Women’s March on Washington [read: first steps]

I’ll start with this: I’ll be talking about my observations about the march I attended last weekend in D.C. and they are both good and bad. There are issues with every single movement, even if it is the largest demonstration in our history, so it’s important to have a healthy dose of criticism, serious self-reflection on privilege and power, and real steps to move forward and keep working on getting the job done.

After November 9th, I knew I needed to do something tangible in reaction to the election. I’d been involved relatively frequently in different difficult conversations and activist spaces over the past year. This is mostly because of my inherent privilege, having grown up in an affluent town in the South, gone to a pretty nice gifted school that lived in its own bubble, and rarely had to confront my own experience with race until I moved up to the Northeast and began to question everything I’d been taught. First, and foremost, I definitely grew up as “conservative until proven false” for a political affiliation. Everybody was conservative. It was less about social issues and more about economic ones (though that is no excuse, because they are directly linked to each other) in Sarasota. Our county went red in almost every major election. I thought it was pretty normal.

Fast forward to my move up North. As I was nearing graduation, and learning to make my own choices and decisions, I realized just how left I really leaned. No, I wasn’t great. At the time, I could still advocate for the purpose of an electoral college. But, I was learning and unlearning slowly and steadily. It was the perfect time to move to Boston, one of the most liberal cities in the States.

Here, I challenged what I’d learned before and thought critically about distribution of resources, disparity in my own community, and what it meant to be brown in America. It was not easy to dismantle my own viewpoint and build it up again, much more informed and based on equity for everyone. But, I am thankful for the friends and peers who conversed with me to make me face these difficult aspects of my own understanding of the world. They are doing the world a real favor, and I am proud to be joining them in informing others and working toward our goals to create a true, inclusive, educated population.

So, November 9th shook things up [read: seismic wave-like] but wasn’t anything new. I was pretty astounded the night of, stressed the day after, and back at equilibrium by the end of the week. See, we’d already been fighting the good fight. This was another obstacle, just another one that we’d [read: our people] been hit with time and time again for decades.

When I saw that the Women’s March on Washington was solidifying its approach to fighting back, expressing its support for diversity/inclusivity/intersectionality, and was going to be a real event, I booked a ticket to attend. And I’m still glad I made that decision. It was expensive, and I was able to use my privilege to get there in support of elevating the voices of minorities and marginalized populations.

The trip itself was a little bit of a nightmare. It took us 12 hours, some breaking down on the side of the highway, and the emotional rollercoaster that was missing the D.C. rally but we got there in time to march. And march we did. It was interesting how easily we were able to obstruct traffic without a permit in some of the northern areas of D.C., mostly because of the population that was present. I’m all for women’s rights, and that includes being acutely aware of when some women benefit more than others. The demographic there was startlingly whiter than I’d expected. The movement, with a Muslim co-founder, pledged its intersectional roots the day it decided on its name over the One Million Women march. But, in reality, it fell short from my expectations on this note.

Many of my friends think the critique on the movement is unfounded. The movement happened, it was huge, and we had cute pink hats. But, those hats centered the narrative in a way that excluded some women. Most of the people who attended were able to afford and attend a trip that would warrant no arrests, which says a lot about who was present and how threatening they are to the status quo. Yes, it was a pretty dynamic day. But, now what?

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of this march that are so valuable and important to remember. This will be a moment in history we look back on. Such a large civil demonstration, the day after an inauguration, to stand up for our rights and safety is a movement that is literally unrivaled. The energy here, the accessibility of the march spreading to so many different locations across the country and around the world, and the hope of a majority of our population to demonstrate in the name of something that threatens us all is important to recognize. It has been a memorable moment for me, and I know I’ll remember it in my further endeavors as a time when I promised to step up, stand up, and keep fighting.

I am looking forward to trying out the steps laid out by the organizers/planners of this march for the next 100 days. But I’m also continuing to work in preexisting avenues of solidarity and social justice, ones I’ve been involved in and trust to be the good work that needs to be done. It’ll, no doubt, be a memory I carry with me forever (I must reiterate); there was something invigorating about standing next to a bunch of strangers in our nation’s capitol looking for some shred of hope that we’d be able to make some wins over the next 4 years and protect our loved ones. But, still, I’ll look back on it thinking of how much better it would’ve been if I’d had more of my black and brown sisters there to look up to on a stage (granted, I wouldn’t have made it there in time to see them) without shouts of impatient women to just start marching as they spoke on about the injustices they face, often at the hands of the people who attended this march.

There’s always been a lot of work to do. That is an unchanged fact. However, the nature of the work now includes a majority of people [read: women] who see their rights as directly under threat for the first time in a while. It’s nice to see them wake up for this. However, some of us have been woken up [read: #wokeandproud] for a while and this is just another day. Perhaps, that’s why I wasn’t too antsy the day of and the days after the inauguration. It feels routine at this point to expect none of your work to be complete, and to keep fighting for all of the people you care about in your life. That’s been my perspective since leaving the South (maybe even before that, I saw some thoughts form early on) and my responsibility as an active, engaged citizen of the United States of America. If you’re looking for ways to stay active, feel free to reach out and join me in my efforts. March on, keep an open mind, listen for criticism, and see where you can join the fight while lifting the rest of us up.

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Expect our resistance.
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