by Sarah Davin
January 20 was the anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March, which drew out millions of people across the country to protest and support women’s rights among a host of other causes, including reproductive and LGBTQ rights, racial equality, immigration, and worker protections. Nearly 500,000 descended on Washington D.C., while in Vermont, around 15,000 people descended on Montpelier
Again this year, an explosion of pink hats appeared on the streets of Montpelier, worn by women and men, young and old. The atmosphere was one of determination mixed with a solemn acknowledgment of what is and a fearlessness to shape what will be. I couldn’t help smiling, even a little deviously, because I was doing something that even today is transgressive: I was a woman in a public space making a statement.
Silencing women is nothing new in Western culture. In the book “Women & Power: a Manifesto” published in 2017, English scholar and classicist Mary Beard examines and traces the roots of misogyny descending from the ancient Greco-Roman tradition. She writes, “Public speech was a —if not the—defining attribute of maleness. Or, to quote a well-known Roman slogan, the elite male citizen could be summoned up as vir bonus dicendi peritus, ‘a good man, skilled in speaking.’ A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman.
”Although numbers for the 2018 march were smaller, millions of women took part around the world. Two hundred thousand marched in New York City, about half a million in Los Angeles, and three thousand in our own Montpelier. Add in the international protests in cities such as Oslo, Berlin, London, and Rome, and the sense of unity is mind-boggling, and the grandness has not gone away.
As packed-in protesters tried in vain to make more space for newcomers in front of City Hall, I could see people lining both sides of Main Street and around the corner of Cool Jewels. I thought about how excited I would feel watching footage later that evening of the day’s other women’s marches and that although I may have been hundreds of miles away from them, we were all connected in a massive expression of unity, discontentment, and a desire for change.
In 1920, the 19th Amendment was adopted, granting women the right to vote. Nearly 100years later, the process of reshaping our culture into one that accepts women as equals in discourse has so far been a slow one. Political spaces are overwhelmingly masculine, and rather than the space adapting to include women, women are unfairly expected to adapt themselves. The Women’s March is an event in which women can speak publicly and politically without adapting themselves. The act of wearing loud, pink hats is the symbolic antithesis to the demureness expected of women, sending out the message of feminine pride and support.
In response to the marches, President Donald Trump sent out a tweet saying how protestors ought to be celebrating his presidency. Here we have a man, in the highest political position in the land, trying to nullify the voices of millions by pretending that by putting words in their mouths or mocking them he can silence the opposition. He unabashedly tries to take the power away from women, because there is something deeply ingrained in our culture that says the only good woman is a silent one.
The Women’s March may not be a celebration, but if it were to celebrate one thing, it would be womanhood. While Trump tries to define women with terms like “bimbo” and “Miss Housekeeping,” women across our nation will be busy with a different task. To paraphrase Mary Beard, we will no longer be redefining ourselves; it is time to redefine the power.