Sunday, January 22, 2017

What I learned from the #women'smarch2017

One thing I learned at the march is that there is no one type who attended. I expected to see the stereotypical angry feminist (work boots, no make-up, fist in the air) or the stereotypical hippie activist (dreds, pink glitter, hemp hat) or the stereotypical professional organizer (bullhorn, buttons, chants on a sheet of paper). Those types were there, but so were the not-expected types. It was everyone you can imagine. It was a buttoned up shirt wearing white guy in his mid-fifties and his suburban looking wife. It was a mass of slow moving older women with canes and pink hats. It was college-age frat boy-looking guys with red Trump hats that read "America is great." It was Native Americans in full dress, little boys in Superman capes, beautiful New Jersey-black haired girls in perfect red lipstick holding signs that said "Unity, Peace, Equality." It was black men, black woman, same sex couples, families with their kids, mothers and their daughters, a cluster of older black women, including one  who said, "Lord, I thought we did this already." It was Dan standing in the cold, fingers freezing, holding up the sign he made that read "Make American women safe again." It was incredible. It gave me hope.

It was also all kinds of signs: raunchy signs ("feminists fuck better")  and thoughtful signs ("make America kind again") and funny/horrible signs ("Free Melania") and mean signs ("you can't comb over racism") and one-word signs ("Resist") and controversial signs ("I love my abortion") and exasperated signs "(OMGF stop tweeting) and angry signs ("Fuck this shit") and many, many signs with cats and claws on them. And lots and lots of pink pussy hats. There was chanting: "We need a leader/Not a fascist tweeter." There was, on occasion, the smell of pot, which we all inhaled in hopes of getting a contact high. There were port-a-potties with no toilet paper (you go in, you get out, you endure), and people lining the streets on the sidewalk and performances, such as a Native American chant and a woman representing lady liberty floating around all in white with a white cloth over her eyes. And there was tedium too. Because more people than anticipated showed up, we spent most of the time standing and waiting to march and it was cold and there were lots and lots of people and we mostly waited. But then when we were walking, it was crazy how many people we saw all around and down the block and there in the background was the Capitol Building and it seemed unfathomable that Trump could be there. It's like two separate realities--the TV show that is our presidency now and the people in the streets who refuse to watch it.

It was not anything that I feared. We encountered no one who was anti-protest.  People honked from their cars as we were walking toward the march, and those who were watching from the buildings were waving and hooting back. We saw one ambulance and watched as the sea of people parted to let it pass. I saw maybe five cops all at once, but nothing alarming. Peaceful protest. There was no "khumbya" or magic---you know, we were cold, but we were not in peril or in pain--we were waiting and chatting and I guess the other thing that I realized is that I'm not by myself in feeling that this is all wrong. There are thousands (millions?) of people who feel the same way, who are having the same frustrating arguments with the people they love who don't agree (those who don't see this as a catastrophe, despite the fact that every time Trump takes an action, it's done in anger and reactivity) and who are willing and ready to spend 16 hours of their Saturday to be part of the resisting this TV show billionaire who is supposed to lead the country made up of all different kinds of people.

Before the march, a Rutgers journalism student interviewed Dan and me about why we were there, and he asked first what we were worried about and then what made us hopeful about the presidency. I've been thinking about this too because it's difficult to continue waking up with a sense of despair and disbelief and anger. It's like we were going toward a progressive future, one that is inclusive, global-minded, environmentally-centered, interested in the well-being of the most disenfranchised---and then someone pressed a reset button and possibly also rewind, and we have to start over. I wasn't really much involved in that change before--now, I have to be. Where there was complacency, there's now purpose.

What do I do next? I don't know yet. Keep writing, keep thinking, keep paying attention, keep talking to those you disagree with, keep fighting back.

Addendum to the post after speaking to a friend who didn't go, and feels guilty about it...

There are many reasons that you may not have been able to attend marches near you. Work conflicts, childcare issues, lack of money, lack of transportation, sickness or injury (Lisa Marie), lack of support from your partner or spouse, fear of crowds, fear of going alone, scheduling problems, personal inertia. I happen to be lucky enough to have been given an easy path to go. I knew a lot of women from the School of Social Work who were going, including the Dean. I had a supportive partner who said he would go with me (despite not wanting to leave Luke alone all day), and a mom who agreed to take care of said child, even though she'd just gotten back from a trip the day before. I work at an university (Rutgers) that supports a union that provided really easy-to-access, cheap transportation ($30 round trip with a bathroom, wi-fi, and personal chargers in every seat. The cost included a Metro card pass, a warm knit hat, lunch, hot coffee, snacks, a sign making operation, and dinner, cookies, and fruit on the way home--thank you, Rutgers AAUP/AFT).  I was luckier than most--Liz Webster, my Brooklyn bestie, paid $75 to take a slow moving, bumpy school bus with no bathroom, no wi-fi, no charger and a chatty woman next to her who fell asleep on Liz during the long ride home. Liz could have much more easily gone to the New York march. She's a dedicated mo-fo and she kicks ass all day, every day. See?



If you got to go as easily as I did, you're part of a privileged class in some ways, and I try not to forget that. That wasn't the case for lots and lots of women and men.

Let yourself off the hook if you didn't go. There will (unfortunately?? Fortunately?) be many other opportunities and ways to show your support and to share your resistance. I'll try to come up with a list in another post this week. Stay tuned...


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