A couple of us at RCH took time out on Saturday to attend to attend one of the Women's Marches being held around the globe. We wanted to share a few of our experiences, what it meant to us, and offer some ideas about where to go from here.
As a starting point, is the big question of 'what was it about?' The answer is multi-faceted, because women are half the population, and we are touched by many, many issues, as are our children and yes, the men in our lives as well.
The best way to understand why so many were moved to show up is look at the Women's March Unity Principles (and download the .pdf for a longer explanation). While not everyone will be passionate for every one of these issues, there are plenty of areas for people of different backgrounds and priorities to find connection points - and hopefully, the Women' March will be the starting point for us all to find ways to work together for a better future for everyone.
We'll talk more about that later in this post - but first we want to share a few impressions of the marches.
from Lynda (& Michael), in DC:
We live in the DC area and while I wanted to attend the Women's March, I was concerned - I have rheumatoid arthritis with mobility and balance issues, and I expected it was going to be very difficult. But in the end, I knew this was going to be an historic event, and I didn't want to miss out. My husband Michael was also eager to go, and I knew he'd help look out for me.
We used the Metro, DC's subway system to get from our Virginia neighborhood into the city and we knew before we'd even gotten on the train that this was going to be big - probably way bigger than predicted. On a normal Saturday morning, the trains would be empty, but that morning, the platform was full of people, many in pink hats, and several trains went by, already too full to take on more than a couple people in each car before we finally managed to squeeze in ourself.
My general impressions of the day were that it was crowded, and yet most people were very polite and concerned for one another's well being, and while there was anger at policies contrary to issues of concern, the general mood was not bitter, but energized, and upbeat.
Several women I spoke with had come from other places around the country - in many cases, places where there was not a lot of open support for feminism or environmentalism, or anti-racism. Many had felt alone - well, when you're surrounded by over half a million fellow marchers, you can know one thing at least - you are not alone!
I also spoke with veterans of previous marches, including a gentleman who'd traveled up from South Carolina in 1963 for Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington, and come up again to join us for the Women's March.
In our case, we were attempting to get to a planned meet up place with friends, and were stopped by a solid wall of people about half way there. Cells weren't working, and it just became a 'go with the flow' sort of day. We could hear the various speakers from one of the many jumbotrons set up in the area, and I was able to find a bit of wall to perch on.
There were so many of us that they had to alter the march route - we were already covering the entire route! So after several hours of speakers and performances, we headed off on the new route and it felt good to move. I am still googling and re-listening to our various speakers now that I can do so from the comfort of my own home.
I'm proud of DC for the friendly, gracious hospitality it showed the participants of the Women's March, and I'm proud of those who marched for coming out.
While this was for many a direct protest of the current administration, it was so much more than that - I especially appreciate those people who came out and identified themselves as conservatives with concerns. We all desperately need to move beyond party divisions and find places where we can agree and hold our government officials accountable to hear us.
I think this is a good start - if we don't stop our momentum here.
from Jackie, in Heidelberg, Germany:
I found out about two weeks out that there was going to be a Woman's March near me, just under a two hour drive in Heidelberg, Germany.
My usual go-to companion for things like this was going to be in Vienna that weekend, attending the March there. Due to other scheduling conflicts, it wasn't looking possible to go with my husband and children.
In the end I sucked it up, looked past my social anxiety and asked around about a possible carpool. The day before, I managed to find a very nice stranger who was willing to let me ride up with her and another. She informed me that they didn't have time to make signs, so I decided to take some time that morning to whip a few up for us.
The three of us spent the drive sharing stories about ourselves, injustices we had faced and reasons why this was important to us.
When we got in town, our first stop was a small woman-owned shop that printed clothing on site. Jackie, the other girl with us, pre-ordered a sweatshirt. I didn't come with a ton of cash as this was short notice, and while I mulled over whether or not to purchase one, Jackie insisted on spotting me the cash, saying I would greatly regret this in 50 years if I didn't buy the shirt.
I had a nice talk with the owner who told me that they had gotten about 5 orders a week, until the last 48 hours when they got no less than 200 pre-orders, and people were coming in every few minutes for more. That made me very happy!
Unfortunately we couldn't hear the speeches from where we were standing, but took the time to talk to those around us. There was women and men, young and old, many with children, disabilities, people of color all there for similar reasons.
I loved reading everyone's signs!
Even before it started, my feet were hurting, it was a cold day, and I was fighting off a cold (and realizing I'd left my inhaler at home!) but this wasn't about me.
It was bigger than any of us, and I knew it would all be worth it.
Once the March kicked off, I forgot about all my discomfort and lived for the moment.
We were somewhere right in the middle of a thousand person march. We could hear chants starting up front, but it would take a while of rolling through the crowd before it became audible to us.
“Show me what democracy looks like - THIS is what democracy looks like!”
“Woman's rights are human rights!”
“Black lives matter!”
“No human is illegal!”
“Refuges are welcome here!”
“Love is Love!”
“Enough is Enough!”
“No Justice, No peace!”
And many more....
We kept getting in an unfortunate cycle of them changing the chant and not being able to hear the new one as the people behind us were still on the last one. But overall our march was very well organized, polite, peaceful and cathartic.
It's important to remember that this was the pep rally. We've got a long game still ahead of us. This brought us together to get pumped up for the upcoming human rights battle.
from Stes, in Vienna, Austria:
How inspiring it was to march with 1000 women, most of whom are not American, and how great of a human connection I felt to all those people standing with us.
Today, I am overwhelmed by the amount of love I felt at the Women's March in Vienna.
from Caity, in South Carolina:
We are women. Hear us roar.
On Saturday, I proudly participated in the Tricounty Women's Sister March.
Our chants called for unity, love, equality, and peace. Full families marched together. I never heard one child complain about being there. Instead they asked their parents about what this meant and why it was important.
Even in the little town of Clemson, SC with a population of 12,000, there were about 500 of us that took up one lane of traffic.
I wore my blue lipstick and almost cried 3 times.
Cars drove by honking encouragement. The mailman cheered us as we let him through our ranks to continue his route, and the service attendants at the Valvoline Oil Change yelled their support from across the street. The Cat bus even honked support on his route.
At one point, a woman in a hijab drove by waving with her husband and 2 children in the car.
My closest advisor and mentor was one of several Clemson professors I saw marching with us along with the pastor that advises Clemson's Habitat for Humanity Chapter.
I am so happy to be part of something that is around the world today.
Today, we rise and fight.
So NOW What?
The March wasn't a one day event - we spent some time together expressing ourselves as a movement - for many of us, it was a budding realization that we wanted to do something regarding issues we hadn't thought much about or maybe even knew about. For some of us, it might have been the first time we spent time with people whose lives and experiences were not similar to our own.
So, what do we we DO with that?
First, we have to fill the holes in our knowledge and understanding - instead of shaking our heads and simply thinking "I don't understand why people like that say/do/think the things they do" as if our lack of understanding makes them wrong, we need to sit ourselves down and listen. We then need to go do our homework without forcing them to explain it to us repeatedly. The best explanation I've seen about how to go about this is How to Survive in Intersectional Feminist Spaces 101. Seriously, take the time to read it if you marched and want to do something with all that energy and excitement it raised for you. Read it if you didn't march and are wondering what the heck we came out for.
Now that you've (hopefully) gotten a lot of things to think about and have allowed yourself to be a little bit uncomfortable about how much there is still to learn, I suggest re-reading that Women's March .pdf I mentioned at the top of this post - four pages of issues to get involved in. Exhausting, right?! So maybe pick 2-3 of them you can get behind enough to put some energy behind. Seek out and join organizations that work for those efforts, whether it's Planned Parenthood or the ACLU, or Habitat for Humanity.
Then start really paying attention to what our government is doing, for better or worse.
We've all gotten far too used to thinking of The Government as Them - some entity apart from us, and beyond our reach.
But WE THE PEOPLE are the Government. We put politicians in office to represent us and to act on our behalf - and the only way they can do that job responsibly is if we do ours.
Our job doesn't stop when we've voted. We should be calling our representatives regularly to tell them what we wish them to do in our name.
Don't forget to tell them thank you when they do something that you approve of - like all human beings, positive reinforcement is a motivator!
The more they know for sure that we are watching and are engaged with the details of governance, the more likely they will act with integrity and responsibility.
If you want to know more about how well this sort of active involvement works, read the Indivisible Guide - it is written by Congressional Staffers and begins by explaining how the Tea Party went from protest movement to a force within the government.
Writing and emailing is another way to contact them, although emails and letters are easy to pile up for 'later' and ignored - not good, especially when it comes to timely issues. So you have to CALL.
Many of us HATE talking on the phone - this isn't easy, but you can get over it with practice, and you get practice by making the calls regularly. How to Call Your Reps When You Have Social Anxiety can help walk you through it.
Currently, there are several people and grassroots groups that are putting out very simple daily or weekly instructions on actionable steps to take, including subjects to call about, complete with scripts (very helpful if, like me, you get tongue tied when you try to speak off the cuff).
Here is a very incomplete list of resources to get you started.
Women's March: 10 Actions/100 Days
Start with the Women's March organizers themselves - they are providing a variety of simple, sensible steps to carry us through the next 100 days. If you've never engaged in any sort of activism before this is a good place to start.
Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents & Republicans of Conscience
Scroll to the bottom for Jennifer Hoffman's link to a list full of action items for the week. Pick a few and be the change you wish to see in the world!
We Are the 65
Another list of weekly actions to take.
A list of 5 phone calls you can make daily.
Robert Reich - The 1st 100 Days
President Clinton's Labor Secretary has brainstormed a list of several ways to get involved politically.
Don't forget you can also visit you Representatives in person, either at their office or when they hold Town Halls. Follow them on social media to see what their schedule looks like.
Running For Office
The final thing you can do if you are so motivated is run for office! You likely have numerous opportunities at your local level which is where change begins. This list of resources will help get you started.
I hope that if the Women's March spoke to you, you'll do something with that inspiration - this is our future, our children's future. We have a right and a responsibility to make our voices, in all our diversity, heard.