For some, getting “woke” happens at a specifically horrific moment in time. For me, it’s been a gradual process, like a slow climb up an arduous, winding path on an active Volcano. Each step leads to a new realization, a new awareness, and a new sense of urgency. Most recently this coincided with the inauguration and subsequent protest. It was obvious I was not the only one feeling compelled by the recent events in our country as almost every city who hosted saw four to ten times as many participants as expected. While exact numbers are shaky because Facebook RSVPs are hokey and no one predicted a response like this, clearly people were waking up. You could feel the awakening in the rush of excitement and the spirit of hopefulness surging like current through the park. Men, women, and children of all ages; white, black, brown, and beige armed with signs of defiance and declarations of resolve. We were here for one thing: to support women. In Seattle that support looked 130,000 different ways. The official Women’s March Platform elaborates on everything from ending violence against womxn’s bodies, to reproductive rights and environmental justice. Despite the organization’s attempt to include all womxn, it's far from perfect. Whether you're a critic, a participant, or both, here’s why I marched and will continue to do so.
I march because sexism still exists in 2017.
From the wage gap to explicitly sexist and violent language from our politicians, sexism is thriving in America. If you haven’t noticed it, talk to a woman. If for some odd reason a white woman can’t tell you, ask a woman of color because, y’all, it’s different (see the next bolded statement below).
Many, myself included, have internalized sexism and act upon it without even knowing it. In the span of the time that it took me to get from Tacoma to the rally, I had a barrage of thoughts that reflect the normalization of gender roles in our society. Let me recount a couple. First, I was concerned that my male friend felt comfortable marching with us. Then, I joked about how at least at a womxn’s march we know we can find anything we need in the many, many, many purses, backpacks, and diaper bags present. Later, I chuckled at the thought of our cycles being in sync. Clearly, I need to slap myself and challenge my own thinking and internalized sexism.
I march because racism is alive and well in our country.
You only need to drive across town or pull up Google to see that we still have drastic social and economic disparities in this country. From household wealth to prison sentences, we have a significant problem with systemic racism (if you want a long, historical perspective and have a few hours, go watch the documentary Race: The Power of Illusion). Burying our heads in our phones or our homogeneous places of worship won't stop it. In fact, let's stop pretending that racism wasn't a factor in the recent elections. Let's stop pretending that white women, who voted against their best interests as women, contributed to between 56-63% of the Trump votes, and this is a tremendous (or should I say HUGE?) problem. The cognitive dissonance one must experience to vote as a woman for Trump reminds me of Stockholm syndrome. How did so many women forget/ignore the copious insults, shaming, and blatant misogyny? Was abortion really the number one issue for these women? What about being pro whole life? To be fair, many of the nice, white, middle-class ladies who marched last month might have stayed home and refused to vote. While the consequences of their actions might only indirectly affect them, the advancement of these women is intricately linked the advancement of all women. As Marianne Cooper from the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford says, "gender is not lived in isolation--it is intimately connected to one's race, one's sexuality, one's social class, and to one's ethnicity." It is a privilege for white women to ignore this intersectionality and we (white women) must be called out on our hypocrisy. It’s not enough to wear pink hats and attend a low-stakes march; we must take responsibility for our choices and the ensuing ramifications.
I march because people in power are scared when the oppressed gather in solidarity.
This sign (to the left) made me laugh, cringe, and then feel proud. It’s simultaneously a clever Shakespearean reference, a commentary on the voicelessness of women, and a warning to those who seek to oppress the voice of a significant portion of the world’s population.
As my crew walked to the rally, we passed many nervous-faced dudes who anxiously looked towards the park and signs promoting girl power. Why were they afraid? We chuckled, but I think their reaction is indicative of something greater.
Throughout history people in power try to squash the voices of the “weaker”. From anti-slavery marches, to Vietnam or Iraq anti-war rallies, or even Black Lives Matter events, today protesters are continually characterized as emotional, irrational, violent, or fringe. In fact, what they are afraid of is that we will break the status quo. They are afraid that the charade is over and that their position in the world is threatened and thus they must respond by spinning a narrative. She’s a nasty woman. Those protesters are animals. They’re mad because their candidate lost the election. They’re emotional and can’t think clearly. They just read fake, opinion based news. They wouldn’t know a fact from their butt hole.
I march because dissent is patriotic.
I’ve always been argumentative. Blame it on nature or that my parents raised me to stand up for myself and those around me. The freedom to dissent is our First Amendment right and when we extend critique based in knowledge, facts, and research we are making our nation stronger. This kind of dissent isn’t just arguing for argument’s sake as some are won’t to do. It’s not offering #alternativefacts. What I'm talking about is the kind of dissent that holds us accountable. When society says slavery is the natural order of man, dissent calls it out. When the world says it’s okay to kill unarmed black men, a dissenter must say no, Black Lives Matter.
We cannot and must not remain silent about the injustice towards those around us. It doesn't matter if you are “directly” affected by it. You are benefiting from this system.
I march because I have the privilege and therefore the responsibility.
For me, this woman’s sign says it all. If you've been given privileges by society, you have a moral obligation to use them for someone besides yourself. If you are a person of faith--whatever you believe in-- this is even more so. You have a responsibility to a higher power to live your life with purpose.
I would rather err on the side of supporting the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the poor, or the outcast and be wrong than live blissfully, ignoring the concerns of the world, and end up on the wrong side of history.