A Sea of Pussy Hats

The Oakland Woman’s March, 60,000 strong, snaked around Lake Merritt and through the streets of the city on a windswept, mostly dry, Saturday. The mood was celebratory – and defiant – following the inauguration of Donald J. Trump the day before.

Pink, rose, and fuchsia pussy hats – knit caps with cat ears – adorned the heads of men, women and children, making bright pops of color against the concrete buildings and slate gray sky. The San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Band, installed at Grand and Harrison Street across from the Cathedral of Christ the Light, blasted out trumpet flourishes and catchy drum riffs.

I folded into the leading edge of the march, walking under signs that read, “You’re so Vain, You Probably Think this March is About You,” “Free Melania,” and “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” The image of Trump’s clenched fist, one of the most bizarre optics of his all too bizarre speech, was countered by thousands of protesters, many with children in strollers, marching through my city.

What Barack Obama has called “the audacity of hope” is the best way to describe the mood; that, plus a kind of infectious joy and in your face resistance to our newly installed president. All of us had other things to do, and places to be, and yet we chose to be right here, declaring our allegiance to the First Amendment and the rule of law.

Millions around the world joined in the protest. As images from Antarctica, Sydney, Berlin, Paris, London, Washington, D.C., New York, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, and Los Angeles popped up on my Facebook feed, I was comforted and inspired knowing that the world is watching, that we are not alone, and that whatever happens next will not happen under the cover of darkness.

We may be living through a “post-truth” era, but smartphone video has forever changed the ability of power to hide its abuses. We ordinary citizens have extraordinary power to shape our destiny – and it’s clear we’re not afraid to use it.

As I wrote in one of my posts as the marches unfolded, “Patriarchy, your days are numbered.”

One of my extended family, a guy, commented that he thought this was a divisive sentiment, that I was excluding men. On the contrary. To me, patriarchy is a rigid system of attempting to control others and how they think and act. It’s quite possible to be female and yet part of a patriarchal power structure – Margaret Thatcher comes readily to mind. Clearly, men of good will are very much part of the movement resisting Trump and standing up for our freedoms.

When patriarchy crumbles, and true, human-centered values flower, we all win. As Gloria Steinem said at the Washington, D.C. event, “This is the upside of the downside.” We are at a tipping point. It is up to each of us to stand for love, compassion, equality, and true care for our planet.

I walked home from the march with a renewed sense that this is not only possible, but unfolding before my eyes. This is our moment. Let’s seize it! For ideas on next steps, visit https://www.womensmarch.com/100/ and follow #WhyIMarch.