What is a nasty woman to do when so many people come out to march that she has no space on the street to move? From Washington to Beirut, Osaka to the Antarctic Peninsula, a tidal wave of protestors with pink “pussy” hats and signs showed their support for women on Saturday, January 21. Female and male, all skin colors and sexual orientations, babies on shoulders and seniors in wheelchairs, clad in sweatshirts or sporting sparkling tape on their nipples, with tears and toothy smiles. Together. Their messages were peaceful (“Love trumps hate”), dignified (“Women’s rights are human rights”), funny (“I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit”), and confident (“This pussy fights back”).
Event organizers estimate that nearly 5 million people worldwide showed up that day, roughly the population of Atlanta. In the United States, the protest broke records and became the largest in American history. Before 500,000 demonstrators in Washington, activist Gloria Steinem said, “This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life.” And it started from a single Facebook event page created by Hawaii’s Teresa Shook the day after Donald Trump was elected president. She received thousands of messages within a few hours.
For the cause of women’s empowerment, there can be no moral counterargument. Simply put, the world becomes a better place with women in it and when they are treated fairly. Raising their wages could add $12 trillion to the U.S. economy found a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report. For every year of education for adult women, child mortality decreases by 9.5% shows a medical study that mined long-term data from 219 countries. And when women are included in peace negotiations, there is a 35% increased chance that the agreement lasts at least 15 years, according to an International Peace Institute analysis.
Not that anyone at the march was thinking of statistics when they were standing in the streets. They were there to show the new leadership that they will not be demonized or demoralized. The particulars of each protestor’s vision differed, but they underscored a respect for our common humanity. And even as people walked away—tired, cold, and often hungry—the future felt a little bit brighter.