I have a daughter. I have a wife. I will never know or fully understand what it’s like to be a woman, just as they will never know or fully understand what it’s like to be a man. So I move forward in today’s writing with a bit of a disclaimer: I am not a woman.
Recently I went to see the movie Hidden Figures. (If you haven’t seen it yet, please do yourself a favor and GO! It’s fantastic.) The movie, which is based on actual events, follows 3 African American women working at NASA in the days of segregation. To say it was difficult to watch some of the things these women had to endure due to the color of their skin, is a massive understatement. I was in tears on several occasions, wondering how any human could ever be capable of such biased cruelty, much less an entire race — my race — doing so. I was ashamed. Humbled. Educated.
These 3 women stood up and fought for equal treatment and, in the end, made massive strides in achieving it. The entire theater erupted with applause as the credits rolled. Hooray to those who felt oppressed, but made their voices heard. Bravo to those who knew they deserved better and had the guts to demand it. And kudos to Hollywood for bringing light to these hidden figures and making us all feel good in the end.
Today, as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I can’t help but compare the massive contrast between the reaction to this movie and current events. Specifically, the nationwide Women’s March that took place yesterday.
Over 2 million people joined together across the country (over 5 million worldwide) to peacefully (read: without violence or vandalism) send a message to our leaders. That message is different depending on who you ask. Out of 2 million + American marchers, you can bet there were just as many deeply personal reasons why each one of them was there. And out of the 123(ish) million adult women in this country who were not present, you can imagine the number of vastly diverse opinions and assumptions that have come up as well. And that’s not even counting the men (and you know how we are).
For the official mission statement, click here.
You don’t have to look far to find what people are thinking about this event. As I mentioned, a quick scroll through my Facebook feed has revealed a shocking dialogue of both support and condemnation. One popular opposing share is a listing all of the ways “I do not feel (fill in the blank) because I am a woman” with most of the sharers adding “That was not MY walk”. I am genuinely and honestly grateful that so many of my friends have never felt oppressed, objectified or lesser-than because of their gender. But I am dumbfounded by their lack of ability to understand that others might HAVE experienced such things. So much so that they feel the need to publicly judge those who participated.
Imagine a world where Hidden Figures ends and half of the theater stands up and says, “I can’t believe those ladies acted that way towards their white co-workers. I mean, I’ve never seen a black person mistreated so there’s no way that actually happened. If they were treated unfairly, they surely brought it upon themselves”. It’s hard to imagine that happening because, well, it just wouldn’t make any sense in today’s world. And yet….Facebook tells a different story. “I’ve never felt oppressed as a woman so they shouldn’t either.” Well, doesn’t that solve everything!? The irony is you’re trying to oppress the very people you say shouldn’t feel that way. Again, what a solution!
So why do we applaud at the end of a movie where 3 women stood up for equal rights, but sneer at 2 million who peacefully did the same thing this week? Because the movie makes you feel good. You can clearly see what’s right and wrong and instinctively pull for what’s right. (At least I hope you do.) But today…today doesn’t make us feel good. It’s not comfortable. There’s no clear right and wrong. It’s not black and white. It’s all grey. It’s muddied by who voted for who and what THAT means and what the news is saying vs what this guy’s saying vs what TMZ is saying… and all we all REALLY want is for everyone to shut up and live happily every after. So rather than get a little uncomfortable and ask those who marched or didn’t march WHY they chose to do so, we sit comfortably behind our screens, rolling our eyes and waiting for just one person to say what we’re thinking so we can, in most cases, aggressively jump on board the solidarity train and start passive aggressively pointing fingers. It’s not right.
I close with this.
To those who marched peacefully: I support you.
To those who oppose the march peacefully: I support you.
To those who feel the need to argue a point you haven’t taken the time to understand: I implore you to take a walk in someone else’s shoes before you spit on them. And when you do, move it out of the public forum that is social media and into a coffee shop or living room. Face-to-face, eye-to-eye, voice-to-ears, hearts and minds open.
Do better. Expect better. Rise together.