I did my first and last protest over 40 years ago in New York City in front of Macy’s with 20 other women. We burned our bras — as a kind of joke — in a huge trash can. We made network news and the front page of all the newspapers.
We were almost arrested (because we didn’t have a real permit) but the cops thought it was funny and let us go through with it. No one got naked. No one was lewd. We all thought it was a hoot.
Personally I thought it was one of the better feminist events because none of us were feminists (most of us were writers and PR consultants). I think it actually ended up inspiring designer John Kloss to immediately issue his famous “no-bra bra,” which was one of the biggest fashion statements of that hippy revolution era.
Everyone in my generation wore his sheer hook-in-the-front bra. It became one of the “liberating” signs of the times. Unlike the recent rise (and now fall) of Victoria’s Secret’s padded uplift Wonder Bra which heralded the opposite trend of fake boobs and porn lingerie.
So, times have changed, and now we have nightly protests as “entertainment news.” I have become so confused over all the marching factions. It started as BLM then it became looters and Antifa and then escalated to Portland and defunding the police and now it’s back to BLM with some global warming demonstrations thrown in.
I need a guidebook. And why not, since some think this is all highly organized via social media. Apparently, you can look up “the protest of the day” and see where you can go to pick up a placard and a check for your services. Kind of like being hired as an extra in a film. In fact, the protesters have become the extras in the chiller we are currently all starring in, called “2020.”
My days of protests and demonstrations (what’s the difference? I was told demonstrations are “protesting lite”) were mostly about hanging out and scoring dope and maybe hooking up. The cause was important, but “making the scene” was the issue. That may still be the issue, however social media today has made this a whole lot more than it was in the ’60s.
And right now, for so many people out of work and isolated and fearful of COVID with no bars or gyms, what better nightly outlet than a march from 4 to 9? It fills the time and gives you a purpose. Until it gets too “played up.” Maybe that’s why looting occurs — it pushes the marching to the next level of attention and urgency. But the basic “peaceful protesters” seem to be mostly young to middle-aged white women in luxury athleisure wear. A few men and less people of color — all in moderate priced athleisurewear. We still don’t know who these people are exactly, and do they live “OTB” (Over the bridge into Manhattan)?
But since theatre is closed, street events might begin to fill that bill. After all, the original “living theatre” started that way in the NYC parks. So did Shakespeare.
Obviously, we’ve accelerated already — from four years ago with pink pussy hats and huge Trump baby balloons, to high unrest and exactly what? That remains to be seen post-election … or not! But does that mean nowadays you have to take your phone, your mask and a brick when you leave your house? Do you have to choose a cause (any cause) or a side … to stay relevant?
Relevancy is currently so exhausting — especially if you are over 70 or 80. I am sick of hearing people say 70 is the new 50 and 80 is the new 60. Eighty is the New 80, and 70 is the new 70! Some of us feel like bent over trees, especially after this year. We all took an aging hit. But there is a lot to be said for people who are still “engaged” and “activists” for any initiative.
I hear a lot of over-70 pals say, “I want to keep my hand in the game.” Okay. Or “I’d like to take one more run around the stadium.” Good for them. But what stadium are they talking about? And when does all that activity resemble “desperately seeking”? What is wrong with a good seat in the stands? I don’t mean “sitting it out” so much as witnessing from a higher vantage point … with Wisdom (which we really need now).
I admire people inspired to raise a fist, let alone keep it above their head for longer than five seconds. Today, just getting out of bed in the morning is enough of a cause for me.
Which brings me to Jane Fonda (82) and Gloria Steinem (86) who both surfaced last week to clarify their current role as activists in this rip-roaring time. And if not them, who? As the New York Times quoted in their Steinem interview, “Gloria is nowhere near done with being an activist.”
As Gloria explains, “The most dangerous time is after a victory – eight years of Obama and moving forward, and the fact that now most Americans agree with what social justice movements have been saying. But what that means is 40% of the country feels deprived of their position in an old hierarchy and they’re in full backlash.”
I am not exactly sure what Gloria is doing of late since she doesn’t have to do anything other than be a historic feminist. However, she did recently appear in an awkward interview with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex in the Duchesses’ backyard of her million-dollar California home with her dogs — and the whole time it looked like it was directed by Oprah.
Why and what this meeting was for is not clear, other than a couple of celebrities sitting around having tea and talking social issues. And we have plenty of that lately. Gloria admitted that “movements are family — I get to do what I love and care about every day of my life.”
Lucky her and I guess so does the Duchess. At one point she cautioned Meghan: “If you don’t vote, you don’t exist. It’s the one place we are all equal is in the voting booth.”
Meghan expressed her concern for “voter suppression, especially if you are a person of color…”
And Gloria responded with “just people hearing YOU say that will help them be better prepared for it.”
Really? Are people actually listening and caring about the Duchess lately? The visit ended with Gloria giving Meghan a bracelet that said, “Imagine Not Ranked,” and thanking her for understanding that “rank” is less important than being “linked.” I’m lost in all this messaging jewelry. Maybe they should both go sell it on QVC!
There was something Gloria mentioned in the New York Times interview where she was asked about her attractiveness as an attention getter in her early activist years. To be honest, the biggest influence Gloria ever had on me was never her justice message, but her aviator glasses and perfectly highlighted long hair.
However, Gloria saw her role as a “full time movement worker” (who actually gets paid for THAT anymore?) succeeding NOT because of her beauty but because of her humor. “Humor is crucial. It allows you to laugh at yourself and say when you’re wrong. I suspect that the people who last the longest, who continue to be trustworthy — are people with a sense of humor.”
Maybe. So where are the current activists with any funny punchlines today? Nobody is laughing about anything anymore, and that simply doesn’t exist!
What does exist with a vengeance is Jane Fonda, who is considered a life-long activist and still going at it actually getting arrested (she calls it “getting into good trouble”) weekly in D.C. at her Fire Drill Fridays. These protests were started last year to empower environmental activists to change legislation. It is spearheaded by Fonda and Greenpeace. Their “poster girl” is Greta Thunberg who originally stated, “Our building is on fire.”
So, Jane took this one on and proceeded to march and get arrested 5 times in Washington. She is extremely proud of her cuffed hands and overnight jail time, dressed in her trademark Max Mara red coat which she wears everywhere (it was the last piece of clothing she bought tow years ago as a sign of her belief in sustainability). Now these DC arrests are a long way from her being arrested by Nixon for her anti-Vietnam position. She is very clear to say the most recent she herself instigated!
She is now on a book tour for her What Can I Do? My Path from Climate Despair to Action. It is a protest handbook of “who better than Jane” to show you the resiliency ropes in the battle of social reform.
Remember, she is a great movie star so on all her virtual book interviews she looks the peak of perfection; the infamous “Klute” coif (now silver), the exceptional lighting (which erases all facial lines – not to mention the best plastic surgery), her terrific “basement” setting with a wall of celebrity friend photos and a giant spray of white orchids behind her. The woman knows about staging and relaying her urgent activism to others who are too exhausted to leave their sad Covid bunkers to protest anything other than the need for more wipes.
But with Jane (like Gloria), activism is her community. And let’s get real — at 82 she has nothing to lose and can afford to “make appearances” in DC jails in between her shoots for “Grace and Frankie” Netflix shows.
It’s a great gig for her. She has turned civil disobedience for climate control into popular autograph and selfie “meet and greets.” Nothing wrong with that as one social media fan wrote, “By getting arrested, Jane is actively putting her whole body into alignment with her values.” She did that before with her hugely successful exercise tape empire (also called a “movement”). She got the entire nation doing leg lifts in legwarmers. These is nothing Jane Fonda can’t mobilize into a cause.
And in the end, like Gloria, Jane wants us to VOTE … of course. Whether at the polls or the post office, which made me think “going postal” might be the next protest theme and destination. One way or another, grab your ballot and get your masked game face on!