Men were among the hundreds of thousands who protested Saturday during the Women’s March on Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)
Columnist

Women everywhere. Pink hats, black hats, hard hats, no hats. A crushing polite crowd, well prepared with healthy snacks and tissues. A crowd so sprawling, it nearly covered the march route end-to-end. It was mighty and powerful.

Best of all, there were men there. Thousands of them. Some wore the pink pussyhats. Some were just there to condemn President Trump.

“I just hate him. I am totally against Donald Trump,” one guy told me, when I asked why he’d come to the Women’s March. “The women are fine, they’re strong.”

No worries, dude. We’ll take you. We’re all going in the same direction, anyhow. Come along.

And that’s the key.

Bart Goodell from Skaneateles, N.Y., marches down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women's March on Washington. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

“We are all the same,” said 8-year-old Asa Bergander’s sign. He gets it.

When I asked him why he came to the march, he said, “Girls don’t get as much money as boys when they do the same work.”

Asa for president!

Because boys and men who think like Asa are crucial for the next step in our long unfinished fight for equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity. It’s time for all men to stand with us in the boardroom and listen when we talk, to stand with us in the kitchen and help us run the house, to stand with us when we ask for a raise and consider what’s fair, to stand with us when we are assaulted and believe what we say.

We’ve made it clear that we can drive trucks, try cases, fight fires, discover dark matter, construct buildings, operate on brains, fly planes and graduate from Ranger School. And in most cases, we can do all this while raising kids. Skills and stamina aren’t the argument anymore.

So what’s standing in the way of true equality? Hearts. Men’s hearts.

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We need you, men. We need you to see the sexism and discrimination. And lots of you already do.

“I’m here because this affects all of us,” said Fred Lado, a neuroscientist who came to the Women’s March from New York. Women, he said, absolutely face “systemic biases.” And men need to stand up for women’s rights the same way white people need to stand up for the rights of African Americans.

Black Lives Matter. Feminism. It’s all human rights, Lado said.

That kind of Spock logic was strong with the science men.

“It’s a matter of civil rights,” said Paul Mason, 50, an aerospace engineer from Bowie. He came with his daughter, Chelsea, because he wants a future of equal opportunity for her and worried the new administration will not ensure that for her.

The dads were awesome.

“I believe in equality for all people, and if that happens, it doesn’t mean I’m losing anything,” said Tim Murch, 42, a special-education supervisor in Emmaus, Pa.

And you can totally get why all these Gen-X dads are doing this. Because what dad of a young child didn’t blanch at our new president’s brag on grabbing women by the genitals or boast about how hot his daughter is and how he’d be dating her if they weren’t related.

Why else were men there? Is it because they believe that the women at their offices should be paid and promoted the same way they are? That women should get to make their own decisions about their bodies? That men should share equally in raising kids and caring for homes? Does that make all these guys closet feminists?

It’s complicated. Many of the men I talked to struggled a bit when I asked whether they were feminists. Which is weird, because it’s like seeing white folks at a rally to end racism struggle with whether they consider themselves civil rights activists.

“What is the definition of the word?” one guy asked.

Another man leaned over and whispered in my ear: “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.”

“Um, I guess,” another guy shrugged.

Even Californian Kern Beare, 61, who has been on a month-long journey across the country with his son, talking to people and posting the interactions on his PoptheBubble blog, wrestled with the question.

“Hmm,” he hummed.

He said he believes in feminine leadership styles of listening, cooperation and collaboration. And says that Trump doesn’t have those qualities. But he wasn’t totally into calling himself a feminist.

Hmm.

Then I found Albert Andersen. He’s a 56-year-old welder from West Virginia. He wore a sturdy leather jacket and stood alone.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of EVIL is for good (wo)men to do NOTHING,” said his simple sign, written on brown cardboard in black ink. He voted for Hillary Clinton. He answered in short, two- and three-word bursts.

“Are you a feminist?” I asked.

“Look,” he drawled, leaning in close. “I believe in equal rights. That’s what this is about — equal rights.”

Amen, brother. And thank you for being there.

Twitter: @petulad