I’ve been waffling on whether or not to share my experience with the Women’s March this past weekend. Why I march, and my personal reasons, are ideas that I often keep to myself, despite my love for engaging in fact-based debates. I know a lot of bloggers and others on social media have been very vocal about the event, with opinions leaning in both directions.
In addition to writing this post, I debated even attending the event. So, I made a pro’s and con’s list, like I do for most things, and the pro’s outweighed the con’s, so I went to Philadelphia (Not D.C.) by myself and met up with some friends. I didn’t take a sign. No, I didn’t wear a pink hat. Heck, I didn’t even have a plan when I left the house. For many, this was an opportunity to express their outrage at the election results, or to assert their independence as a woman. For me, it was an opportunity to recognize the work I need to do, or keep doing, to make a positive impact.
What topics were on my con’s list? My concern that a lack of inclusiveness would damper the event for me. I do consider myself a feminist, and I always have, despite all indications that it’s a “dirty” word. My personal feminist agenda focuses on empowering the lives of all people, without bias. This is something I work hard at every single day, and yes, it is work. It should be. To deny that it isn’t difficult to push away ingrained stereotypes and societal standards would be foolish. If it were that easy, everyone would do it.
When I first arrived in Philadelphia, I grabbed a 2nd cup of coffee, used the bathroom (always use the bathroom first!) and weaved my way into the crowd. The march was scheduled to begin at 10am. I arrived at 9:15am and there were already thousands upon thousands of people. People were in great spirits and the overwhelming feeling of empowerment was astounding. I could feel my heart swell in my chest when the crowd chanted around me. And as we marched, it felt like my feet weren’t on the ground. We linked arms with our neighbors. We prayed with people whose religions we don’t follow. Our speakers were confident, voicing a powerful message of inclusion and empathy towards others.
And then came the moment that I feared. A woman behind me starting yelling “next”, expressing her displeasure with the speaker. My heart sank. Before I could help myself, my head whipped around and I locked eyes with the woman. “Don’t,” I said as firmly as I could. She looked stunned that I had the audacity to say anything. I am glad that her friends swarmed her and made their way out of the crowd. At an event where inclusion, empathy and the dangers that face those who aren’t the majority were the backbone of conversation, to sneer at a speaker because you feel that their message isn’t important to you is the paramount of insults.
By now you’ve all seen the funniest signs, the cutest kids and the incredible aerial shots. But have you seen the disappointment from women of color? I have. Their disappointment is the same reason I’m disappointed, too. It makes me ask myself every day what else I can do. As a white woman, I need to get uncomfortable, start having hard conversations and make an impact that matters for everyone. If you have money, donate. If you have time, use it. Above all, make sure you’re having those hard conversations with the people around you. This means that person you always thought was a great friend and turns out not to be. This includes your crazy relative that spouts off at the holiday table. It is our duty as suppressed group of women to make sure we are standing up for all women.
This post isn’t to say that I’m upset that I attended. Not at all. I’m glad I went. The power I felt, and the swelling in my heart made the entire day worth it. Eye-opening, even. That woman, in all her oblivious privilege, is why I march.