‘Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.’ – Gloria Steinem
It’s 21 January 2017, and in LA the sun has finally come out, after endless days of what seemed to be Mother Nature crying a monsoon of tears. I pulled my eight-month-pregnant butt out of our car, as a woman and her husband in their fifties, called out to us. ‘You kids headed to the station for the march downtown? It’s going to take three hours to get on the train honey! We are going to drive further out to come back in. Maybe try that?’
The tone of this small interaction was just one of the millions of tiny acts of empathy and connections between strangers that have become the cornerstone of the Women’s March movement. An amazing practical application of sisterhood, working hand in hand with the support of our more ‘woke’ brothers, to make ourselves heard.
The number of those who turned out in a huge grassroots show of support for women’s rights really does speak volumes – pun intended. Around 4,814,000 humans on 673 marches worldwide.
But what suddenly caused so many people to wake up? There are many contributing factors we can discuss in regards to the rise of fourth-wave feminism. But ultimately it took an orange reality TV star becoming the terrifying new leader of the ‘free world’ to get people to stop moaning on Facebook and out to pound the streets.
The Women’s March on Washington’s organisers explained why we were gathering. ‘In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognising that defending the most marginalised among us is defending all of us.’
But women turned out around the world for so many reasons. For those not getting equal pay, for police turning a blind eye to sexual assault, and for all the micro-aggressions we face every day as women. Because old men are trying to make rules about our bodies, and apparently it’s now OK to ‘grab them by the pussy’.
I turned out with my boyfriend for our unborn daughter. I couldn’t face telling her we didn’t care enough to at least try and protect both the right and expectation for our government to treat women as equals and allow us to choose what we do with our own bodies.
In mid-2016 my peers were discussing how we thought the Trump campaign and its noisy supporters were the last loud death rattle of old white men trying to hang on to all the power, fearful as they saw women and other minorities gaining ground. But then, like a slow-motion car crash, it happened – Brexit, Trump, rising hate across the globe. Many like myself felt total despair that the world around them was regressing not moving forward like we hoped. We cried in the shower, stopped sleeping, and became slaves to our social media feeds and news alerts.
Yet somehow in the midst of this a Facebook post from a woman in Hawaii turned into one of the biggest days of collective demonstration in history. Overwhelmed by the comments on her vague post about a women’s march on the pro-Hillary Facebook page Pantsuit Nation, Teresa Shook realised no one else was taking the lead on her idea so decided to make a Facebook group of her own. She fell asleep with a few friends who had said they would attend. However, by the time she woke up, 10,000 people had RSVP’d to what would eventually become the Women’s March on Washington.
Suddenly there was hope, and safety in numbers. Planes full of women descended on the Capitol and turned their interior lights pink in support of passengers; grandmothers globally were suddenly being asked to create inter-generational ‘pink pussy hats’; we found out just how amazing people are at making signs; and my mother’s feminist heroes took to the stage to speak alongside mine.
The Women’s March was a magical day, full of spirit and love for all, with not a single arrest. Yet we must remember that day was just the start. We need to turn out for other communities and others who fear persecution for their battles and marches. This has to be intersectional. Like those who, having rallied for women, are now taking daily trips to the airport to fight for immigrant rights, standing arm in arm with their LGBTQ friends, fundraising for the ACLU, or sending supplies to Standing Rock.
Michael Moore said as he rallied the crowd in Washington ‘You have to be willing to put yourself on the line. It’s that important. The next thing on the to-do list: you have to run for office. You, yes, you. I can see your faces: “No, no, Mike. Not me. I’m shy!” This is not the time for shy people.’