January 21, 2017 was an epic day for women. It was a day when all around the world, people (mostly women, but also the very strong men that support them) walked and talked democracy; the right to peacefully protest. I get goosebumps as I reflect upon the experience. As I scroll through my camera roll and the pictures of others from all over the world, I am inspired. I am moved by the coming together of people to make their voices heard; to unite against the forces of darkness and oppression. THIS is what democracy looks like. That was a chant that resonated with me as I marched the streets of Washington, DC with my family and friends and strangers from all over the world. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE. It is beautiful to have the freedom to march, to speak our truth, and to come together in unity.
The issues dividing us into a two party system have always been the same - big vs small government, corporate power vs the working man/woman, defense spending vs welfare spending - there is no doubt we have all debated these issues at one time or another. We all have been raised or have experienced life in such a way that we feel aligned with a particular “side” with regard to these policies/ideologies. What I experienced in Washington was something different. It wasn’t about policies or laws, it was about something much bigger. It was about screaming as loudly as our voices could be heard - THIS DOES NOT FEEL RIGHT. THIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME. THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT FOR OUR COUNTRY. When I think about the America I love, it is a nation of acceptance - it is a nation that opens its doors and welcomes people of all races and religions and colors - it is a nation that welcomes with open arms the tired, the hungry, the downtrodden, the poor. We are ALL the children of immigrants. Immigrants are what make our beautiful nation what it IS. We are not about EXclusion, we are about INclusion. We are a country of the people, by the people, for the people.
Never before have people (women especially) felt so marginalized by the President of the United States. I realize this is my opinion, but there are obviously many many women who feel this way (hence the marches all over the world). Never before have people felt the need to board planes and trains and cars to meet in a city center to make their voices heard. This was history in the making. This was women saying - we are mortified that in the year 2017 we STILL have to protest against inequality. We still have to hear the phrase “grab em by the pussy” NOT from just any man (we’ve been dealing with this our whole lives), but from our LEADER. I can’t understand why anyone with a heart or a brain does not understand the outrage we feel.
My first experience in business involved men acting like women were theirs for the taking. This was in the year 1992. I worked for a company that later lost the largest sexual harassment lawsuit in the history of sexual harassment lawsuits. The company made the cover of Business Week for these practices. I can tell you, as a 24 year old girl from Kansas at that time, I was in shock. I can remember being at dinners where the president of the company would grab a woman casually as she walked by, would invite women to private “cocktail parties” before the event, and would act as if any woman there was his for the taking. There were tales of trips to brothels on the awards trips, there were no women in upper management, and there was just a pervasive vibe of white male dominance. THIS was my first experience in the working world. I’d like to say things have improved dramatically in my 25 years of working, and there has certainly been movement in the right direction; but not without a fight - not without women standing up and saying “I deserve to be treated equally”. But I, and I think all the people that showed up yesterday to march, realize that we haven’t come very far. The fact that a man like Donald Trump can say the things he has said and still get elected is beyond belief.
I didn’t intend for this to be any type of political post as I sat down to write, but it’s impossible to ignore the sexist, racist, misogynistic overtones that caused us to rally and march together yesterday. What I want to write about even more, however, is the beautiful, peaceful spirit that I felt during this march, IN SPITE OF the frustration and anger that we, as women, often feel. As I set out to DC, I had people ask me if I was scared or worried about riots, etc. My answer was a resounding no. While none of us knew what to expect in terms of crowds or logistics or organization, I knew on some level that there was nothing to fear. Why did I feel this way? Because it was a rally of hundreds of thousands of WOMEN. Had this been a rally of hundreds of thousands of MEN, I would have been terrified. That, in and of itself, says something. I could guarantee that in a group of that many men, I and every woman there, would have been assaulted with words or hands. THIS is why we march. We march to make the statement that my body is mine, that my brain is more important than my breast size, and that I am tired of being defined by my sex rather than my character as a human being or what I have to offer to the world. I’m not trying to be a man basher either; I love men. I love my sons, and I have had some wonderful men in my life. I don’t want this to sound inflammatory to the men I respect, so I asked a few men for their opinions on this subject. There was a resounding answer that half a million men are far more intimidating than half a million women. The women that came together for this march were LOUD, but were LOUD with LOVE and the hope that we can make things better for all of us.
I was lucky enough to attend this march with some of my very favorite women and my daughter and my son. I think we would all agree that the overwhelming theme of the march was LOVE. Women and men coming together in the name of inclusion, in the name of equality, in the name of protecting the rights we have fought for in the past and in the name of the ones we feel may be threatened moving forward. There was laughter and tears, there were jokes and smiles and hugs as women interacted with one another. There was a knowing, an understanding, that we are all in this together and we will continue to move toward equality for all. There were signs that expressed hope and anger and fear and humor - and I loved reading them.
I stayed at my friend’s house for this experience. Thank you Christy and Mark for the amazing hospitality. I was fortunate to meet Christy’s dad during this experience - her dad is a life long republican, a political theory expert, and served in the Reagan administration. HE and his wife marched in the march. I have friends who have said “what was that march even about?”, and “I don’t feel like I’ve lost any rights”. Christy’s dad, who has lived longer than we have, who has seen administrations come and go, and who has spent his life studying political theory, made the beautiful point - “you don’t march AFTER you’ve lost the rights; you stand up when you feel your rights are being threatened”. Five million people around the world recognized that what we are hearing from the current administration is threatening. The potential fallout from some of the policies can and will be devastating not just to our country but to the world if they come to fruition. I cannot stand behind someone who builds walls andthreatens women’s and minorities’ rights and speaks in tweets and “grabs em by the pussy”. This is why I marched.
I’ve never before considered myself a feminist. This election has forced me to be one. The America I want to see and be a part of requires me to stand up and say what I believe. If nothing else, this election has awoken us all to the fact that our freedoms are not free and that it is our job to fight to maintain them. In the words of Maya Angelou - “Each time a woman stands up for herself - without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”