1.24.17 On the March
On January 21, 2017, I joined nearly a million activists for the Women's March on Washington. With my husband (constantly photographed because of his "Feminist As Fuck" sweatshirt) and my 23-year-old niece, who was visiting the East Coast on her way back from a trip to Israel, I traveled to the nation's capital on a bus chartered from New York City with 50 fellow marchers. We marched for women's rights and a host of other causes, including immigration reform, health care reform, environmental protection, LGBTQIA rights, racial justice, freedom of religion and workers' rights. It was a historic day that took place on the heels of Trump's inauguration and overshadowed it in terms of scope and passionate support. It was an enormous, effusive, peaceful and uplifting event that echoed around the country, and the world, in more than 600 sister marches.
On our bus, there were mostly women and girls, but also some men and boys, ranging in age from pre-teen to senior citizen. Many were wearing hand-knitted "pussy hats" in a show of solidarity. Pussy, for so long a word with derogatory connotations, has been reappropriated by feminists in the wake of Trump's blatant misogyny. In fact, breasts, vaginas, uteruses and fallopian tubes are all gaining traction as symbols of empowerment. (See the breast cap with pink nipple, above left.)
Many warnings were issued before the march and we did our best to be prepared, including writing the number for legal representation on our arms. In the end, there was not a single arrest made at any of the marches. There was an air of festivity to the day; an intense camaraderie prevailed.
The last time I marched on Washington was back in 1992, when we took to the streets to demand reproductive rights for women. The Supreme Court was about to consider the constitutionality of a Pennsylvania state law that limited access to abortions and women turned out for what was then one of the biggest rallies ever. 25 years later, women of all shapes, sizes, colors and persuasions—and the men who support them—showed up in droves. It's hard to believe that we are facing this same issue. When will our bodies cease being a battleground?
There was plenty of chanting during the march: "Tell me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!" "Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!" And, my personal favorite, "We're fierce! We're femininst! We're in your face!"
Vendors were doing a brisk business in everything from pink pussy hats to commemorative Obama sweatshirts. They also offered us encouragement from the sidelines as we made our way from RFK stadium, where all the buses parked, towards the rally being held on the mall.
The signs people carried were hilarious, creative and moving, with many different agendas represented. Most of the signs were homemade, some brilliantly illustrated, some crude but heartfelt. Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the Obama "Hope" poster, released a series of images funded through an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, that represented a Muslim woman, a Latina woman and an African-American women.
It was wonderful to be marching alongside women of all ages, some carrying babies, some pushing walkers, all standing up for their rights.
At several points, we found ourselves marching with different bands. The Green Party brought stilt-walkers and a whole cast of masked characters. Above, the "fallopian tubas" anchored a brass band.
The crowds were so huge that we never even made it into the mall during the rally and missed most of the speeches and performances, catching just the tail end of Angela Davis. But it didn't matter. We walked around the perimeter and eventually joined the main flow of the march. We raised our voices, we exercised our rights, we declared our intentions to this new government. It was a very long day, a historic day, an American day. And the fight has only just begun.
Looking for ways to keep the momentum going? You can find action steps here, or follow on Facebook at 1460daysofaction. Memorize this number: 202-225-3121. It's for Congress. If you don't know who your congressperson is, you can enter your zip code to be connected. Midterm elections will soon be upon us and your voice matters.
For another perspective on the March, read David Brooks in today's New York Times. But be sure to read the comments as well, since many of them do a good job of refuting his condescending mansplaining.