Monday, January 23, 2017

March on Raleigh, part I

Millions of people around the world participated in the Women's March on Washington. It is the largest protest in American history. And yet, somehow, people are still asking me what it's about. As if they hadn't heard nary a rumbling about it...as if Google isn't a thing (Pssst! Google is a thing).


And then there's the unfounded rumour floating around that this march was really about Free Abortions For Everyone and not about all the other stuff that it was actually about. There were a handful of pro-life counter-protesters that we saw as we were leaving the march and I was honestly confused about why they were there (they seemed confused themselves, to be honest, as if the rally wasn't quite what they expected, like, "Oh...this is a speech about how public school helped pull this girl out of a life of poverty and abuse...not about how she had unprotected sex and now wishes to kill her unborn child. My sign seems a little out of place here...").

What do we want?
Equal rights.

What do we want?
Public education.

What do we want?
Equal pay for equal work.

What do we want?
Paid parental leave.

What do we want?
To build bridges, not walls.

What do we want?
Government accountability.

What do we want?
Love and peace.

At one point in the rally I was standing next to a single mother from Afghanistan. She'd made a banner for herself declaring such, and I noticed that she kept fiddling with it. It was made of thick paper—like wallpaper almost—and she'd taped it to form a loop but the tape was no longer sicking. I fished around in my purse and produced a safety pin. The speaker mentioned something about supporting single mothers while she was busy pinning her banner together. She finished just in time to pump her fists in the air and shout, "I single mother!" in broken English, with tears glistening in her eyes.

I assume, though I do not know, that she is a refugee. She was with a group of Congolese women, one of whom had a sign (made on the same wallpaper-type paper) that said, "WE NEED MORE REFUGEES!" which I suppose is a rather bold statement to make, considering she's a refugee not a citizen. But I'm inclined to agree with her. I think there are things these women know that we don't know. I think we have room at the table for them and I welcome the opportunity to learn from them, to stand shoulder to shoulder proclaiming peace and unity and love, and—hopefully—to help ease their burdens.

Should single mothers cry because the burden is too big to bear? Or should society help them provide a decent life for their children? I, personally, want to be in the second society. Together we are strong.

I think of my own mother, who fought her way up the corporate ladder (in a manner of speaking) and who was so often overlooked in favour of hiring...men. It didn't matter that my mom was the main income-earner in our home. It didn't matter that she had years of loyalty and experience. It didn't matter that she had the education and training for the position. She was a woman.

She fought long and hard and has had a successful career but I'm going to guess that she's still paid a woman's salary, not a man's salary. Pay discrepancies are even worse for women of colour.

I think about my skin, that just happens to be the "right" colour. But who decides what the right colour is? And why should anyone be deemed "wrong" because they're not white? School systems down south are messed up. They're desegregated, sure, but only kind of. And police brutality is out of hand...still. Prison sentences are not equal or just.

I think about women who've been sexually assaulted. Aside from a few cell phone stalkers, the worst I've experienced is having men grab my bottom, thank goodness. Oh, and having a drunk Russian man pee on me...after goosing my butt on a crowded bus...because I slapped his hand away and said "Нельзя!" which was the only word I had to stand up for myself with. Perhaps foreign language classes would do well to address women's safety. Just saying.

But I have been lucky. Other women have not. I march for them.

And I march against their attackers, even the ones who show "potential" because, really, truly, honestly, women are not up for grabs. Ever.

There's a plethora of reasons to march, really, but mostly I marched because sitting at home shaking my head seemed wrong. I had doubts about going. I almost felt silly. Because what does marching really accomplish? How many times has marching really done anything?

But I'm glad we went. It felt good to let our voices be heard. It felt good to be surrounded by such positive, inclusive, peaceful energy. It felt good to help show the world that many of us do not agree with what this presidency stands for. It felt better to have so many in the world march along with us.

I think (and hope) this is the start of something big. 

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad you were able to go. We've been having bouts of flu in our house, which I was still recovering from this past weekend, so I spent the afternoon sleeping rather than marching. But it's been awesome to see all my friends' pictures from the various marches they attended!

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  2. Nancy, you are a wonderful example for everyone. Thank you.

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