go there? REALLY? I mean, I think judging people for their looks or body types is shallow and unethical, but it’s hard to avoid noticing that most of the men body-shaming women aren’t exactly going to be invited to be featured on the cover of GQ any time soon).

A lot of the memes were in the category of “we just don’t get it, but don’t know that we don’t get it.” According to many happy, well-off white women, it is a fact that, basically, “women aren’t really oppressed because I don’t feel oppressed.” There were several variations on the theme of “real women march into war” (this from a demographic that consistently opposes women in the military).

Best of all: apparently we women should be grateful for our American men because they don’t stone us, pour acid on us, or mutilate our genitals? Gee, thanks men! Wow, you are so heroic not to do that to us! You’re basically Sir Galahad, every time you resist the temptation to pelt us with rocks.

And then there were the moral attacks. People could not get it out of their heads that the March wasn’t about abortion. Real women, it was asserted, march for life.  One person – female, actually – asserted that the march participants were quite definitively possessed (hey, Vatican, who let the amateur exorcists out again?).

Of course, plenty of women I know attended both marches, but I guess they don’t get to be real women

Perhaps the weirdest reaction of all was one that was meant in kindness:

…It was a complex moment fueled by historical wounds, ungodly political agendas, and broken desires. But at the root, it was a reaction to the absence of Godly men. A reaction to generations of fathers who never loved, husbands who never cherished, and brothers who never valued. It was wives, sisters, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers screaming the songs of oppression, of belittlement, and of confusion. Men, the women of our world are hurting for the truth. Their protests are also pleas to us for more love, for more value, and for more leadership. Men, it’s time we recognize the reservoir of wisdom that sits within our women. It’s time we see the value Christ placed on our counterpart. And it’s time to grow up, know up, and show up to the roles God has placed before us. Remember, when men become boys, women become men…

Aside from the fact that the person who posted this in any other context would assert that women can’t possibly become men – you’ve got to appreciate the level of mansplainy-ness here. As one friend of mine remarked: “The women’s march was about… Wait for it… MEN!”

Now, I don’t post this to denigrate men. I like men. I married one (well, two, actually, but the first didn’t count). I cherish the many close friendships I have had with men over the years, and am deeply grateful for the support and perspectives of male feminist allies. I am especially fond of Pope Francis, who is by necessity male – and I wish more people listened to him. But the fact is, we women do have a whole vast array of experiences, desires, hopes, and fears that don’t really pertain directly to men in general, or to any male human in particular.

And that was why women were marching.

And the responses to these women made me realize all the more just how necessary feminism still is.

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