Grabbing The P-Word Back

These pussies grab back.

As honored as I am to be a contributor to Huffington Post, I’d like to reserve my contributions for when I have a strong opinion and something I feel is worth saying. In between my thoughts, I’d love to use this privilege as an opportunity to pass the mic to other people who have something to say. People who have something to say that I 100 percent support and back up.

Today, I pass the mic to my bold, witty, and magnetic friend - Laura Snow. All the wonderful words below are hers and I love them and I love her.

When Crudeness is Called For: The 2017 Women’s March and a Case For the P-Word

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For All Womankind is a desig For All Womankind is a design initiative for Fempowerment. All proceeds go to the Center for Reproductive Rights and Emily's List, two not-for-profit organizations working to advance reproductive freedoms both in the US and globally, and to elect progressive pro-choice women to office.

As the social media outrage mechanisms continue to cluck and clack away, a common complaint about the Women’s Marches this past weekend has been the crudeness of some of the signs. Among the signs that I personally made for my trip to Washington, D.C., were messages of vigilance (“Every Move U Make, We’ll Be Watching U!”) and unity among women and minority groups (“Together, We Are the Majority”), however, the Female Collective t-shirt I wore was a statement of that infamous double p-bomb, Pussy Power (“Pussy Grabs Back”)!

Now, the word “pussy” has not always been my favorite. Being a child of the “Vagina Monologues” era, I can say the word without blushing too much, but even still, if you asked me to discuss the Russian band Pussy Riot with a man over the age of 60, I would not be able to maintain eye contact. Let’s just say that I’m the proud owner of two cats and one vagina, and I don’t call any of them pussies.

I’m not alone in this squeamishness. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed response to the January 21st marches, David Brooks appears bewildered as to why women would risk alienating non-marchers by using such identity-politicking language:

“On Saturday, the anti-Trump forces could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement. Instead, the marches offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them.”

There’s more than vulgarities to unpack there, but let’s get to the recent resurgence of the word, “pussy.” Now, if the series of unfortunate events that have transpired since October 8, 2016 wiped your memory clean by mere exhaustion, shell shock, or choice, let me provide a refresher: A 2005 Access Hollywood outtake featuring our fearful leader, now President Donald Trump, was leaked to the Washington Post. (If you haven’t actually heard this, PLEASE do. This IS our president.)

“I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything….Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything”

To many, hearing this man who most closely resembles a rotten baby carrot (sorry, baby carrots) assert these words again and again in the 24-hour news loop was shocking, irritating, obscene and inappropriate. It was indeed all of those things, but it was also violent.

As a woman who has been grabbed, and worse, by men without permission (assaulted), hearing these words simply beat me down. When a man campaigning to become the most powerful person in the country denies your basic humanity, and shrugs it off as a “guy thing,” you’re left feeling powerless and with compromised autonomy.

On the subway, my body felt more vulnerable to hands like his: violent, entitled, woman-hating hands. One after another, the alleged stories emerged: without permission, Trump slipped his hand up a skirt here; he kissed a woman on the lips there. Knowing that he is a litigious bully with a team of internet trolls at his beck and call, I could only imagine that it was civic duty, and not personal gain, that urged these women forward. The disrespect and mocking tone that they were met with by Trump and some of his supporters only weakened me further.

Have we lost our moral centers? Are people not basically good? Am I the only one hearing this? It was only Michelle Obama’s historic speech on October 13, 2016, that provided a cathartic release of tears and an affirmation that I was not alone in wondering why I felt so depleted. My power was faded by the orange kryptonite of voter-approved misogyny.

“This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn’t matter what party you belong to — Democrat, Republican, independent — no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.” - Michelle Obama

The morning he was elected I woke up and thought, “Do we American women hate ourselves so much that we would choose this as the person to represent and protect our bodies? The pussy-grabber?” Pussy, a word I had never felt like I needed to protect, now felt like it belonged to him, in the way that he felt that any passing woman’s genitals did. But just like that, the idea of the Women’s March began to circulate, as if to say, “Not so fast, Cheeto-face!”

Following the march, the critics emerged. The hypocrisy of expecting a level of propriety from the demonstrators that is not expected from the President of the United States is, for the lack of a better word with more characters, SAD! But, the signs do more than highlight this irony, just as those pink pussy hats do more than keep our ears warm. We were reclaiming and recasting the word. We are not JUST our pussies, but our pussies are nonetheless OURS. “Pussy” is ours to shout from the pavement, not yours to grab.

After that joyous, peaceful, beautiful day, where millions around the world flooded the streets to march in lockstep against the hateful rhetoric directed not just at women, but at people of color, LGBTQIA, Muslims, people with disabilities, veterans, immigrants, refugees, Native Americans and more, I can now hear that word, “PUSSY” again and not shudder with the violence that Trump cast upon it. Taking that little bit of power back is one of the great successes of January 21, 2017.

One of my favorite signs that I saw at the march was scribbled in magic marker, “Putin May Have Put You In, But Pussy Gonna Take You Out.” Vulgar? Maybe. But, guess what? Rich, white men do not get the monopoly on vulgarity: these pussies grab back. Let’s make that sign a promise, come midterm and general election time, not just a threat.

Now, the work begins.

-Laura Snow