A female Facebook friend of mine posted something on her timeline that read something like this: I get the importance of protest, but if you’re going to talk about “P power” and show me pictures of vaginas, I have no interest in being your friend.
Whether she realized it or not, she was talking to me.
After I got back from the Women’s March in Los Angeles, I posted several photos to Facebook (which I don’t know whether she saw or not), many of them pictures of pussy power signs, including one drawing of a naked woman spreading her legs – yes, a drawing of a vagina that I included in my photo album because I thought it was beautiful; it was art.
I get why that can be jarring to people. It was jarring to me to see a drawing of a vagina marching down a public street. But beyond that lied empowerment in taking back what belongs to me, not the now President of the United States who once bragged about something so sacred being up for grabs.
In hindsight, maybe I should have replied to her post with something like that instead of unfriending her.
That’s what I’d done a couple of days prior with another female Facebook friend who couldn’t understand why women were marching at all because we already have it so good. (This turned out to be a common response, as addressed in Dina Leygerman’s powerful post, “You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.”) In reply to my friend I said there were lots of reasons women marched that day and, for me, it was to protest the elevation of a man – to the highest office in the land – whose behavior demeans women.
That’s a big part of why many of us marched, including Danny Pulley (aka Miss Page) – a Los Angeles public school teacher and dear friend of mine – who marched in Washington, DC.
A few days after Danny got back home to LA, I sat down with her to ask about why she marched, the Washington experience, how she talked to her students about it, and what she would say to women who criticize the marches.
Meredith Simonds: Why did you feel it was so important to march?
Danny Pulley: It was a few days after the election and my friend Marcia called and told me about the march in Washington. And I thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to go.” It didn’t even cross my mind there would be one here in LA or anywhere else. It didn’t matter. I had to go to DC. I just felt like this was something that I had to do because I was so downtrodden and sad about this election and there had to be something after besides just being sad and depressed and upset and giving up. That’s one thing I can do. So I put it on Facebook, “Does anybody have friends in DC?” And one of my dear friends Jamie said, “I have a best friend who lives there who will host you. I’m sure Laurel will host you.” And she did.
MS: How were you feeling in the days leading up to the march?
DP: Christmas came and then school started and all of a sudden the trip was upon me and I thought, “Whoa, I’m going to Washington, DC.” There was a little bit of anxiety. The day came to fly – Friday morning, Inauguration Day. I got up really early, turned on the news and saw a whole thing about “The most dangerous place to be right now is Washington DC.” And all of the security and all of the marches and all of the things that were gonna happen and all of the worry. And I just thought, “This is just really not what I need to hear right now.” But, ya know, people have died for what they believe in. They’ve died for their causes.
MS: And what was it like being there?
DP: The minute we walked out of Laurel’s place on the day of the march – about 8:30 or 9 – there were people on the streets with their signs and their hats, and just the energy. And we just walked out like, “Rise up! Resist! Resist!”
I had my march choreography down. I was gonna march like this [demonstrating dance routine]. And this is how you walked [demonstrating she could barely move]. There were little moments where we’d grab hands and go sideways and go through people. There were moments where you just thought, “Oh no, I’m never gonna get out of this.” People would go, “There’s a sidewalk underneath us. Watch out.” Because you didn’t even know what you were walking on. It was so packed. But you just took pictures of people’s signs and just talked to each other.
MS: At the LA march, Andy and I started at City Hall instead of where everybody else started at Pershing Square. And we just met the marchers as they were coming down the street. We mostly stood on the sidewalk taking pictures but then joined the march to make our way back to City Hall. Everybody had room to walk and march until toward the end and it was like what you were describing where you could just barely move. I had a claustrophobic moment and was thinking exactly what you thought, “We’re never gonna get out of this.” But the whole time, it just felt very relaxed. Everybody else was calm so it helped me keep calm.
DP: Right. People were not gonna let themselves— They were not gonna be angry. It was like being in a big traffic jam on the freeway, but we’re all out of our cars so we’re gonna be humane and civil to each other.
MS: Like La La Land.
DP: Yeah! I was just thinking the other day, we yell at people from our cars, but when somebody’s right there and you see they have a pink hat and they’re smiling and you know that they have the passion that you have to make this country— To continue to keep America great…. There weren’t the people who were gonna get mad.
People were saying, “Do you see an end to this?” There is no end. And then one guy was saying to us, “You look like you know where you’re going.” But there was no “there.” We did find this one area with a giant gold sculpture where we stayed about a half an hour and just watched people. That’s when John Kerry walked by.
John Kerry walked by with a couple of people and he walked by very tall, very slowly. You saw his head and people screamed and clapped.
At one point we walked right by the Bikers for Trump. I guess they came the day before but they’d stayed for this. And I’d say there were maybe 20 of them, 25. And they had a stand, they had a band playing rock n roll. And, ya know, the pink-hatted folks were dancing to the band. There was no confrontation at all.
About 3 o’clock we branched off. I wanted to see the Martin Luther King Memorial so we had to take a pretty long walk along a river’s edge. It was just so beautiful when I saw that 30-foot high statue and his face that just looked like he was there. And reading all the things that he had said etched on the walls and it’s just such a step back in time with what’s going on now.
At the restaurant where we stopped to eat, there were the pink-hatted groups and I’m sure there were some Republicans or Trump supporters around – who’d come to town for the inauguration – but there was never any hostility or anger. And I love that about our crowd. Because that’s what we’re marching for is love and kindness and humanity. So you can’t march for that and be rude and mean to people.
MS: Tell me about the research project you have your kids doing about the marches.
DP: I teach high school ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelve grade English. Special Ed kids with slight learning disabilities. And I had them all do a big research project on the marches with everyone picking a march to research, and we’re putting all the cities on a big map of the world. One boy did Paradise Bay, Antarctica where there were thirty people on an expedition ship and they had their signs. And they said things like, “Save the seals.” It was very much about the environment. Global warming.
I also asked them to write about the historical implications of the Women’s March. You can’t look that up on Google. The historical implications are an inference. You’ve gotta imagine what it’s going be like 5, 10, 50 years from now. Is it going to be in the history books? That’s how they found out about the Smithsonian collecting posters. The Women’s March signs are going to be in museums.
A couple of my students asked if the Women’s March was about abortion. Because if it was they said “Well then, I’m against it because I’m against abortion.” And I said, “Yeah, I get that. It’s really something you believe deeply in.” But I explained to them the marches were about so much more than that.
Wednesday after the election, I went to school – and it was the hardest day, after the Tuesday election – my kids, they wrote letters to Trump. They had to do something. One of my students wrote the most beautiful letter to Trump. She said, “I’m really scared. My family, my parents are from El Salvador and they’re here legally but I just am really afraid that you are going to separate me and my family,” and it was just so moving.
MS: Can you imagine having these fears as a child? It’s already hard enough being a kid.
DP: Oh my God. The social— Yes, it’s already terrifying. And then to have that.
MS: What would you say to people who criticize the marches? I have a female friend on Facebook who says she doesn’t understand why women felt like they needed to march at all. And another female friend who criticized the way we marched, embracing pussy power.
DP: I don’t hear that – friends on Facebook saying that. I can hardly hear it, though. The pussy cat hats came from what he said in that video. Billy Bush got fired but Trump got elected president?! And that, I think, was really, really, really underneath it all. And that’s what I’m hearing from people around the world. Women saying, “We’re marching because we’re women and human and we’re marching for each other. But we also want to make sure that our country doesn’t make this mistake.”
I love what Van Jones has been doing with The Messy Truth. Creating these episodes and interviewing people on both sides. In one episode there are these four women all sitting on a porch. In Gettysburg. And they’re all friends but they all voted for different people. And they love each other and they care about each other and they live in the same small town and their kids know each other. One woman says something like, “It’s horrible what Trump said, but his ideas are really good so you have to look past that.” And her friend says something like, “There’s no looking past that. He is a role model. There’s no looking past that behavior that we would never let our kids do, our students, or people in any kind of business or power.”
MS: Well, then you’ve got people who say, “Oh, that’s just how guys talk.” But I think what’s happening is they’re confusing the language with the context. Sure I can believe most guys talk about the anatomy of women and having sex with women, but I will never believe most guys talk like Trump did. Whether you believe he’s actually followed through with the action or not, we have our now President of the United States on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women.
DP: You’re right, like “I am proud of the fact that I can sexually assault any woman.” And Billy Bush, I don’t know what his career’s like now, but he’s gone. And the other one’s president.
MS: What do you want to do next? I know there are the tax marches on April 15th, to demand that Trump release his taxes. That’s going on. There’s also International Women’s Day on March 8th, with events organized around that.
DP: I’ll participate in all of that. I do want to find something that digs a little deeper. I know writing letters helps, having your voice heard. We hooked up with a couple of women who live in Los Feliz [in LA] and said, we need to get together and figure out the next step is gonna be. And it can’t be just marches. What can we do to make a bigger dent or difference?
Mayor Garcetti and all of the politicians here are saying things like, “No, we are not going to let the federal government tell us we have to send people out. That’s federal, if they wanna do that, but we’re not gonna do that. And if we lose our money because we’re a sanctuary city, so be it.” I think nobody knows what is quite going to happen, but they’re ready to fight it.
We’re climbing up a mountain again. We fell to the bottom of the mountain but we’re gonna start climbing up it again. The Women’s March gave everybody an outlet and a moment to say, it’s not just me and my friends who feel this way. It’s so many people in the world. And this is— Well, it’s hope.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Meredith Simonds writes about women and anxiety at PlentyWoman.com.