The Power of Language Following the Women's March and the Inauguration

January 24, 2017
The Power of Language Following the Women's March and the Inauguration

Language – for better or for worse – shapes our thinking, our activism, and our view of America. We saw this firsthand over the weekend in the wonderful posters displayed and the chants uttered at the monumental Women’s March in Washington. Some of my favorite posters included “this some bullshit,” the forever-relevant Beyoncé lyrics “Who Run the World? Girls” and, of course, “we shall overcomb.” I mean, it just does so much at once, you know?

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The posters reminded me not only of how powerful language is, but also of how powerful the written word is. The atmosphere at the march was tense, but nonviolent. We fought with writing, we fought with words, with language. At one point during the protest, I witnessed two men holding large signs proclaiming “It is not too late to repent your sins” and other hateful religious babble. Another man stood in front of them with his pink sign claiming, “I love Jesus, but I make him wear a condom.” It was beautifully silent, nonviolent, but also impactful. Unashamed, unabashedly uncensored, the pussy grabbed back. 

Spoken language also fueled the energy of the march. I was barely off the metro before I heard, “fired up, ready to go” and “hey hey, ho ho Donald Trump has got to go.” Poets and singers came to the march to share their words, adding to the nonviolent and language-driven essence of the march. A boy who couldn’t have been older than ten started to chant, “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!” Vibrant words filled the air, filled the streets of our nation’s capital. Our words continue to fight against a man who uses his own to misguide us and has been doing so his entire campaign. Lies are his language, not ours.  

The posters, chants, poetry, singing, and speeches in the women’s march represented a great resistance to the power of manipulation using language. What we also saw these past two simultaneously tumultuous and empowering days was how language can be used to mislead the American people. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, has gotten into a lot of trouble for saying that “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the world.” Sure, Spicer has made it to meme-dom with this statement (this one’s great), but at what cost? Trump told the CIA (lol, who lies to the CIA?), “I looked out, the field was – it looked like a million, million and a half people.” By now we’ve seen this photo buzzing around, confirming that Trump might have been exaggerating a tad. There’s some back and forth on what was going on – Kellyann Conway, counselor to the president, says that Spicer was given “alternative facts,” but it doesn’t excuse the President of the United States lying to his people, especially for something as trivial as size (it matters to some, I guess). If this is what he’s lying about now, it’s frightening to think about what he may be covering up in the future. However, after witnessing women all over the world marching in solidarity, bonded by honest, intersectional passion with a vast array of vocabulary, I am confident that we will continue to speak louder than he does. 

Finding the truth is important, and unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to find what is real and what isn’t real. There have been articles on Facebook denying the need for the women’s march, and others that support the “alternative facts” claim by Conway. That’s why I urge you to seek credible news sources, to question what you read on your various newsfeeds. Here’s a great diagram on fighting fake news. It shows you what news sources tend to be more liberal and which tend to be more conservative, how journalistically capable the sources are, and which mainstream media have minimal bias. Language is an important and powerful tool. Nothing made that more apparent than the inauguration and the women’s march. It’d be a shame if we let Trump, or anyone else for that matter, use it to our detriment.

*P.S. – Wondering what you can do in the 100 days after the march? Here you go.

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