The Women’s March on Washington: What it Was, and What it Needs to be
More than a week ago, my boyfriend and I boarded a red eye to the east coast to attend the Women’s March on Washington. For us (my boyfriend and I, plus my sister and then later my mom and college friends), the March started in Takoma Park, Maryland, where my sister, boyfriend and I arrived at a trainstation early on a foggy winter morning. The air was damp and cold, but not unpleasent. The trainstation, miles from downtown DC, was already bustling with Marchers donning pink pussy hats, signs and political tee-shirts poking out under winter coats.
At each stop, the traincars became increasingly packed. When we arrived at Judiciary station– still blocks away from the March’s starting place– we dripped out of the trains like bees from a swarming hives. We filled the platform and the stalled escalators and the turnstyles and everything until we reached the streets.
Once outside, on the city streets of our nation’s capital, everything and everywhere was the March. It blocks away, as people streamed in lines along routes posted with signs. It took over corners and sidewalks, traffic crossings, building stairs, streets and entire blocks. We filled and overfilled the National Mall, the lawn of the Washington Monument and the planned route. It was so big that there was no start or end, just a steady and mounting multidirectional flow of people, growing and pouring over like the current that emerges out of the chaos of changing tides.
The week before I left, many people tweeted, emailed and messaged me the prayers they have for our nation in these dark times. The night before the March, I scrawled them onto a banner, which I carried with me. I took the prayers and prayed them carried them in my heart. Congressman John Lewis said “When we pray, we move our feet.” I prayed and moved my feet and I will keep doing so.
I walked with one of my sisters, my boyfriend, my mom and her college friends. I have two more sisters that marched that day in other cities, one with her husband and two young daughters. Of all the things that day, this was the most exhilirating for me, to be marching with my mom. While I spent most of my youth running my mouth about my political ideas, I so rarely heard from her; my mom avoids conflict and hates to make waves and here she is on the streets of Washington DC, chanting about Democracy and attending a rally to which radical Angela Davis is a headliner. That, to me, was promising.
Also promising were the number of children at the March. Not surpisingly, kid signs were my favorite signs. Like this kid, who totally nailed it with the saracasm and 4th grade humor:
Or this one, whose simplicity only adds to his message:
Or these two girls who made an interactive sign. At the top, it read, “Women have the right to…”, to which passerbys filled in answers.
The March was the whole weekend. It continued the next day, when we set out to explore DC and the streets were still filled with pink hats, worn like a not-so-secret code, denoting that whomever wore it was an ally. It continued as we walked through the open paths of the National Mall and saw signs scattered on the lawn of the Washington Monument, signs lining alleys, signs resting on corners. It continued on Monday, when my boyfriend and I went through security at BWI airport and the TSA agent, an elderly white women, leaned in and, with a glimmer of defiance in her eye, asked my boyfriend if we were here for the March. And it continued on both legs of our flight, as the plane was filled with pink pussy hats and March teeshirts and, on both legs of the flight, we were seated next to fellow Marchers, and at our layover, as we chatted with the couple next to us about what action we would take.
There was so much that the March was– exilirating and hopeful and empowering. Walking away from it, I also have to acknowledge that it was pretty darn white. Yes, there were women of color, but it was undeniably mostly white women and men, who carried signs that spoke to old school, white bread feminism.
This reality– that the biggest mass public demonstration in American history was so white– has made me think a lot about solidarity and unity. We need these things more then ever right now; Trump and the Right would love it if the Left was too busy squabbling, too busy overlooking key issues to really mobilizing. So we need unity, but we need a specific kind of unity, one that looks for intersections.
Regarding the March, I have heard a lot about the need for intersectional feminism, which I think of like feminism 2.0. It advocates for gender equity and social justice, but recognizes that certain groups–AKA people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, non-Christian, or disabled folks, to name a few– are affected differently by gender issues.
That is the kind of solidarity we need right now: the kind that gets me– a middle class, well-educated white woman– on board with issues that affect the Black, Latino, immigrant, disabled or LGBTQ community, as opposed to asking them to get on board with my agenda. And right now, there are more resources than ever on how white folks can educate themselves on how to be anti-racist allies. One of my favorite organizations is http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/. There are tons of resources, local chapters, and opportunities to get involved.
The March is a great opportunity for education, and for all of us, especially the most priviledged of us, to widen our lens. The legacy of the March– whether it will lead to lasting social change or be just a blip on the radar of this terrifying and exhiliarting time in history– hinges on this, whether we will actually stand up for and with our sisters and brothers off all races, creeds, abilities, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
I, for one, know that I will do what I can to ensure we do.
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