Women’s Marches Stumble Across the Starting Line

November 30, 2016 By: Primo Encarnación Category: Uncategorized

In the shocked aftermath of the election, two groups of women immediately began planning to march on Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, one group’s plans fell through, while another’s have been put on hold, pending a scheduling snafu.

A secret Facebook group called “Nasty Women” was begun earlier this month, with the stated objective of organizing a march in early April. It was begun by two women with a post which said, in part “we need a march on Washington just to remind our Pres-elect, and House & Senate, that feminism is alive and well, and that women are watching and are ready to work for progressive candidates in the mid-terms.  Women’s rights are human rights.”

Within days, the group ballooned to tens of thousands of members, so quickly that the organizers had to try to regroup.  Without a specific plan and organization, and without full-time monitoring, the group collapsed into recriminations and back-biting against one another. The sheer logistics overwhelmed this effort, and the April march is not happening.

Because they involved professionals who had organized marches before, logistics seemed better for the second effort, the “Women’s March on Washington,” originally known as the “Million Women March” until people pointed out that there had already been one of those by women of color.  Also organized immediately after the election with a post by a woman in Maui, this group, too, exploded in numbers, and then exploded in the same sorts of fights that beset Nasty Women, notably over how white all the organizers seemed. (They have since addressed the leadership diversity issue.)

In both cases, members of the largest voting bloc in the country united in angry despair over the election, and in the shared belief that “women’s rights are human rights.” But both were divided among themselves over Hillary as President, as well as a number of other issues.  Nevertheless, the Women’s March seemed better organized from the start, and the planned march from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House seemed to be a go for January 21, the day after inauguration of Dat Guy as Resident.

Except, we now learn, for one little detail: there were seven other permits previously requested for the same places at the same time.  The better integrated but still somewhat less than a million women will now have to march elsewhere.  The leaders are currently trying to figure out when, where and how, and are working with Homeland Security, National Parks, Capitol Police and DC Police.  They  urge people who have already made plans to hold onto them, that this WILL happen, on the day planned.  (Fingers crossed, people.)

It probably will still happen, but these two outcomes, one unsuccessful, one still in doubt, underline the professional challenges all amateur grass-roots efforts face.  More importantly, however, they also illustrate the challenges we on the left face just trying to overcome our own differences, much less uniting to meet the challenges posed by the country being taken over by right wing nut jobs and spray-tan Nazis.

If we don’t get our heads out of the clouds and our feet firmly on the ground, if we don’t figure out how to prioritize action over squabbling, if we don’t learn to get the hell out of our own way, how are we ever going to save ourselves, much less this country?

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32 Comments to “Women’s Marches Stumble Across the Starting Line”


  1. It’s the problem parodied in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, when the two revolutionary groups seem more willing to fight among themselves than unite against the real enemy

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kHHitXxH-us

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  2. Polite Kool Marxist says:

    Structure and delegation are key ingredients. See who is available in the larger cities and each state with “community organizer” experience. Reading President Obama’s “Dreams from My Father”, particularly the final 3rd which deals with his experience as a community organizer can be useful.

    Structure. Have the organizational chart ready with key positions filled before “going public” with any announcements.

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  3. JAKvirginia says:

    Remember “We Are the World”? According to lore, the recording session was to commence on the night of the Grammys that year — right after. As the story goes, taped onto the entrance door to the studio was this sign: “Leave your posse and your ego outside.” Good advice going forward.

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  4. Seem to recall reading about anarchists (no comparison intended) of the 19th century who could never reach agreement about activities because, by definition, they were anarchists and didn’t believe in rules or structured organization.

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  5. “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers

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  6. On the other hand, those folks at the Nuremberg rally looked pretty organized.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ceLnMT0rps

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  7. You read propganda about 19th century anarchist’s
    Syndicalism, a form of anarchy, held the Paris commune for longer against the germans then the rest of France under napoleon IIIrd
    Swiss watchmakers and early 20th century the anarchist of Catalonia ( Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell)
    Difference between Anarchy and Libertarism is people v. property.
    Example Under anarchy in times of famine if someone has warehouse of food that food is fair game for the hungry to take to survive.
    under libertarism the owner of the food has every right, even an obligation, to keep it and do with it what they want, even poison it, since property rights are more important then human rights.
    hence the contradiction of libertaist’s they do not want a state but if no state how to legitimize property ownership or protect it unless we go back to Hobbe’s Leviathian where each farmer must have one hand on the plow and another on the gun with no legal recourse against anyone who would steal and murder, the foundation of all great fortunes.

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  8. A lot of people are in the ‘doom and gloom’ mode and, I guess, rightfully so.

    Here’s a really good interview with Pres Obama the day after the election that could be a good antidote and a rallying call.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/obama-on-his-legacy-trumps-win-and-the-path-forward-w452527

    We all need to take action in big and small ways to combat this malaise. I can’t buy into this end of world scenario, regardless of his various appointments.

    Here’s a little ditty, not completely appropriate, but somewhat apt.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsY066wa08E

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  9. I’d be interested in who the other requests are from. Are they from ringers? Did their requests predate this one?

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  10. Annabelle Lee says:

    “Without a specific plan and organization, and without full-time monitoring, the group collapsed into recriminations and back-biting against one another.”

    So, just like the women’s movement circa 1970, then.

    It isn’t just women, of course, she hastened to add, but we do notably seem to have an easier time coming up with ideas than getting along well enough, long enough, to see them through.

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  11. The key, first, Number One, before anything else, including organization and structure?

    Focus on one simple goal.

    It’s a sports thing I learned from decades of playing, coaching and officiating. Why are we here? What do we want to accomplish?

    Laser-like focus on that brings everything else along. When any kind of conflict arises, look at it through the lens of the goal. Is this going to further the goal? If not, let it go. That’s the question to answer for everything and it’s very effective.

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  12. I suggest we look to those who have already been successful at protest organization, namely Representative John Lewis, the NAACP and The Reverend William Barber. http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a51104/north-carolina-voting-rights/
    Gloria Steinem can certainly offer insight and wisdom. We do ourselves and our country a disservice if we ignore the experiences of those who wrought significant change.

    I was done with the purists who wanted a perfect candidate and hacked Hillary to pieces because she was/is not their vision of perfect. I am done with the purists who can’t see the larger picture of this crisis and are infighting about specifics. Getoverit. This is too damned important to be petty.

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  13. Can we call it the “Million Not Dumb Asses March”?

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  14. There is a song seeming to arise as the anthem for the resistance to fascism. It’s written by Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary) and his daughter Bethany. It brought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart.

    https://youtu.be/lUdjpfjoVsc

    BTW, Kelloggs has quit advertising on Breibart. The wingnuts are boycotting Kelloggs in retaliation. Buy lots of cornflakes!

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  15. One reason that the August 1963 march for civil rights went so smoothly was that they had excellent, experienced organizers. Bayard Rustin was one; he kept well out of the limelight because he was gay and very left wing and people were afraid his associations would sully the march. Nonetheless, he provided a huge amount of organizational support.

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  16. Yo folks!

    We start somewhere in order to get where we need to go. Outside of the bubble, things happen and we have to deal with it.

    I believe in y’all!

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  17. Debbo, I wondered why Kelloggs was advertising on Breitbart in the first place, but the Guardian article said that a lot of ad campaigns are run through automated systems, so they may not have known. Allstate and EarthLink have also pulled out of Breitbart.

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/30/breitbart-news-kelloggs-advertising-boycott-alt-right

    And I recommend this song too, though you might want a hanky:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KyvlMJefR4

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  18. I marched for integration in Tallahassee, at Florida A&M, in 1958. In 1961, in San Francisco. We knew our goal. Then the squabbling began.

    “The left eats its own liver, especially in Berkeley” was the phrase I heard. It’s the nature of identity politics, the insane drive to over specify.

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  19. charles r. phillips says:

    Debbo; an equally appropriate response!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K9or6hhjmI

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  20. charles r. phillips says:

    Word of advise; you don’t reach a goal by doom and gloom or considering the costs of failure. You reach a goal by fixing a point, a landmark in your line of sight and walking toward it. It works for hiking, it works for everything. If you can’t fix the goal, you can’t reach the goal.

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  21. Frank McCormick says:

    In IS/IT (and, I’m sure elsewhere), a common aphorism is “don’t the perfect be the enemy of the good”.

    Something the left always needs to keep in mind.

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  22. Aggieland Liz says:

    It also helps to be realistic in your goal. Perhaps it would be more successful to have 50+ (Puerto Rico, right?) STATE marches that could culminate in one grand March on the Mall at a future date. One bite at a time helps prevent choking, after all.

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  23. e platypus onion says:

    Can hardly wait for the drumpfinistas to denigrate women and their problems with organization. It is coming. You know it is.

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  24. e platypus onion says:

    I must admit (and pat myself on the back for being right in a round-about manner) I hit the button when I said sexism would really rear its ugly head after this election. I was wrong, though, thinking it would be caused by HRC winning. Drumpf is a whole sexist movement on his own and his goofy, uneducated minions just exacerbate the problem.

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  25. Primo Encarnación says:

    Aggieland Liz – daMrs got involved in the Nasty Women march when someone invited her to the Facebook group. I steadfastly decided NOT to interfere with her thing, NOT to tell them what they oughta do, and NOT to act all know-it-all-y as she will say I am so wont to do.

    However, I did ask some pertinent questions about the size and scope of the effort, and she suggested to the organizers that each state should have its own committee. She and two of our friends plus a fourth woman were named by the organizers as the Ohio committee.

    All these things ran through my head within the first 10 minutes of knowing about this thing: state chairs, regional leaders making up an executive team, travel, lodging, expenses, funding, 501(c)-something, intra-group communications, security, permits, press-relations and messaging, and finally – data processing: Oh My God this is an amazingly valuable list, and will get only more valuable as information on the participants is collected – who is going to own the list and what is it going to be used for?

    That last point is still extremely salient in today’s data-driven political world,: two lists of angry women (and many men, it must be said, though I did not join either list) are an extremely valuable commodity.

    I hasten to add that one of the reasons that the Nasty Women march flattened out was fear: threats were made against the organizers and marchers within a couple of days of the whole thing taking off. I am sure this is not what these women suspected would happen when they began urging their Facebook friends to do something.

    This is the world under Dat Guy: the internal enemies of pluralism are emboldened, and we are squabbling amongst ourselves.

    These marches are satisfying on a visceral level for the participants. The urge to DO SOMETHING in the face of setbacks like this country has just been dealt is a response to fight the hopelessness. I applaud everyone who gets off their duff and tries to change their world.

    But, undirected action, without a call to broader action, without a message, is like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal – to borrow a phrase from one of two Corinthians.

    So, yeah, the question of how to make a March work is pretty easy to answer, it’s like managing any other project with a hard deadline, like GOTV. It’s what comes next that counts and is the harder thing to make happen. And the outside threats, the inside fighting, the sheer overwhelming size of the problems – all the challenges that beset these marches make them a microcosm of what all political action faces.

    And what we face today.

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  26. My first thought when this march was announced right after the election was that the day after the Inauguration probably isn’t a good idea. The annual March for Life (the anti-abortion people) always have a yuuugggee gathering every year on Jan. 22, IIRC, the day the Roe v. Wade decision. The usually have 200,000+ people show up and the weather is normally LOUSY! This year, their march is set for Jan. 27.

    Secondly, besides the weather, the viewing stands will be in the process of being removed on that day–a process that will take several days. So, anybody trying to march down Pennsylvania Ave and/or Constitution Ave. are going to be constricted.

    There seems to be enough people already planning on coming here to make something happen; but, as Primo pointed out, there doesn’t seem to be the kind of organization that the 1963 march had and that one came off without a hitch. Of course, the President eventually got behind it.

    Whether I show up for it or not will depend entirely on the weather. I watched both Obama’s inaugurations from the warmth and comfort of my living room. I went to Carter’s early morning concert at the Lincoln memorial and almost froze to death. So, I’m a little leery of these things.

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  27. Polite Kool Marxist says:

    Primo, veterans are gonna be busy. There’s a dozen from this area leaving tomorrow to show solidarity with Standing Rock. We expect to be gone a couple of weeks, maybe less. Not good visuals to be seen firing on veterans. Although we suspect the police will try to fire over us. We’re prepared for that scenario and are bringing along protective gear for the folks that have been there for months, as well as provisions to feed ourselves and those who have been there for the duration. We’re not liking how our citizens are being treated. But we are not about turning this into an armed conflict; none of us will be carrying. Peace and fresh water, comrades.

    Threaten our Nasty Women? When the ladies are ready, we’re ready. We’ll stand beside them, in front, behind or wherever they want us to stand. And, before some dumba$$ BLOTUS supporter says squat about what women can and cannot do, they need to be reminded that many veterans are women. That and the fact that unity has remade this country before and will do so again. Peace and prosperity for all, like the 14th Amendment says.

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  28. I am getting to be repetitious in my old age. I have said this before in other places and other times: its always the ones who are most over-tasked in our society (women) who are left to undertake such enterprises, some of them of valorous quality. When juggling jobs, children, home, graduate or law school plus needs of husband and older generation family members, it becomes damn near impossible to pull off something like a march. Hiring professional organizers to do it is usually out of the question, so I am not surprised at all that even a very good thing like a march can fall through a trap door. I come from a line of women who were involved in the suffrage movement in the early 20th century. I know as a rest that there will indeed be a march.

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  29. charles r. phillips says:

    Wait to march until you have a defined point to march over. Now he’s just won and picked a posse full of idiots and losers; not compelling to the rest of the country.

    Try waiting until they–tRumpf and Lyin’ Ryan–start to dismantle the ACA, SS, or Medicare/Medicaid. More of their followers will start to hyperventilate over those than just piss-poor governance.

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  30. Aggieland Liz says:

    My husband says the Medicare bill is written, wrangled and ready, Charles-he says it’s the first thing they’ve got on their candy list. It’s been in Paul Ryan’s pocket for a month. It is just a matter of following the money, really. That’s why the Rethugs are winning, and that’s their vision of America’s soul, too: a nice little oligarchy, of, by, and for the wealthy. They’ve been dividing us little people ever since; repugnantcans is a good name for them, it describes how they did it. Abortion is repugnant to Catholics; make abortion the other guy’s identifier. Equality and civil rights were repugnant to the Old South; not their problem, they are ALL against welfare queens! Labor union dues are just like taxes, only worse, and are managed by a bunch of theiving crooks, to boot. I could go on, but I’m mulling my response to Primo’s next entry; this is part of it, though, and may be the most important part: how do WE split THEM?? And what can our platform be??

    Thanks for responding, daChipster. Say hello to Uncle Jimmy for me! Hope daMrs isn’t feeling too grim!

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  31. May the force be with you and your fellow Vets, PKM. Our hearts will be with you, as well as donations. Stay safe and brave.

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  32. I suggest starting smaller, say marches state by state – the Minnesota Nasty women March on St. Paul, Maryland Nasty women March on Annapolis, Ohio Nasty Women March on Columbus, etc. We can work or way up, build in stages rather than beginning on the national level. At each step wed any to make it understood that we’re also talking about the national level. Our maybe we march on senator’s and representative’s offices in state.

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