I cannot believe it has been almost a full year since my last post. The hiatus was partly due to grad school and partly due to an unexpected loss in my family. Now that the end of grad school is nigh I hope to keep this up a bit more regularly.
Since today is both International Women’s Day (happy day to every woman out there!) and the Day Without a Woman strike, I wanted to reflect on that as well as my experience at the Women’s March in January.
First, the march:
As we now know, on January 21, 2017, nearly 2 million people participated in over 650 marches worldwide.Washington, D.C. alone welcomed over 500,000 protestors. There were marches on all seven continents – yes, even Antartica because resistance knows no bounds! In America, the Women’s March was the largest protest in U.S. history.
I attended the Women’s March in Atlanta, which had over 60,000 people. I was sadly not close enough to the stage to hear Rep. John Lewis speak, but I did hear his “don’t let anybody, anybody turn you around” words passed through the crowd.
The march started out kind of rough. The weather was horrendous: torrential rain, strong winds, cold, and ankle-deep water all throughout downtown Atlanta. Was there a threat of a tornado? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t have surprised me. My friends and I sought shelter in a Jimmy John’s along with about 50 other people. When the shop had filled to capacity, we watched as other marchers bravely walked by, many of them bent at the waist to fight against the wind. The march was moved back an hour. When that hour was up (and the rain suddenly stopped), my friends and I headed towards Centennial Park. That’s when we realized the full scope of the march.
I don’t mean to get too cliche, but it was a literal sea of people. For those who don’t know, Atlanta is hilly and Centennial Park looks like it is in a valley. From the top of the surrounding hills (aka the Jimmy John’s) we just saw the tops of thousands and thousands of heads. Bodies poured in from every direction, congregating around the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is next to the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coke.
What also amazed me was the diversity in the crowd. The Women’s March had received criticism that it only catered to white, middle-class feminists. There is a lot of unfortunate truth that mainstream feminism often only worries about the rights and wellbeing of white feminists, and, before arriving in Atlanta, I wondered if everyone would just look like me (white, blond, etc: give me a Starbucks cup and Uggs and I can blend into any suburbanite mall). I was pleased to see that the crowd was filled with people of all different races, genders, backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures, ages, etc. Intersectional feminism is the best feminism, and I felt that that was represented strongly in the Atlanta crowd.
Getting the speakers to the stage seemed to be a bit disorganized, but we all knew when Rep. John Lewis took the stage. The crowd, which was really into chanting, began yelling, “District 5! District 5!” I momentarily thought this was a Hunger Games reference (I have since looked it up: in Hunger Games, District 5 is in charge of electricity and they power the entire nation). Then I grew a brain and remembered that John Lewis is the Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
As I said before, I sadly couldn’t hear John Lewis’s words, but I could hear his voice and that was pretty spectacular. To be in the middle of a historic march and listening to a Civil Rights icon is one of the moments I will forever be glad I had.
A few images from the Atlanta march:
When the march finally got on the way (some cities were too packed to march, but not Atlanta!) we walked about a mile and a half from the Center for Civil and Human Rights to the State Capitol. The hurricane-like weather from the early afternoon turned into a cloudless, cool, sunny day. There were chants, there were signs, and there was just a lot of wonderful camaraderie as we all slowly walked through the downtown.
The march has received criticism. Some of that criticism is legit because many of the people who showed up to the Women’s March have not shown up for BlackLivesMatter demonstrations, nor have they voiced their support for that cause. That needs to change. I hope, given the fraught political climate, that we’ll start to see hoards of people taking active, public stands for every single right because that is truly the only way we are going to get through the next several years (decades?) in one piece. It’s also the only way we improve our society and ensure we leave a better, stronger, happier world for future generations. Hell, I’m still young – let’s try to even make it a little bit better, stronger, and happier world for my generation!
Because I participated and obviously support the Women’s March, I will probably receive comments telling me to get a job and to stop whining and that women have equal rights blah, blah, blah. What I have to say to those people is that a) I have two jobs, thank you very much, and b) the Women’s March was not just about women’s rights. It was about LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, BlackLivesMatter, basic human rights, and the rights of everyone who is under represented and/or beaten, deported, neglected, or killed just because they don’t fit the perfect puzzle pieces in someone’s mind. (It was also about environmental rights, too, because the Sierra Club was extremely present at the Atlanta march) This march was telling the current administration (and governments/administrations/societies worldwide) that we (i.e. everyone) will not stand for their bullying, bigotry, racism, and fascism. We’re here, there’s a ton of us, and we’re not going anywhere.
Second, the strike:
This section will not be quite as long. Today was the Day Without A Woman strike where, ideally, every woman was supposed to not go to work, not shop, and not do a lot of things that contribute to every day society. Not everyone (myself included) could strike from their job so there were other options as well: you could donate to a good cause, not shop, wear red to show support, call your state reps, etc. The people I work with are all teachers and we couldn’t forgo work because that would hurt our students (although, in reality, our students would have just looked at it as more time to watch Netflix, but still).
I think the idea behind this strike is great. Women make up a greater percentage of the population than men, and a true strike, one where every woman does not leave her home, could practically bring this country to a halt. Unfortunately, that’s not our reality because people have jobs, families, and lives, and not everyone has the liberty to put all of that on hold for a day. The only things I could do today were wear red, donate money (as paltry as it may be), and not shop. You would be surprised how hard the shopping was because not only did Ed Sheeran’s new album release today, but I also learned about a new book I’d like to buy, and it is a dear friend’s birthday coming up soon and if I want a gift shipped I need to act fast. The withholding was trivial and obviously nothing I needed, but I still felt good for at least doing something. The red also worked out well because it was great to see so many around my town donning the Stop sign colour.
Like the Women’s March, this strike is receiving some heat because it’s rumored that schools have had to close down, some people could lose their jobs, and maybe the whole thing will just fall flat on its face. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about that at the moment except that I hope it doesn’t. I hope the strike succeeds in some of what it is meant to do. I hope no one gets fired and I hope no students suffer from missing one day of school (and we all know they won’t – let’s be a little bit less dramatic on that one). However, I think the strike had to happen. With everything that is going on – the immigration bans, trying to slash environmental safeguards, revoking protection for trans students – we must do something. Whether it’s staying home from work for the day, wearing red, or not shopping on Amazon, every little bit is a small step in the right direction. It may be a step the size of a Polly Pocket doll, but at least it’s something.
And to close, to every wonderful person out there, please remember: