Scientist, Educator & Speaker
“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!”
This call-and-response chant was an often repeated mantra throughout the march.
My absolute favorite chant shouted by a small group of woman organizers with a highly practical bent was, “MARCH ON THE SIDEWALK, BATHROOMS TO THE RIGHT!!” This chant was repeated by every marcher as we passed by this knot of enthusiastic direction givers. It’s my latest earworm. And yes, being a middle aged woman with an aging bladder, bathroom directions were highly appreciated. However, there was no way we could stick to the sidewalks – too many people. A crushing amount of people.
An estimated million women joined together in Washington, DC on Saturday January 21st to support women’s rights – along with men and children who love and admire us.
My husband and I traveled from Los Angeles to participate in the Mother of the Marches in DC, first meeting-up with friends in Philadelphia. We hopped on a rally bus at 5:45am on Saturday. The mood was a bit somber at first – probably because it was dark, rainy, and way too early for most of us. But, as we got closer to DC, we saw more rally buses. Some by the dozens parked at rest stops for bathroom breaks. Our bus erupted in cheers with each sighting. It became increasingly clear the enormity of what we were about to experience.
We walked the 2 miles from our drop-off point at RFK Stadium to the rally start point at Independence Ave and 3rd St SW. As we got closer and closer, there were thousands of marchers joining in from all around. It was a swarm of pink pussy hats and clever signs. Everyone was jubilant, even though the reason for our having to march in the first place was frightening. There came a point where we could no longer move. We were packed in cheek-to-jowl for hours.
Americans like their personal space. A lot of personal space. We detest being squeezed up against strangers. So, what was one of the most surprising aspects of this million-person crowd was that I didn’t witness a single act of unkindness. No pushing, shoving, or shouting (other than, “WE WANT TO MARCH! WE WANT TO MARCH!”). Strangers smiled and chatted with one another. There was laughter. We admired each other’s signs and took photos as we were stuck in one place for far too long.
And then we started to move. A million people at once. Something got unplugged and we spilled out into all available space. The march route was not supposed to include the National Mall. But, there were too many people and we ended up taking the paths of least resistance – and for some that included the nice big space of the National Mall. Lots of news media showed photos of the density of people on the Mall as if that was the main event. Keep in mind that this was the spill-over, not part of the intended march route.
The homemade signs were wonderful. So many messages. Not all were focused on women’s issues in isolation. Some were about environmental justice, healthcare justice, racial justice, LGBTQ justice, religious tolerance, and more. And as many signs pointed out, feminism is intersectional – not just about white women’s rights. Being a woman intersects with race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. And many of the signs reflected the complex nature of this intersectionality.
My female gender intersects with my career as a reproductive physiologist. Not surprisingly, I was particularly taken with signs about female empowerment and reproductive rights. Below are some of my favorites that I ran into along the march.
This was a powerful and inspiring, historic event. Congratulations to the organizers who did an amazing job pulling together this enormous gathering of female forces in such a short amount of time. And a shout-out to the many police officers, traffic controllers, and National Guard who seemed happy to see us there and made me feel more secure.
I loved that I got to share this incredible experience with my husband and friends. For all of us who marched physically or in spirit, we need to keep the momentum going. Do something positive every day. EVERY DAY! Simple things like calling your elected officials and letting their staff know what is important to you. Defending the downtrodden and supporting those in need of help. Donating money and time to causes you care about. Practicing acts of kindness.
What positive act will you do today, tomorrow, next week, next month?
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