Perhaps I can’t answer that question. I can say that several million people clearly felt like they, their loved ones, and our communities needed it.
I can also tell you who doesn’t need the Women’s March, or any other movement for equality. Powerful, wealthy elites like the Donald don’t need it. Nor does Matt Walsh, “Christian” pseudo-intellectual extraordinaire. Nor, it turns out, do many of the women I know in the social media world. For them, this march was all about the excesses of feminism. And they want nothing to do with it.
This so-called “Women’s March” does not speak for them (or the women they know, in the case of bloviating fools like Mr. Walsh). So stop calling it that– liberal feminists don’t speak for all women! No word on whether or not they will change the “Pro-life” march to something more accurate like “Theocracy Fans Against Abortion.” The question they keep begging seems to be “why would any women need this march?” Their answer is obvious. None. Women lack no rights in America.
I’ll let you in on a little secret we in the citizenship studies world are always talking about: rights in a democratic society are not just about what the government says you can and cannot do. In fact, full citizenship involves two distinct tracks in a democratic society– de jure (as they are written in law) and de facto (as they are practiced in reality). In some cases the overlap between de jure and de facto is pretty large. But more often than not, there is a “yuge” gap between the two. You might think women have all the de jure rights of men (they don’t– but I write this blog for free so let’s just pretend they do and tackle that subject another day). But it would take a galling level of ignorance to believe that the de facto rights of women were equal to those of men. Especially us straight, white ones.
How are women not equal to men, in reality?
Well, I’ve spent most of my adult life on college campuses and I’ve never seen or heard of a male student who feared being raped if he walked home by himself late at night. Sure, it is illegal to rape anyone. But that doesn’t change the reality of who this is more dangerous for or how this impacts a women’s ability to pursue her idea of the “good life” (one of the foundational rights of life in a democratic society). That is how the difference between de jure and de facto work.
The subject of sexual assault alone is rife with illustrations. Had too many drinks the night a sexual assault occurs? Dress “provocatively”? Danced with people? Probably a slut who was asking for it. You definitely need to justify your actions to explain why a man forced himself on you. Feed shots to a girl all night to get lucky? You are basically the star of a (crappy) bro country song. This is not equal.
It isn’t “just” about sexual conduct (though it would be enough for me if it were). Here are some other examples.
Walk into a college classroom, you’ll note a stark difference between being a man and a woman. I command attention from my students. They universally give me respect from the first moment of class. I’m confident and in-charge. I’ve watched female colleagues behave very similarly to the way I do just to be labeled arrogant and “bitchy.” My hard rules and strict enforcement make me disciplined, organized, and structured in their eyes. Women doing this are viewed as crazy, mean, and (again) a bitch. Students are mandated by the university to respect us the same. They simply do not. This deeply alters our learning environments, outcomes, and reviews. That is de facto overruling de jure. And it is the norm from classrooms to boardrooms across this country.
As a scholar, I can tell you that the historic wage gap remains in place. If you are a woman, there is an overwhelming chance you make less money for what you do than a male peer in business, government, technology, healthcare, the arts, and even in supposed bastions of liberal values like higher education. How can this be happening? The law says you can’t do that. But in reality, these rights are nearly impossible to enforce. And since no one is making them stop, institutions go right on discriminating.
Women have to fight to be able to breastfeed in public. A basic human right, feeding a child, in its most natural form is something that is stigmatized even where the legal system has loosened the chain. Somehow, this is still a thing certain people (men and women) get bizarrely upset about and pressure women not to do.
Health insurance plans can refuse to pay for a variety of reproductive health services. They pretty much all cover erectile dysfunction meds (and no one expects a man to take any precautions with regards to having children). Sometimes they hide behind religion (I cannot fathom how the people who tell me sex is only for procreation and that I should be in a monogamous, married relationship to have sex also think we need boner pills for men who by their standard are no longer in reproductively capable relationships). Other times they use market-oriented excuses. The reality is, women have less control and higher costs for their basic healthcare needs. Hooray for equality.
Professional women still don’t have mandated paid maternity leave– it is considered a generous “benefit” from their employer. Cut any business man’s stomach open (or perhaps push a bowling ball sized kidney stone through his reproductive parts) and see how long he can be out– and with some sort of pay. Hell, often times women don’t even get unpaid leave. For birthing children. So much for pro-life.
Women are still much more objectified and sexualized. No editorial comment needed.
Women face greater stigma with regards to weight and aging. There is a reason TV doesn’t have a female version of Kevin James. No one knows any couples like that. No need for a male Cougertown. It is just called being successful as a man.
Women are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victim of domestic abuse. Girlfriends and wives get beaten and murdered by their “loving” male partners every day. Again, it is illegal. But it is also reality. And it shows no signs of slowing down. That is equality?
This list is neither full or exhaustive. There are many other examples. And they all show the same thing– a world where women face a host of challenges, limitations, and discriminatory actions (including death) simply for being born female.
Maybe these things don’t apply to you. Maybe you think women should have to carry these burdens. Maybe you just accept them as reality. After all, things can and have been worse. But ask yourself this: Do you accept them for your friend? Do you accept them for your girlfriend or wife? Do you accept them for your mother? Do you accept them for your sister? Do you accept them for your daughter? Do you accept them for your granddaughter?
Let me return to the question I opened this post with. Who needs the Women’s March? Fathers and mothers. Brothers and sisters. Teachers and parents. Friends and lovers. People. All of us.