Side by side, it’s apparent that stupid is as stupid does (see WSJ Editorial below). In America we can bite the hand that feeds us, not so in other parts of the world. This year it’s Trump (“before we know what’s in it”) where we all have a right to oppose him when he’s wrong, but also to remain open to supporting him when he and the Republican majority Congress make worthy proposals … such as replacing awful Obamacare with something better.
‘You’re so vain, you prolly think this march is about you,” read a sign at Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. I thought to myself: This is about him, isn’t it?
I put that question to Breanne Butler, the march’s global coordinator, who insisted the answer was no: “This isn’t a march on Trump,” she said. “It’s a march on Washington,” including Congress, the Supreme Court and “any other representatives.” The message, according to Ms. Butler: “Hear our voices, we’ve been silenced. You need to take us into consideration. . . . We are America.”
That sounded a lot like the message voters were sending when they made Donald Trump president: They felt marginalized and voiceless. Ms. Butler, a 27-year-old New Yorker on sabbatical from her job as a pastry chef, said she hopes progressives and Trump voters can acknowledge their differences and find common ground, although she later called Mr. Trump’s election “a symptom of a bigger disease,” namely “complacency.”
Complacency didn’t seem to be a problem for the self-proclaimed “nasty women”—and men—who made the pilgrimage to the capital. They numbered perhaps half a million. And if Ms. Butler’s title, global coordinator, seemed grandiose for a march “on Washington,” it wasn’t. She had a hand in organizing more than 600 marches in every state and on all seven continents—yes, even Antarctica.
In Mr. Trump’s hometown, an estimated 400,000 people marched down Second Avenue. Women in Japan marched for higher education; in Ethiopia, for clean water. The Antarctic march took place aboard a boat.
The marchers in Washington seemed to have a million messages. One big theme was reproductive rights. “Get your policies out of my exam room,” read one sign defending Planned Parenthood. Others read “Save ACA, live long, and prosper,” “My body my business,” and “Reproductive rights are human rights.” Many women carried signs depicting the female anatomy or wore crocheted pink cat ears—a pun on a vulgar term Mr. Trump once uttered.
There were plenty of other pet causes. “Racial justice = LGBTQ issues,” read one sign. A popular poster featured a woman in an American-flag hijab and the words “We the people are greater than fear.” Forty-year-old Pablo Rosa, who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13, carried a sign that said “Mexico owes US nothing.” Other posters called Mr. Trump “the Kremlin candidate” and “Putin’s pawn,” pleaded to “protect our planet,” and proclaimed: “Public education is a civil right.”
The mood on Saturday was upbeat—surprisingly so, given the divisions that emerged during the march’s planning. Leading up to the march several posts on the organization’s social media pages erupted in controversy. ShiShi Rose, a social media administrator for the march, wrote an Instagram post titled “White Allies Read Below.” She instructed that “no ally ever got very far without acknowledgment of their privilege daily” and informed white women that they “don’t just get to join because you’re scared too. I was born scared.”
The comments exploded. “This makes me not want to go now,” one woman wrote. “This is all for all women! Not just black, white but brown, Muslim etc.” Another observed that “women were suppressed throughout history. This is an event about women banding together, not tearing each other apart because you’re bitter.”
When I asked Ms. Butler about such exchanges, she said they had concerned her initially. But after reading one of the posts, she concluded its author had a point: “We aren’t taking your history into consideration, and we need to.”
It’s clear that Mr. Trump’s presidency is galvanizing progressive voters. A community organizer from New York told me that watching Mr. Trump choose his cabinet reminded her of playing “the opposite game,” nominating “the worst people who could possibly run these departments.”
Saturday was a comfort for many of the protesters, a succor for their Trump fears. But what will come of it? Organizers like to compare this protest to other women’s marches, and reporters have even likened it to the civil-rights movement. But the difference between #WhyIMarch, which could be followed by any reason under the progressive sun, and women advocating for the right to vote is their ability to articulate their mission and gather behind a single goal.
“If we can all agree that we need to secure the rights of these people that have been silenced,” Ms. Butler said, “I really see hope for our country’s future.” But it remains unclear what single accomplishment, short of President Trump’s removal from office, would give these protesters the feeling Susan B. Anthony would have had if she’d lived to see nationwide women’s suffrage.
Ms. O’Connor is an assistant editorial features editor at the Journal.