On Saturday, the Independent Women’s Organization hosted the March for ALL Women—an alternative to the Women’s March. The goal of the #MarchforALLwomen was to welcome women of all races, religions, and political beliefs and to recognize and celebrate the advances women have made over the last several decades. The IW women wore cream-colored hats and wore pins printed with that familiar feminist rallying cry: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”
I didn’t speak at the event, which allowed me to roam around the crowd and look at the diverse women who had gathered. I was impressed to see young and old, women of all races, women with babies and young children, women wearing heels and tennis shoes and bulky boots holding signs declaring their diverse opinions of what it means to be a women in America today and their desire to recognize and respect ALL women’s opinions.
While the majority of attendees at the IW #MarchforALLwomen were right-of-center, now and then, a woman wearing the iconic pink pussy hat would stumble into our event, likely mistaking it for the official Women’s March, which was gathering just across the street. When this happened, I would walk over to them, say hello, introduce myself and urge them to go to the snack table to grab some hot coffee and a muffin.
Without fail, even after realizing they were at an alternative event, the women I met were unfailingly kind, curious and eager to find out what “this march” was all about. Most listened, smiled and then moved on. But one woman I encountered really wanted to have deeper conversation. After I approached her and said hello, she introduced herself as Louis and asked me to move away from the area a bit so that we could have a quieter conversation away from the stage and media.
After we found a quieter area on the sidewalk, Louis was very direct, asking how I could support Trump who had said so many mean things about women. It’s a question I hear often by my female friends (left and right).
My response was simple: I told her that she’d find a lot of women in this crowd at the IW march and even within the IW organization that share her concern about Trump’s language, extramarital affairs, and aggressive taunts to those on the other side of the political aisle. She seemed happy to hear that, even surprised that I didn’t launch into a full-throated defense of Trump. But how could I? I’m a practicing Catholic who is raising three boys to be kind, civil and loyal to their faith and families. While I do support most policies coming from the White House, I’m not deaf or blind to his faults and failures. I explained this softly and calmly to Louis and she understood and respected my position.
Louis told me she understood why there are legitimate reasons to praise the Trump Administration and the policies he’s promoted that have helped the American public. I reminded her that unemployment among women has reached its lowest rate since 1965. I mentioned that black unemployment is also at a record low. I talked about the health of the economy, Trump’s tax reforms, his dismantling of so many regulations that hurt businesses and slow growth, and how he’s pursued both sentencing and criminal justice reform. I also reminded her that while it might be fraught, Trump has initiated a much-needed conversation about immigration reform—something President Obama avoided for eight long years.
But I also acknowledged her concerns about the tone coming from the White House—a tone that makes most women uncomfortable. And I acknowledged her fear that the discourse in this country has become toxic—something she agreed can be blamed on both the left and the right.
Louis and I realized that we have an awful lot in common and that we actually agreed more than disagreed.
The funniest moment came when Louis touched my arm, leaned in and whispered (as if worried another pink-hatted woman would hear), “you know, you’re conservative, but you’re REALLY nice! And…your signs are much better.”
I was so glad to spend a few minutes with Louis, listen to her, and explain my own thoughts on issues that affect our nation.
I hope we can continue to have civil conversations with people with we disagree. As Louis and I demonstrated: it can be done.