Two years ago, after the election of the 45th president of the United States we took to the streets. We did not march, as the right would like to believe, because of the loss of our candidate. We marched (or at least I marched) out of fear.
The right would have everyone believe that the women who marched on that day were militant women, ugly, man hating women who wanted nothing less then to destroy the family structure and values in America. They (we) were an assault on everything good and pure. The reality is far different, at least for me. As I said, I marched because I was afraid. I was deeply afraid of the most powerful office in the The United States being held by a man who said that he could do whatever he wanted with women and he would get away with it because he was famous. I was afraid of what the future held when a man who claimed he could “grab a woman by the pussy” was shaping decisions for me and all women. I decided that I would join my sisters in an attempt to remind the world of our power as women.
So, on January 21, 2017, we donned our uniforms (a pink pussy hat, I have a lot to say about this hat but I will save it for another time) and as a group of like minded women, about 20 of us from Eindhoven took the train to Amsterdam for the march. It was such a powerful day. One of the greatest and most uplifting in my life (below my kids being born at least. But lets face it those two days were magical in the end and miserable throughout so perhaps they should be on different scales). The energy on that day surged through the crowd like a wave of hope. We were enacting change. We were coming together in unity and love. We were in the right place at the right time, just were we were meant to be. It all felt right. After it was over our little fraction of the march went to dinner and we laughed and complained and got upset about everything happening in the world. I made some wonderful friends on that day.
The backlash came almost immediately. Within an hour of us posting pictures online the harassment began. I’m not going to devote any time here or negative space in my heart to these horrible trolls but I will say that I lost friends over that day. I lost relationships with family members back home. I was, and I am still, amazed how anyone (especially women) were comfortable hurling insults at me for wanting basic human equality. But perhaps I shouldn’t try. Keep a positive and open heart, right? I posted this just after and I stand by it today: Anyone can be mean. I’ll be here in my pink pussy hat giving out free hugs to anyone who wants one. Or something like that, who can remember.
In the time since that first march a lot has happened and many of us have felt powerless to stop the wave of white men who are set to demolish the small amounts of progress that have been made in the last 20 years. Well, we will not go back.
So this past weekend, the day after International Women’s Day there was another march. So many women worked so hard to bring the march together. I was not one of those women. I picked up trash.
I wanted to help but honestly I didn’t have the time to devote before the march and because the meetings were in Amsterdam it wasn’t feasible. But I offered my help on the day itself and I was assigned “eco duty” with two other fabulous women. We walked at the very back and made sure Amsterdam was just as clean when we were done as before we arrived. I thinks it very important to show respect for the city and the environment so I didn’t mind at all. That’s what we are doing after all, ensuring that our kids are left with a better world and environmentalism is part of that.
This march looked and felt very different from the one two years ago. Feminism has changed a lot in the last two years. This was so evident in last weekends march. Now, the name of the game is “intersectional feminism”. When I look back at the march from two years ago the difference is striking. I remember looking around and, under those pink pussy hats, seeing a sea of able bodied, well dressed, white women. Now to be clear, there was nothing wrong with that crowd. After all, I am also an able bodied (sometimes well dressed) white woman. So please, let me explain…… After listening in on the women who were at the center of the march and the talented and passionate speakers who shared their stories with us on the day, there was a shift in my thinking about protest rallies and demonstrations. First: who can march? People with enough money to take the day off to do so, able bodied people who can physically join in, people who can be in large groups or handle loud noises (my son for instance hates large groups and loud noises. Even something simple for most like a crying baby will cause him to cover his ears and hide) or people without impaired hearing or vision. Think about that list! All those people who want to be heard, who want to be represented, who want to be a part of a march but often can’t. This list doesn’t even include women who often feel marginalized and don’t march because of the general lack of inclusion within the feminist community (like sex workers). Now while the specific needs of every individual can’t be taken into account the goal of the most recent march was to make everyone feel valued. Feminism doesn’t count unless we are fighting for everyone. And not just in the “we are fighting for all women” way of the past, today we fight for individual groups just like we do our own and intersectionality and anti racism is at the core.
My favorite chant was :
Black Lives Matter. Trans Lives Matter. Refugee Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. Sex Workers Lives Matter. Disabled Lives Matter…….
Even the speakers where all from diverse backgrounds with different points of view. I loved it. I think two of the most striking speeches for me was given by a sex worker and a refugee. They both dramatically altered my perceptions about both marginalized groups. I’m not saying that all the speakers weren’t great, they were. But for me these two stories had the most impact. They are stories that I have never heard, or perhaps I had never bothered to hear. It was worth being wet and dry over and over and over again for about 4 straight hours and with a police estimate of 15,000 people in attendance, I’m not the only one who felt that way.
I don’t know where we are going to go from here but I do know that this a very scary time to be a female in this world. All those fears we were marching for two years ago have been realized and then some. All our worst nightmares about the potential ramifications of 45 have come true and the hits just keep on coming. I’m glad to know the strong women who organized the Women’s March on Amsterdam last weekend. It’s comforting to know these women are out there and that they will keep fighting for women, all women, and I will keep doing my small part to help. Even if it’s just picking up trash.
There are videos of the march and at least a few speeches on YouTube and I really recommend checking them out.
And on a final note: FUCK THE PATRIARCHY!!!