The Peaceful Right to Protest: The Women’s March on Washington
By: Andrea and Brittany
Protests have been happening since the birth of our country. Boston Tea Party, anyone? The First Amendment protects our right to free speech and peaceful assembly. So, whether we take the same stance as protesters, it simply doesn’t matter. It is a basic American right. I don’t always think protests make sense or are always effective, but they are one of the beauties of our democracy.
This past weekend, women (and men) showed up more than a million strong for the Women’s March on Washington. While the main stage was centered in Washington, D.C., hundreds of other crowds gathered throughout the entire nation, and even in some countries, in support of the march. When you pull back and look at the big picture, it illustrates America at its finest: a grassroots effort, started by a few concerned women in Hawaii, that snowballed into a protest that rippled throughout the world. It’s quite remarkable.
This Women’s March on Washington had me intrigued, so over the weekend I tuned into C-SPAN for the latest. Just as I suspected, the crowds were astounding and the celebrities were center stage. I probably had the TV on for no more than 15 minutes before I had to turn it off. Not because I disagreed with their cause (I actually believe in a huge chunk of it), but because the woman on stage was firing off such vulgarities that I was finding it hard to listen to her actual message, and then my kids walked into the room. They’re young. I’m not a proponent of sheltering them from every little thing going on in the world, but they are 7, 4, and almost 2. I didn’t think they needed to be exposed to what I always tell them is “garbage talk.” And quite frankly, I don’t either.
While so many uplifting and inspiring messages came from this protest, I feel like it was, unfortunately, massively overshadowed by that “garbage talk”–such ugly things that I physically flinched during portions of the speeches (and that’s coming from someone who worked in politics for years and, unfortunately, got used to hearing it). This rhetoric was taken to a shameful low. Madonna thoughtlessly spewing, “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House,” while dropping so many “f-bombs” that whatever message she had to say was completely lost. Ashley Judd suggesting that the President of the United States views his daughter in such an inappropriate way that I don’t even want to type it here. And so many vulgar, crude, lewd protest signs that completely distracted from the main purpose of their protest.
No one is required to hold their tongue in protests or elsewhere. Even ugly, dark rhetoric is included in freedom of speech. But sometimes, I think to really hit a point home, our words, and how we choose to convey them, mean everything.
Those words got me thinking about the point of this march and why these protesters were there in the first place. These women were there to fight for women’s rights and, quite frankly, what it means to be a woman in America; what it means to be a respected, revered woman anywhere.
It got me thinking about what I think it means to be a respected, revered woman and what I hope to teach my daughters about femininity. In our home “garbage talk” has no place, will never have any place. It’s ugly and hateful and completely unnecessary. I hope to teach my daughters (AND sons) that words define our character and ugly words can make our countenances dark when we should shine. I hope to teach them that a beautiful woman is faithful, trusts in God, treats others with respect and kindness, is caring, classy, confident and compassionate. I hope to teach my daughters that they are smart, strong and can make a difference in the world if they work hard and love those around them. That strong women don’t have to be vulgar and crude. Kindness and softness is never a sign of weakness. I hope to teach them to never be afraid to stand up for their beliefs, even if they are in the minority. And that if they truly want to be a beautiful, respected, revered woman anywhere in this world, then to choose their words wisely, because our words reap our destiny. That’s what I hope my daughters always remember about femininity.
Thank you to those protesters who kept it classy, clean and respectful. Thank you to the protesters who kept it peaceful and stood up for their beliefs with dignity and confidence, even when others were trying to tear them down. You showed women all over the world what it means to be a strong, beautiful woman in America.
Democracy equates peaceful protests. Democracy equates letting our voices be heard. That’s what makes it truly beautiful. Words are everything.
Former White House and Capitol Hill staffer, wife, and mom.