A Year After the Jan. 6 Insurrection, Where Do We Stand?

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It’s been just over a year since armed insurrectionists attempted a coup at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Never before in our lifetimes has our democracy felt so fragile than in those moments of the violent January 6 attack.

In his powerful speech Thursday, President Biden blamed former President Trump (without ever naming him) and his repeated lies about the 2020 election for the attack on the Capitol. And President Biden called attention to the role of racial animus driving the insurrection: 

“Close your eyes.  Go back to that day.  What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.”

But, as Ms. contributor Jackson Katz wrote last week, that not only were racial anxiety and grievance animating forces, there was another key aspect of that violent event—the role of gender:

“It is also impossible to understand the reasons why January 6 happened without understanding the ways in which Trumpism is rooted in the aggrieved entitlement of millions of white men who are enraged at the loss of their cultural centrality—both as white people and as men. It is equally important to understand political violence in this context—not as a spontaneous eruption, but as a planned strategy for taking back control. … [The rioters were] riled up by their leader—the president of the United States—whose speech that day was filled with dog whistle challenges to their masculinity.”

Katz continued his analysis:

“In this way, the feminist-led movement against domestic violence over the past half-century has much to teach us. In heterosexual relationships, men’s use of violence is not as much impulsive as it is rooted in a belief system in which their needs come first.  They use force, or the threat of it, to gain or maintain a woman’s compliance, or to punish her for transgressing against his authority.”

Thus, Katz explains one of feminism’s critical contributions to securing our democracy. To that I would add the right to abortion (which the Supreme Court is poised to revoke this year). We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Abortion is essential to democracy. And we must enshrine the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Without full legal equality and bodily autonomy, women cannot participate fully in the civic life of our democracy.

Sarah Weddington, the iconic feminist lawyer who argued Roe v. Wade, reminded us of the fragility of our democracy and the importance of securing the Equal Rights Amendment. “We never want to go back to the way it was,” she told Ms. contributing editor Martha Burk in 2011. “We don’t have equal rights in the U.S. Constitution. So, anything that we have can be gone.”

We have a lot to think about on this one-year remembrance of January 6th—a day that showed us we cannot let our guard down, even for one instant.

You may also like: The latest episode of “On the Issues With Michele Goodwin,” Revisiting the American Terrorism of 2021: A Year In Review (with Russ Feingold, Dahlia Lithwick, Joan Biskupic and Dr. George Woods.

Listen below, or head to the podcast episode landing page for a transcript, background reading and more.

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Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.