A lot of people have spoken out against the Women’s March. A lot of people have laughed it off, declared it useless, rolled their eyes. But can I tell you what it meant to me?
Here’s the thing: I realize it has flaws.
I realize that it was a very, very white march. I know a lot of people of color – before and after the march – voiced concerns about its intersectionality and its white-ness. Those concerns are valid. It was, for the most part, a lot of white people (but, not only white people!). That made it very safe. That’s why a lot of the “peaceful protests” and “not a single arrest!” stats were cool and all, but also pretty predictable and not very meaningful. I wish it hadn’t been so white, I wish intersectionality was easier to come by, I wish more people of color felt welcomed, but I also think – realizing we have a long way to go – it was a good place to start.
I realize there are issues with some of the signs people held, some of the shirts people wore, some of the things people said on stage, and some of the people who showed up. We can’t all stand for one person’s beliefs, just as one person doesn’t stand for all of ours. But it’s the bigger picture, the bigger goal that matters here.
I realize that there probably isn’t going to be much tangible change from it. I get that we weren’t protesting one law or one policy or one court decision – so there isn’t one flip of a switch to be reversed here. That doesn’t mean change isn’t possible; that doesn’t mean some wheels weren’t put in motion.
I marched for the younger generation, who I am hoping can grow up in a world very different than our current reality. I marched so they don’t have to ask the same questions I asked or fight the same battles I fought. I marched so they can be one (or ten!) steps closer to equality by the time they are voting. I marched so one day a woman running for the highest office in the country is a norm, not a novelty.
I marched for the older generation who came before me, who I am so grateful to. I marched for the first women voters, for the pioneer career women, for the first women graduates and politicians and doctors and CEOs. I marched because they came so far for me – it’s the least I can do to keep walking forward in their honor.
I marched for my generation – the ones who are living in a distorted reality. The ones who, on paper, are supposed to be equals but, in real life, are so far from it. I marched for my sisters whose respectability time and time again is questioned, for my brothers whose tears are time and time again shunned. I marched for us all. Which means I also marched for everyone who refused to march – because even though our views might differ, you matter and you have rights and I will fight for you even if you refuse to fight alongside me.
I marched for the women treated far worse than me. As a college educated cis white middle class American born female, I’m the best off of us all. That is not okay with me. I marched for the lower class and the women of color and the immigrants and the LGTBQ+ – groups I might not fall into, but groups I will stand up for. I marched for the millions of women worldwide, whose rights are a fraction of mine and whose governments look to America to set the bar; I marched because that bar is not nearly high enough. I marched for the marginalized, whatever margin they might fall into. They matter. We all matter.
I marched because I saw too much ugly in this election cycle. Worse, I saw too much ugly excused, swept aside, or even, at times, cheered on. I marched because I reject “locker room talk”. I marched because sexual assault is something to admonish, punish, and speak out against – not brag about. I marched because I have higher standards for the men I date than apparently America does for its President.
I marched because I have a right to take up space in this world, I have a voice worth listening to, I have ideas worth sharing, and I have personhood that cannot be swept aside. I marched because all these things, at one time or another, are called into question because of my gender.
I marched because I believe God has a greater story for humanity than America is currently living. A story of redemption and equality and freedom and grace, a story that doesn’t focus on scarcity or fear but focuses on generosity and truth. A story that we might not fully realize this side of eternity, but a story I think we can get a whole lot closer to – if we work together.
The hope that any (and every?) American citizen should feel on Inauguration Day was lost this year. To me, at least. This isn’t about a candidate winning that I didn’t vote for – that’s happened before. It’s about an eerie feeling of watching your new president promote selfishness and xenophobia, of seeing the leader of your country encourage everyone to focus inwardly. At a time when we should be called to action, called to rally as a country for the sake of our collective future, for the sake of others, for the sake of the world – we were told the opposite.
But that hope, for me, was found on Saturday. I didn’t expect a “protest” to feel so patriotic, yet standing with my hand over my heart during the national anthem, I’ve never been prouder to be a citizen. If you think about it, we were doing something even more bound in America’s history than inauguration days every four years – we are a country founded in protests, awakened by protests, pushed into progress by protests. We the people make sure our voices are heard. It was magical to get to be a part of that history.
There was also hope that, hey, I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one that saw the crazy, that wanted to put a stop to the crazy, that then felt crazy when the rest of the country voted that crazy into office. Being surrounded by 40,000 people who look different than you, speak different than you, probably have 70% different beliefs than you, and yet agree on one major thing is inspiring. The hope that was running through the crowd was contagious and magnetic. I was grateful for it.
After a season where, quite honestly, I felt so alone, being literally walled in by people in every direction is comforting. These people are watching. These people are listening. These people are ready to act, ready to stand up, ready to say “enough is enough!” and “not on our watch!” After a season of feeling helpless, that was beyond comforting.
Low estimates put the Women’s March, worldwide, at three million. High estimates put it at four million. Someone pointed out that, loosely, translates to 1 in 100 Americans were marching on Saturday. 1 in 100. I’m proud to be part of that 1%.
Because flawed and imperfect as it might have been, action was taken on Saturday. Change agents will always be criticized – there’s always different ways to go about doing something, different ways to describe something, different ways to be. Everyone has reasons of why you’re protesting wrong, but no one has the right answer to it. Bridge builders are vulnerable to attacks from both sides when in the construction zone of the middle ground. That’s not a reason to avoid it.
There were countless posters claiming “pussy grabs back”, and if you somehow missed the sea of pink pussy hats at basically every march, you must have been looking at black and white pictures. This made some people uneasy. Yet we were proudly saying, collectively, we fight back. We will not go quietly. We will not stand to the side quietly. We will stand up for religious tolerance and freedom of speech and acceptance and love. Always love. We will stand up to bullying and racism and xenophobia and sexism and hate. Always hate.
These pussies fight back. If that word choice makes you uncomfortable, imagine how uncomfortable I feel knowing my president feels entitled to grab me by mine.