The presence of men at The March on Washington matters.
One of the largest mass demonstrations in world history made its mark on January 21, 2017. The Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches had 2.6 million participants in total, far more than anyone ever anticipated. People in cities across the world marched against Donald Trump’s bigotry—and their voices were heard loud and clear.
The March was imperfect—White Feminism reared its ugly head at the event as it has at many before, and the focus on genitalia struck many as exclusive to trans women.
Although dominated by women (as it should have been) there were many male allies at the marches.
Historically, the hard work of feminism has not been taken up by those with the most power in the patriarchal system in which we live—straight men (especially white ones). The work of explaining the harm done by this system has fallen mostly to those most impacted by it, and that is unfair and deeply inefficient.
This issue is spoken to in the concept of female emotional labor—the idea that women and femmes have to exert energy to manage others’ feelings and make them comfortable. This can arise in many settings, not just in discussions of social issues, but it is definitely a common complaint from feminists.
This article on Everyday Feminism explains female and femme emotional labor extremely articulately, and its definitely worth a read.
In a world where feminists are often painted as angry man-haters who should be ignored, it would have been easy for men to skip the March. But they didn’t, and that is historic. They came—and for the most part, they were respectful.
Kat Stutz, who attended the March in Olympia, Washington state’s capital, said that she really appreciated seeing men there with women, not taking up space but offering themselves to help. “A lot of them stuck with whatever woman they were with, kind of saying, ‘this isn’t my thing, I’m here to help,” said Stutz.
Many male allies had signs that mentioned their privilege, with sayings like “Men of Quality don’t fear equality,” which I think speaks to what feminism has become—a movement for people of all genders, not just women.
In Trump’s America, we all need allies—white folks need to show up for people of color, citizens for immigrants, and cis men for those of other gender identities. We don’t stand a chance against fascism without each other—but with some help from our friends, we just might get through the next four years.
Casey O’Brien is a junior at the University of Puget Sound where she is the editor in chief of the student newspaper, The Puget Sound Trail. She loves nature, good food, dogs, and intersectional feminism.