Dispatches from D.C.: ‘My Pussy Has Claws’

At the Women's March, SF Weekly's Jay Duret saw an uplifting vision of resistance to President Tiny Hands' disturbing portrayal of American life at the inauguration.

(Cartoon by Jay Duret)

Trump’s inauguration was held under gray, ominous skies, and when it was over, all of D.C. seemed gray. In the enormous security perimeter that ringed the capital, the streets were closed to traffic. Police and military at every intersection. City buses strategically parked on corners to create urban barricades. In my travels in Central America years ago, I saw young men in green military fatigues holding machine guns; now that’s here.

On Friday, there were protesters skirmishing with the police here and there throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Where I walked you could feel a soggy, sullen vibration in the crowd as if confrontation was welcome, expected, likely, though I saw almost no violence. Plenty of chants and cheers: “Fuck Donald Trump.”

Trump supporters were out, too, taking a victory lap after being pumped-up at the inauguration. The souvenir vendors were trying hard to move their merchandise before the end of the day, and there were clumps of men and women buying T-shirts and hats and scarves. I followed a group of three men in red caps carrying road-sign-size banners that simply read “Trump!” in enormous letters. They appeared to want to get the attention of the protesters congregating in Franklin Square, but they did not want to have an altercation, so they boastfully but warily cruised the outskirts of the park.

When I returned to the hotel after a long day wandering the streets, the lobby was packed. Happy hour. A group of protesters had come in from the street, and their signs were propped against the wall as they sat on their backpacks in a circle on the floor. In the center of the lobby, a statuesque woman with her hair upswept was wearing a red-and-gold designer ball gown, tight on her body but widening out at her feet as if she were standing in an upside down coffee filter. Scattered around the lobby, drinking wine in clusters, there were women of all ages wearing jeans and hiking boots, sweaters and down vests, clearly just arrived from points near and distant, ready for the Women’s March.

I went up to my room, gloomy as the sky, wondering whether the march would be a more joyful affair.

***

On the morning of the Women’s March, I woke up to sirens. A convoy of white police cruisers circled the square outside my window, lights flashing. The morning news was full of postmortem dissection of Trump’s inauguration speech and reports on the glitter and glamour of the inauguration balls. Trump had already found time to sign an executive order putting another nail in the coffin of Obamacare.

***

When I opened the smartphone app for the Women’s March, I found the mission statement. It began:

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

I compare this vision to the way that Trump had depicted the country in his inauguration speech:

“… mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here.”

(Cartoon by Jay Duret)
(Cartoon by Jay Duret)

***

On the street, marchers were starting to head for the rallying point. Every other woman was wearing a pink furry hat with two little ears. I wondered if many men would wear them. For a minute or two, I saw only women, but then I spotted a man on the corner proudly representing; he is not afraid to wear a “pussyhat.”

(Cartoon by Jay Duret)
(Cartoon by Jay Duret)

***

There were more and more protest signs as I got closer to the rallying point. The signs were not all pre-printed in some corporate slogan shop like you see at political rallies or astroturf events. Many of these signs were homemade, and while there were many common themes, the variation was seemingly endless. The signs, I realized, told the story of the Women’s March.

Some focused on empowerment:

“Proud Nasty Woman.”

“The Fempire Strikes Back.”

There were signs that insulted and belittled Trump and Pence:

“Keep Your Tiny Hands to Yourself.”

“Tiny Hands, Huge A-Hole.”

Many of the signs focused on women’s right to control their own bodies. I like the one that said, “Keep Your Tweets Off My Teets.” Another said, “No Politics in My Vagina.” Several warned the president that he had better be careful if he thinks about grabbing:

“My Pussy Has Claws.”

“Stop Putin Your Hands Where They Don’t Belong.”

Others express a philosophy:

“Facts Matter.”

“Science Is Not a Liberal Conspiracy.”

The march is preceded by several hours of speakers and performers.
“Pressing send is not enough,” feminist icon Gloria Steinem told the crowd. “We have to put our bodies where our beliefs are.” She got huge applause when she said that if Trump creates a Muslim registry, “We will all sign up.”

The filmmaker Michael Moore went on at length with a list of ways that activists can fight back against the new administration. He asked the crowd to promise to call their senator and congressmen every day. He gave the phone number for the United States House of Representatives — (202) 225-3121) — and repeated it again and again as if he were a telemarketer.

(Cartoon by Jay Duret)
(Cartoon by Jay Duret)

 

The actress Ashley Judd had the great line “Donald Trump bathes in Cheeto dust.” She then told the audience, “We were born to be nasty” and “Pussies are power.”

Van Jones, the CNN commentator and Obama’s former green-jobs czar, spoke for a while about “The Love Army.” There were a number of political types — it is D.C. after all. The best is Tammy Duckworth who says that Women are the Wall and Trump, not Mexico, will Pay.

As the speeches went on and on, the audience got restive. Sporadic chants erupted: “Start the march now!” But the atmosphere was respectful and friendly. No fights or altercations. Lots of hugs and laughter. There were so many marchers that it was unclear exactly which way the march was supposed to go. The side streets were all thronged with people and only single-file tendrils could make their way through the crush. Some people marched in place. Many took selfies with each other.

Other celebrities made appearances: Alicia Keys, Katy Perry.

Everyone wanted to know how many people have come. Early on, Gloria Steinem said she didn’t know the number but points out that there were 1,000 more buses for the march than for Trump’s inauguration.

The crowd estimates rose as the day went on. At first it was 250,000, then 300,000. Someone says 500,000. Then a million. By the end of the rally, I hear 1.8 million. Clearly, no one has any idea. But every direction you looked, there was a sea of people. A majority were women, but there were many men, girls, and boys.

When the march finally began, a good-natured festive air blows through the crowd like a wind. Everyone was happy to be moving. I walked with a group that had a great walking chant: “We want a real leader, do not want a creepy tweeter.”

As we passed in front of Trump International Hotel, the crowd was celebratory. There were screams and laughter. People raised their middle fingers in a salute. Bullhorns led call and response: “We will not go away! Welcome to your first day.”

I saw a contingent from San Francisco carrying a sign with the picture of a bear and the words “Leading the Resistance.” I like that sign, but even better was one that said what it is that I sometimes feel: “UGH, Where Do I Even Start?”

At the Metro stop, marchers have curated an exhibit with their signs. It is a marvelous testimony to the richness, variety, and humor of the marchers’ voices. It is the necessary counterpoint to the gray of Inauguration Day:

(Photo by Jay Duret)
(Photo by Jay Duret)

 

 

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