I stand with the women who march: Anatomy of a backlash

January 18, 2017

Politics would make a great spectator sport. How many years did Donald Trump question President Obama’s legitimacy, spreading the cockamamie lie that he wasn’t born in America? One soft-spoken Congress member from Georgia questions Trump’s legitimacy and Baby Hands has a full scale meltdown. It’s entertaining! But it’s not funny. It’s real. And people know this and they’re getting involved. And I don’t mean on Twitter.


Instead of focusing on the circus of Inauguration Day (No wonder Ringling Brothers is calling it quits. Who can compete!), my focus is on the day after and the Women’s March on Washington. Trump may have secured Pat Boone to sing at his event (Glad to know Pat’s still alive!), but the real star power will be in the streets with an estimated 200,000 marchers in DC. Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain, and Chelsea Handler will be there and a lot of other women who Baby Hands will surely tweet about. (“She’s totally overrated. A real dog.”) And an estimated million people will join sister marches around the country, including here in Portland. You should see my wife and daughter there.

Unlike a lot of “pop culture feminism,” the march promises to be truly intersectional. I’ve written about intersectionality in this blog. Let’s just say, for now, that feminism doesn’t just belong to middle-class white females with degrees in Women’s Studies. The organizers of the march have made a point of making it open to all identities who see the new oppression of sexually harassing politicians as a growing problem and the liberationist positions of feminism as the solution. Their four-page statement says upfront, “Our liberation is bound in each other’s.” So expect to see bell hooks marching alongside Katy Perry and Malala Yousafzai next to Scarlett Johansson. Trump may have 3 Doors Down, but they’ve got Solange. You can read the full statement here:

Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles


I wanted to locate this march historically and sociologically, because this isn’t just about a president who brags about sexually assaulting women. The election of Donald Trump represents a significant backlash against the empowerment and true equality of women and girls. Susan Faludi popularized the concept in her award-winning 1991 book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. The text was a crucial theoretical component of my doctoral dissertation on the rise of racist skinheads and I just pray she is working on a 2017 edition.

So here’s the mini-version of her thesis. Faludi argues, with convincing evidence, that each time women make collective gains of empowerment there is a corresponding backlash that tries to push them back into their second class role. She lays out three historical periods in the twentieth century.


First was the women’s suffrage movement and what has become known as first wave feminism. Among the gains made were things like access to birth control and, in 1920, the right to vote. This political empowerment was met in the 1920s with the double backlash of the flapper and the housewife. One was cute and ditzy, like cartoon Betty Boop, the other was obsessed with care for the home, the children, and a new invention, fashion magazines.  The message was clear, women don’t politically organize, they have fun or wash their hair before hubby gets home.


The second wave was about women’s economic empowerment during World War II. As men were off at war, many women were in factories and shipyards, building the weapons of war. Their symbol was Rosie the Riveter. The federal government funded daycare. Theaters were showing films starring Betty Davis, Lauren Bacall on other dames who didn’t take any guff from men. And women had their own money with no men telling them how to spend it. When the war ended in 1945 and the men came home, it was time for women to leave the tank factory and go back to the kitchen. Betty Davis was replaced with Marilyn Monroe and the 1950s became the glamor era when women were meant to be seen and not heard. Backlash #2.

Women's Liberation Parade

The second wave feminist movement socially empowered women in the 1960s and 1970s. Betty Friedan’s book 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, and her National Organization of Women brought women into the streets on a range of issues, including workplace harassment, pornography, and abortion rights. “Women’s Lib” became a part of the counterculture of the baby boom generation and every aspect of culture was inspected through  feminist lens (although it was typically a white feminist lens). The great attack on patriarchy was met with the third backlash in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and the ultimate weapon – THE SUPERMODEL. More than ever women were bombarded with the message that they were their looks and would only lose power as they aged instead of gaining it.

It has been argued that Faludi helped launch third wave feminism in the 1990s. Third wave is more intersectional and not afraid to take on micro-aggressions along with macro power structures. But Faludi’s model would predict that the turn of century wave of personal empowerment for women (including transwomen, lipstick lesbians, Muslim feminists, and a bunch of other cool categories) would be met with yet another backlash. Who would have guessed that this backlash would have come in the form of a TV gameshow host with a fake tan, fake hair, and a wall of fake news stories.


The new War on Women began before the Trump candidacy. But the fact that the first female major party candidate for president was defeated by a guy who runs beauty pageants and brags about never having heard his latest wife fart was the tipping point. More disturbing than Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments were his flock, chanting “Trump the bitch” at his rallies. It was like an army of anti-feminists had suddenly been released from the gates of hell. And now their fake “Good ol boy” (Lordy) and his porn-model wife are moving into the people’s house. Don’t expect much support for women’s issues for the next four years. They’re already going after Planned Parenthood.

My cousin, Chamisa Kellogg, is in DC for the march. She’s an incredible artist who has created the piece below to commemorate this moment in history. She just sent me this message – “The ‘Pussy Grabs Back’ drawing was based on a photo I took at a protest in Portland, Oregon two days after the 2016 Presidential Election. As the Million Women’s March 2017 draws near, I find myself reiterating my goals and beliefs in gender equality, and the importance of affordable healthcare for all, including women (who may sometimes need abortions). I’m selling high-quality archival prints of this drawing on my etsy shop, and all profits from sales will go to Planned Parenthood.”

You can purchase a print at THIS LINK.


So women will be marching in 2017 just like they marched in 1917. But the beautiful thing about Faludi’s model is the backlash never pushes women all the way back to where they were. Once women have tasted political, economic, social, and personal empowerment, that genie doesn’t go back into the bottle. It may be one step backwards, but there were two steps forward first. Donald Trump may want to make America great “again,” back to a time when women were more like Melania, seen and not “being a bitch,” counting calories and not wage gap data, but he’s looking at more than one march coming his way. The future is female.

See you in the streets.


Feminist Herstory Pt. 2 – Here comes the FIRST WAVE

This is part of a book I’m writing on men and Western feminism. I’ll be occasionally posting a little bit of history of feminist theory in a way I hope you like. Part 1 is here:


All people are created equal

Feminist thought did not die like Dr. Frankenstein. In fact it ramped up in 19th Century America. People forget that the leading voices for the abolition of slavery were female. It shouldn’t be that surprising that the abolition movement gave birth to the first modern feminist movement. There are important names that came out of this era that you might know from a picture on a coin or an Amy Ray song, but they are important as the Founding Fathers because they helped to liberate not only the enslaved populace, but also half of the “free” citizens.

One of the key voices of the abolitionist movement, Lucretia Mott, is also viewed as the first American feminist by many. Mott was a Quaker from Nantuckett and founder of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1840 she headed off to London to speak at the International Anti-Slavery Convention. But the male abolitionists turned out to be just as sexist as the general population and wouldn’t let the women speak. Mott rallied her supporters and became known as the “Lioness of the Convention.”

Another American abolitionist was in the audience, watching Mott get the short end of the stick; Elizabeth Cady-Stanton. Cady-Stanton was the daughter of a prominent New York attorney who introduced her to the law and her husband was an anti-slavery activist. She met with Mott in London and the two decided to combine forces to speak against the oppression of women and slaves.

For those that think that line in the Declaration of Independence about “all men a created equal” negates the need for any feminist agitation need a little historical footnote. Not only were slaves denied full citizenship, so were women. At no point in the 18th or 19th century did female Americans have a Constitutional right to vote. The belief was that women had the vote through their husbands. Widows, spinsters, and hussies were screwed, but oh well. Women couldn’t inherit wealth or sign contracts or sit on juries or divorce their husbands or wear designer jeans. In reality that “all men are created equal” stuff only referred to white men who owned property. So when Lott and Cady-Stanton got back from London, they were ready to stir some shit up.

Throughout the 1840s female abolitionists, like Mott, Cady-Stanton, and Lucy Stone from Massachusetts, began lobbying for legal rights for women. With the help of male politicians (including Cady-Stanton’s cousin, presidential candidate Gerrit Smith) small changes were made, mostly in Northeastern states. The women wanted to build a larger movement and built towards a convention that would focus on women’s rights and kick the cause into high gear.

The Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848 was really the birthplace of modern feminism. For two days in Seneca Falls, New York, men and women debated the various issues (white) women faced in their struggle to be full citizens. Speakers included Frederick Douglas, the famous abolitionist, who gave an impassioned speech urging the convention to make women’s suffrage a priority. The end result was the Declaration of Sentiments. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence and utilizing the language of the Enlightenment, the Declaration outlined the structural imbalance women suffered at the hands of free men. Sixty-eight women and 32 men signed the Declaration and launched it into the world. The opening paragraphs read:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.


Change wasn’t immediate. A lot of men were scared shitless about giving women the right to vote, let alone any legal equality. As the suffrage movement heated up, a lot of powerful men went into a panic. Turns out there were (and are) more women in the U.S. population and the “majority rules” democracy could be turned upside down. Major newspapers, like the New York Times, began running editorials about the White House becoming the Pink House and wars being replaced with quilting bees if women had voting rights. But Suffragettes, like Susan B. Anthony, the Quaker founder of The Revolution, kept the heat up. Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, and 57 years after the slaves were freed by Lincoln and 124 years after the Declaration of Independence, women were granted full citizenship. The “first wave” feminists had achieved their greatest goal.

A range of other views moved to the front burner. These included birth control for women, the legalization of abortion, equality within marriage, sexual freedom, and the ability of women to escape drunken, abusive husbands. While some women found liberation in the Flapper fad of the 1920s, personified by actors like Clara Bow, once the Depression hit in 1929, the focus moved back towards basic survival. It wouldn’t be until fifteen years after WWII that the Second Wave would appear.

Coming soon:

Feminist Herstory, Pt. 3 – Rosie the Riveter and WW2