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Maria Bello.

The way forward

Maria Bello: ‘Our pussies are strong and resilient and … powerful’

February 16, 2017

Actress and women’s activist Maria Bello reflected on the meaning of the Women’s March on Washington Wednesday evening during a panel discussion at Tina Brown’s 2017 Women in the World D.C. Salon. Bello, who took part in a sister march while at the Sundance Film Festival, appeared alongside U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Tamika Mallory, one of the national co-chairs and founders of the Women’s March. Bello said the march galvanized women and let them reclaim power and words that have long been the province of men. Recalling Donald Trump’s infamous “grab them by the pussy” remark from a video leaked during the 2016 campaign, Bello told the audience at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in the nation’s capital about the raw emotions hearing those words stirred up in her. Above watch video of the complete panel.

“Senator Gillibrand, can you just tell us what the hell is going on?” Brown asked, referring to the political turmoil in Washington ushered in by the Trump administration, to kick off the discussion. Gillibrand responded by echoing the concerns many have voiced over the Trump administration’s early moves. “This president — his first executive order was to ban Muslims from this country,” Gillibrand said, adding that the executive order was “so antithetical to our values, to this country being founded on religious freedom, to the fact that we are a nation of immigrants.” Gillibrand said that because Trump’s initiatives are antithetical to American values, “We do have to resist, we do have to fight.”

Later in the discussion, Mallory responded to a question Brown asked about the Women’s March’s intersectionality by saying that she’s still getting emails from people who are suggesting that the organizers change the name of the movement. She noted that men were allowed and encouraged to take part, but that “we were intentional about centering women being another group of marginalized people in this country.” She added, “We felt woman can lead, have been leading … and why not have us be allowed to be at the front of the table? And who’s going to tell us we couldn’t, so we just did it.”

Mallory also addressed the racial dynamics of the election outcome — 53 percent of white women voted for Trump while 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton — and talked about some of the controversy that bubbled up around the march, particularly with some conservative women who suggested the march was less than welcoming to those who held pro-life views.

Later Bello opened up about the profound way in which the march and what it stood for touched her. “We are reclaiming our power as women, as the march represented,” Bello said. “I’m very into the reclamation of words. Reclaiming the word pussy. I don’t like that this man can say “grab it by the pussy” and I get bleeped when I say pussy. Because our pussies are strong and resilient and give life and they are powerful.” Bello even seemed to channel Trump for just a moment, saying, “When they punch you in the face, punch them back harder! And punch them back not with your fist, but punch them back with your righteousness, your sense of justice, your marches, your rallying!” Bello said that was a truth she discovered about herself after watching Meryl Streep eviscerate Trump during her Golden Globes speech last month.

Watch a clip of Bello’s remarks below and watch video of the full panel at the Women in the World YouTube page.

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