Written by Cass Martineau, originally posted on Transcending Chaos
A written version of the speech I gave at the WMW-CT Anniversary Rally. I cut some parts due to time limits. Some of that is added back into the written version, in italics.
One year ago, I bused down to Washington, DC, wearing the same pink pussy hat I have on now. A transwoman waving a rainbow flag, I will never forget the sea of pink hats cheering on women of color, Muslim women, immigrant women and trans women. The Women’s March on Washington was built upon principles of radical inclusion, as stated in their founding documents, leadership, structure and stage time.
Here in Connecticut, I’m proud to be part of a group which has striven to maintain those ideals of inclusiveness and diversity. I came close to tears when Sarah Raskin accepted our award from CWEALF, “On behalf of all women, with vaginas and without.” Proud not merely of the line, but of the fact that it came from Sarah’s heart, not from the transwoman standing beside her.
Recently, the Pussy Hat, and the March, itself, have been called into question. Some women of color criticize the hat for not being the color of their genitals. Some transwomen point out that not all women have pussies. One writer even went so far as to call the Pussy Hat, “The confederate flag for white feminists.” Yes, many white women voted for Trump. I can’t imagine they dominated the March, however.
I’m not proud to admit that my first reaction was defensiveness and anger. I felt like I was under attack, my knitting wife was under attack, and many women I cared about and respected were under attack.
For the record, as a transwoman, and as a woman, it is NOBODIE’S business what my genitals look like. I promise you one thing, however, no part of them are day-glo, bubble-gum pink. I, for one, am proud to wear the hat. I’m proud of what it has always meant to me: never a statement on my genitals, but the power of women and allies coming together, and the reclaiming of ‘pink,’ and ‘pussy’ as words of strength. Much as the originator of the Pussy Hat Project intended.
Deeper research and consideration have steered me towards greater complexity. While I denounce blanket attacks, accusations, and falsely ascribed intentions, I have to admit: the critics make an important point. Black, brown and trans women have, and have had, at best, a shaky relationship with white cis feminism. A history, and sometimes current practice of exclusion and agenda-setting which has served some better than others.
The left on the whole has real problems of racism, trans/homophobia and misogyny which must be addressed if we are to move forward in a real, productive, inclusive way. Some Marchers around the country aren’t there yet, some March leaders around the U.S. aren’t there yet, and some otherwise amazing groups here in Connecticut aren’t there yet, either.
Many groups of which I am a part have been asking similar questions. How do we attract minorities into our groups? How can we live the values of diversity that we espouse?
I would suggest that these are the wrong questions to ask. Instead of pining about what minorities can do for our organizations, we should be asking what we can do for them. I believe we should meet people where they are. Join and support organizations outside our demographic. Make it a point to go out and join them, humbly, with listening ears, in their endeavors for equality.
Here in Connecticut, We March On has tried to do better, to support numerous minority right groups in their work. Minorities are included in leadership and planning, and given microphone time. You will hear from many of them today.
Is it enough? Probably not, probably never. However, I invite any group out there working on minority rights to hold us up to that ideal of inclusiveness. We want to add our strength to yours. You deserve it.
In the end, there is nothing simple about the systems of privilege, and lack thereof, which permeate every aspect of society, even ours. One year ago, we Marched. Naively, hopefully, idealistically. Now, we face the complexity, the pain, the messiness in ourselves and our growing movements.
At the risk of perpetuating another less-than-fully inclusive metaphor, the Women’s March, the Pussy Hat, is having its menarche. My only hope is that we stick through it together, and come out the other side better and more inclusive for the work, ready to take on the constant barrage of crises which face us all.
And so I leave you with this challenge, dear, lovely, good-hearted straight, white, cis, well-off allies: step outside your comfort zone. Get to know people outside your demographic. Support organizations which work for interests outside your own. Many of them are here, today. Join them, support them, listen to them with an open heart. It may hurt sometimes, but those pains are growing pains.
We’re going to be hearing from a lot of politicians shortly. I would challenge them, as well. Many are already activist/politicians already. I challenge those who are not, be they speaking or here in support, to champion Equal Rights for All. Mention the diverse oppressed minorities in your speeches, include us in your staff, hear our concerns. Maybe even stay after you’ve spoken and gotten your photo ops, and listen to what the activists are saying. Many of us are struggling in ways that straight, white, cis, well-off people cannot conceive. This is no time for half-measures or symbolic gestures. This is the time to stand with pride in diversity and inclusiveness at all levels.
Together, we are stronger. But only if together includes all of us, as equals. It’s a lofty ideal, but it’s one worth working for.
In other words, let’s start calling each other in, rather than calling each other out.
As for the hat – remember the hat? I’m wearing mine, and I intend to hold anyone who does to the ideals it originally stood for, the ideals it should stand for.
You? Wear, the hat, or not. In the long run, it’s only a hat. But make it real, make it broadly inclusive at all levels, either way.