I wasn’t able to physically attend the Women’s March in D.C. or any of the over 600 local marches. I, instead, experienced everything that was happening through various television and social media outlets. I know that no one, especially network and cable media, expected this turnout. I wondered if that was why I was only seeing images with the audio muted and an ever-growing panel of commentators talking over the various split screen images behind them. I wondered if it was some sort of copyright restriction that prevented them from giving airtime to the speakers and entertainers on stage. As the march continued, and I watched the ever-increasing numbers, I waited to see if they would air the speakers live. But as I flipped around the stations, I noticed that local news channels aired regular programming for most of the day, while the cable channels began airing images very early and only selectively aired a few speakers and on the ground interviews with people attending the march.
I finally was able to download a streaming video app and watch what was happening in real time. Now, mind you, I understand that most live coverage is on a delay so that the stations can abide by their policies. This was being aired on a Saturday morning when children might be watching and stations are increasingly mindful of airing media that might be sensitive for some viewers. And I also understand that broadcasting networks make decisions about what to air for a number of different reasons. The cable news networks did wall-to-wall coverage of images from the D.C. march and marches across the country as well as Paris, London, and other cities overseas that were marching in unity with the women in the United States. But it became increasingly apparent that they would not air content or speakers live.
As the shots of banners and signs paraded in front of me, I couldn’t quite get the connection between not airing the speakers but showing the slogans that ranged from sentiments about love and equality to more definitive expressions of demands and stands on a number of issues. These live images were then talked over by various commentators asking what this was all about and I kept thinking: if you just listen to the speakers you will be able to discuss what this is about intelligently and without misguided or uninformed conjecture. I mean, after all, aren’t news channels supposed to report the news?
What I began to realize is that we are still very much a nation that is afraid to hear the voices of strong, empowered women. The speakers were not aired in case certain sensitive “words” or “topics” might be discussed without the time delay and the chance to edit out what they deemed inappropriate.
Now, this would be annoying at best if we hadn’t just come from an environment where these same networks had just covered an especially contentious presidential campaign. A campaign where talk of “grabbing pussy” and various back and forth innuendo about the relationship between hand and penis size was the norm. These same networks repeatedly aired video and audio of “locker room talk” references to “women not being a 10” and “nasty women” not to mention the “tell them they can go fuck themselves” sound byte which aired at numerous times of the broadcast day as well as video and stills of a man looming over a strong, accomplished woman.
Were these were not seen as harmful images and sound bytes?
Was this acceptable because a man said them?
Are we really still this archaic of a society that we have language only acceptable for men?
This sudden need to review everything and worry about language or topic merely because a woman said them became increasingly insulting to me. I felt that I was being denied access to information because the news media decided the information was either contentious or they worried that we might use strong language. I would have at least felt a little better if they even discussed the organizations and what they stood for or the organizers or anything at all about the march except merely the numbers. But no one did until much later in the day when they began pulling people into the studio for on-air interviews.
The speakers at the Women’s March represented established organizations helping women, children and the lgbtqqia+ communities on various fronts. There were also activists who work tirelessly for equality and health care as well as victim services. These are organizations that were established because there was a need for them. And there was a need for them because these, too, are the forgotten. But why are these the voices that scare people into censorship? Is it because it is the voice of strong, accomplished, capable women who saw a need, and then filled it without asking permissions like our suffragette and abolitionist mothers did?
I was filled with so much pride as I watched women and men bringing their children with them to this mazing congregation of millions across our country. Millions came. Millions spoke. And millions heard despite the lack of live news coverage. We have to get to work because the people that were there heard the message. The people that watched the news saw all of us but might not completely understand what we were matching for; they saw only our numbers.
And this is an amazing first step. But, it is only our first step.
So let’s get started: The Women’s March website has launched 10 Actions for the first 100 Days. The first action is to send postcards and the site has links to download postcards, find your senators and other information and suggestions for getting started.
We need to use our voice to be heard.
We need to be heard to effect change.
Joan Hanna has published poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, book reviews and essays in various online and print journals. Hanna’s first poetry chapbook, Threads, was named a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Both Threads and her second chapbook, The Miracle of Mercury, are available through Finishing Line Press. Hanna has previously served as Assistant Managing Editor for River Teeth, Assistant Editor for rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal, Managing Editor for Poets’ Quarterly and Senior Editor at Glassworks. Hanna holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and teaches creative writing at Rowan University. You can follow her personal blog at Writing Through Quicksand.