MENDOCINO Co. 1/14/2017 — In this new political era in which the president-elect uses Twitter to discuss public policy, the opposition is also organizing on social media. Women’s marches across the country and around the world are scheduled for January 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. The marches are taking shape on Facebook and Twitter, through memes and hashtags that invoke history, pop culture, and, in one case, a visual pun that is impossible to misinterpret. There are four marches scheduled for Mendocino county, in Ukiah, Laytonville, Gualala, and Fort Bragg. According to the Sister Marches website, 281 marches are planned worldwide, including one each in Iraq and Israel. And though they are specifically billed as women’s events, men and children are invited, as well.
A great deal of the arrangements for sign-making and carpooling happen online, where political analyses are laced with symbolic memes. The hashtag #WhyIMarch is a forum where people condense their reasons into 140-character Twitter haikus, take pictures of themselves holding lengthy large-print essays, or post memes that hearken back to civil rights and suffrage marches of the past. But nothing beats preparing for the event the old-fashioned way, in the world of face-to-face interactions. On January 12, a group of women ranging in age from 38 to 78 years old met at the Laytonville Grange to plan their route and talk about the focus of the march. Jane Evans, a 78-year-old American and British citizen, spoke afterwards about the issues that were important to her as an individual, and what the group of organizers had agreed would be the focus of the event.
The march, she emphasized, “is not an anti-Trump rally.” Organizers hope to use it as a springboard to create an active women’s group that will let the new administration know that they are watching. “We don’t want to be condemning or adding negativity” to the political discourse, she specified.
At 10:30am on January 21, marchers plan to gather in downtown Laytonville on both sides of the 101. Every hour, they intend to walk across the road, holding a banner. The group specifically decided against using slogans, so as not to be associated with any particular cause. Evans explained that the focus is “not negative or radical, just what we want.” While women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and the environment were high on the list of what organizers agree are important, Evans insisted that the three words that kept coming up during the meeting at the grange were the more general terms of justice, equality, and democracy, which she does not consider to be radical expectations. “We haven’t had democracy for a while,” she reflected.
Evans’ own experience as a child in London during World War II has also led her to be passionate about stopping the military buildup she fears is leading to more international violence. “To me, it looks like we’re on the verge of another war,” she said. “I know about bombs dropping nearby and the absolute horror of war. Most people here have not been through that.” She described “the terror of little children running to the air raid shelter, black out the lights, wait until the all clear signal, and then who knows what’s been bombed all around you.” She said she wants to “stop the military buildup and the military attitude” of leaders around the world, not just the future President of the United States.
Some marchers approach the event with a sense of humor, though a play on words referring to Trump’s mistreatment of women has a vein of seriousness running through it. In the women’s march movement, even the initially naughty-sounding pussyhat is larded with meaning. Sunni Scrivner, owner of Yarnfun in Eureka, said the headgear is “really a basic hat, kind of like a beanie,” with a seam across the top to make ears. “It’s more like a cat type of pussy,” she specified. At this point, several hashtags and knitting circles are devoted to creating as many of the beanies as possible. Scrivner envisioned the hats creating “a wave of pink” at the march. According to the pussyhat project blog, which includes a pattern and instructions for making the hat, “Knitting circles are sometimes scoffed at as ‘frivolous gossiping’ circles, when really those circles are powerful gatherings of women.”
The inevitable differences among the handcrafted hats, the blog explains, symbolize “The power of individuality within large groups.” That may be the one overarching theme of the marches, wherever they are held. Reasons for marching, found on #WhyIMarch, range from shesit.com founder Tams’ “The unbearable whiteness of Congress,” to the existential, as in Twitter user Sapna’s remark that, “The Women’s March on Washingtom will be a beautiful opportunity to sort myself out and reorient to our new shared reality.” On Facebook, a woman in New York named Jenny Bencardino posted a video explaining that she would be wearing the Princess Leia squash blossom hairstyle to the march in honor of the recently deceased actress Carrie Fisher.
Evans, the Laytonville marcher, made one thing clear. “It’s definitely going to be happening,” she said.
All the women’s marches will take place on Saturday, January 21. The march in Laytonville starts downtown at 10:30am. The march in Ukiah will start at Alex Thomas Plaza at noon and end at the courthouse. In Fort Bragg, marchers will meet at the Fort Bragg Town Hall at 11am. The march in Gualala starts at 10am at the old post office on Hwy 1.
Sarah Reith firstname.lastname@example.org