×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

After the Marches, the Hard Part: Women Must Strive for Unity

The great roar heard around the world on Jan. 21 was the sound of a political safety valve exploding.

After 74 days of anguish following the election of Donald Trump, women on the liberal end of the ideological spectrum needed the release and recharge that came with turning out by the millions at marches around the U.S., as well as London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and other locations.

The solidarity found in marshaling that sisterhood — with the assist of husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers — left me, along with an estimated 500,000 others who attended the Women’s March on Washington, awestruck. It was the kind of large-scale shared experience that has become rare in the age of online communities and fragmented media consumption. The sea of pink “pussyhats” that formed the day after the inauguration became a potent and cheeky symbol of defiance.

But there were aspects that were disconcerting. The unchecked venom directed at Trump in many homemade signs demonstrated the political and cultural divisions this country faces. I spotted a woman and young girl walking around wrapped in yellow police barricade tape that read “F–k you” rather than “Do not cross.”

The expressions of defiance reflected the punch to the uterus delivered Nov. 8, after months of predictions that Hillary Clinton would easily defeat Trump. The pain was made worse by the fact that Clinton lost to a man with a track record of shocking behavior toward women. After achieving the proud milestone of electing Barack Obama as our first African-American president, the rise of Trump feels like a betrayal — as if nearly half the electorate decided to reject common decency for an ill-defined promise to “make America great again.”

Perhaps the hardest statistic to accept is the fact that a majority of white women voted for Trump — 53%, to Clinton’s 43%. Of white women voters, some 45% with college degrees went for Trump, along with 62% of non-college graduates.

The rally before the D.C. march featured a marathon list of fiery speakers. Crowds were urged to form a new resistance to Trump policy proposals ranging from vows to defund Planned Parenthood and roll back abortion rights to creating a national registry for Muslim-Americans. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., rightly demanded that Trump and his controversial campaign- chief-turned-special-counselor Steve Bannon “stop sending those dog whistles to white supremacists” with their political rhetoric. Appearances by Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis provided a historical link to civil rights movements of the recent past.

But in more than four hours of speechifying, there were virtually no calls for bridge-building with the women who supported Trump. The spirit of tolerance and inclusion that was eloquently expressed by activists ranging from America Ferrera to Janet Mock to Linda Sarsour should also apply to recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of those who identify as conservative, or anti-abortion, or even pro-Trump.

There has to be some common ground to strive for among mothers (and fathers), young women, seniors, women in poverty, and women with disabilities. The stark ideological divisions and suspicions created a political vacuum that Trump filled with a dystopian message rooted in fear. Demonizing those with opposing viewpoints will only deepen the trenches on both sides.

At the Washington march, it was a man who came closest to expressing this sentiment. Van Jones, founder of the nonprofit Dream Corps aimed at criminal justice reform and the Love Army movement, reminded the crowd that it takes work to live up to an oft-seen slogan at the marches: “Love trumps hate.”

“Real love is the strongest stuff in the universe,” he said. “We gotta be better liberals and better progressives. I’m tired of hearing us say ‘Love trumps hate’ but sometimes sound more hateful than Trump. I’m tired of us putting down the red-state voters and saying they’re all stupid and they’re all uneducated. We have to stop that. Just because somebody made a bad vote doesn’t make them a bad person.”

The passion and conflict on display during the inaugural weekend — from the chest-beating of those in the red “Make America great” hats to the fist-pumping of the pink pussyhats — is the stuff of great drama. There are stories to be mined from this moment that should expand the boundaries of empathy and compassion we have for one another as Americans. If this election taught us anything, it is that we have lost any semblance of national unity at a time when our demographics are irrevocably shifting to a younger, more multicultural and multiracial composition. Trump’s election won’t staunch this progress.

Rather than deepening the us-against-them attitudes that divide men and women, urban and rural, whites and people of color, young and old, we should aim higher in our quest for the fabled “more perfect union.” Hollywood can help that effort.

As Jones stated so succinctly: “When it gets harder to love, let’s love harder.”

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Jo Jo Rabbit Once Upon a

    Why Younger Actors Could Be Crashing the Oscar Nominations

    Tatum O’Neal was only 10 years old when she became the youngest actor to win an Oscar in 1974 for her work alongside her father, Ryan O’Neal, in “Paper Moon.”  Besides O’Neal, the only other young Oscar winners have been Anna Paquin, who at age 11 went home with the supporting actress Oscar for “The Piano” [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content