My Women’s March Think Piece

…because there needs to be more of them, right? I actually think there does.

I woke up at 3am to catch my flight. I had my bags mostly packed and I grabbed a lyft to the airport, leaving my husband at the door and the kids asleep. I was happy that I would be on my second flight of the day during the inauguration so that I wouldn’t have to see it on CNN in the airport or watch the responses live on social media. I was not exactly excited when I got to the airport, I was mostly nervous and sad. If I let myself, I could pretend like I still lived in a vacuum where Trump wasn’t peacefully becoming the President, but the entire morning felt like the end of something.

In the security line I kept my eyes out for pink. Every single woman wearing any kind of pink I happily assumed was going to the Women’s March. That was probably untrue, but you’ll never prove it to me. I kept my pussy hat in my purse. This is where I’m going to admit to being a little bit too cool for school. It’s not a proud thing to admit. It runs through my whole life. I don’t like looking silly or standing out in public. I feel safest as an anonymous person. I don’t want people to see me.

When I made it to my gate there was a gaggle of women in pink hats over to one side. I went over and sat near them, I smiled. I still didn’t take out my pink hat. I watched as it became clear that they didn’t know each other, but it seemed like they did. They were taking photos together and sharing swag. Another woman came and sat near us. And another. And another. I saw one sheepishly take out her hat. “I’ve never knitted anything before,” she said. She was apologizing for the hat mess. But everyone just encouraged her and cheered. Literally cheered. Another woman took out her hat. And another. I took mine out and set it on my lap. I undid my pony tail and fluffed my hair. I slid my hat on and kept my eyes to the floor. I was a little embarrassed now that I had waited so long. One of the women in the original group asked all of us if we could take a group photo. On several women’s phones there is a group photo with me in it and a bunch of strangers.

One of the women, who said she was a teacher, started passing out stickers.

“Do you want a sticker?”

“YES!” I said.

“I have others that don’t have swear words, if you don’t like swear words,” she said.

“I love swear words,” I said.

As I walked on the plane I started out confident. But very quickly wanted to shrink away. Many men stared at me, glared at me. I heard whispers and hisses of “feminist.” I saw eye rolls and sneers. I stood straighter. The feeling was awful. I realized that the rareness of this experience is white privilege. I get to live anonymously, while many people of color never ever do.

On my second flight out of Denver there were so many hats. So so many. There were only a few people who were not going to the march on my plane. The flight had a buzz running through it of excitement. We were asked to all stand up (if attending the march), and turn for a photo. These photos ended up on a Buzzfeed list later that day. In my row all three of us were headed to the march. A 70 year old grandmother (who liked like she was 50, if I’m being honest), a 24 year old grad student, and 31 year old me. I got choked up when the older woman told us we had to keep fighting, that it would be ok, that we’d get through this, but that it was going to be hard. All three of us chatted for three hours.

I also want to talk about how I was afraid. It seems stupid to say now, but as I was headed toward DC no one knew how this would turn out. Would someone try to hurt large numbers of us to make a statement? Would violence break out? There were so many possibilities for something to go wrong. I had taken photos of my kids the night before I left. Purposefully. I looked at them before my flights. I was afraid, but I kept going. There were times,even though I could see the other travelers with similar purposes, where I felt like a lone soldier.

The morning of the march I was really excited. I wanted to get there, I wanted to see the people, I wanted to be in it. Walking over to the rally point the streets were absolutely filled with marchers. Women of every age, of every color, of every background were pouring in from all sides. As we walked close and closer the amount of people overwhelmed me in the best way. All of these women, on some level, had been gutted like I had been. All of these women, on some level, had decided to say NO. I had been fairly isolated in my fear/anger/despair. The internet is there, yes, but I mostly sit in my office all day, or sit with my children, or cry to my husband and pull at my hair, and worry that I am yelling into a vast empty hole. But this… tears fell out of my face as we walked by hundreds and thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people. I am not alone. We are not alone. There are many people who were there for a variety of reasons, but the uniting aspect was: THIS IS NOT OK. There really are more of us than there are of them. That has to matter.

OK, now I’m going to touch on a subject that is controversial. Hold on to your butts. I posted the photo of my coat as I was walking onto the plane and then turned off my phone. When I landed in Denver and checked my phone, I was beyond flabbergasted by the amount of support I was seeing. Comments and shares and likes and messages. Text messages, DMs, Facebook messages. I audibly gasped in my seat. The gasp caught in my throat. It is a very rare day where I feel so many people lifting me up, so many people proud of what I’m doing, especially because I initially felt the expense of going was selfish. I worried it was selfish to be doing something I felt more than ever called to participate in – even though it took me away from my family, inconvenienced Kamel, caused me to take a day from work, and cost us money we don’t really have. And then to have all of this support was just… a shock.

Now it has been a few days past the march. And though it may have been one of the biggest demonstrations nation-wide the country has ever seen, it is becoming really trendy to tear it down. Should we talk about why there were less POC? Yes. Let’s talk about it. Does it de-legitimize the purpose and the large show of resistance? No. I am now feeling immense pressure to apologize for the fact that I am a white woman and attended the march. I am feeling pressure to feel shame for attending an event that more POC did not attend. I wish I could have made the march feel more inclusive. I am resisting the urge to talk about how many Black Lives Matter signs I saw, I am resisting the urge to talk about how many POC their were, because it sounds a lot like saying “I HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S BLACK!” I struggle with how to talk about this because I am WHITE and I have FEELINGS and so I feel like those two things make any opinion I have either a cry of “you’re so privileged!” or “Stop putting your discomfort on the shoulders of people of color!”

But here is my truth: Maybe this march brought together people who had never had a political awareness before. Maybe it introduced them to what it feels like to be part of something bigger than themselves. Maybe it inspired them to donate money to causes that help everyone. I think those things are true. What I think is really unhelpful are comments like: “I better see all of these white people at the next Black Lives Matter protest.” How does shaming people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, who are asking questions, who are willing to learn, who are not career activists help the liberal agenda? And yes, white fragility. So sad, white people with their hurt feelings. But no one likes to feel like the thing they did that was hard for them was worthless. My truth is to have more compassion. Holding a person’s hand and helping them towards a path with more awareness and activism and woke-ness is way more effective than yelling at them and telling them how they still are wrong and uneducated and bad. Should POC be in charge of holding the hands of white people and leading them towards truth? No. And I am definitely not saying the experiences of POC should not be shared regarding the Women’s March. But instead of looking back and saying the march was meaningless, we should be encouraging everyone who participated on that day towards the next event. Towards the next call for social change and resistance of the Trump administration.  Tearing it down, writing think pieces about it’s holes, and turning the viewpoint on itself is on ONE HAND important but an ANOTHER only benefits those who are most afraid of a united women’s movement. Proceed with caution.

15 thoughts on “My Women’s March Think Piece”

  1. I was one who nodded and RTed that I want to see white women at the next BLM marches that happen but not because THIS march was meaningless. Quite the opposite. There were many flaws, and some outright wrongness as white women diminished and demeaned Native women or the horrible TERFs came out, but by and large I felt that this gave our fears and pain and worries more meaningful. This tells me you DO care and DO see your power to protect your sisters in this fight, and I hope so much that you (all white women who were a part of this, not just you-Lauren) will feel that power and run with it. Take it and be the shields for WOC who have been fighting and enduring what you feared for this march. There wasn’t violence because the police chose not to come armed like military, because so many faces were white. That’s a message. That’s an incredibly powerful message about what you can do because you have this amazing privilege that solely because of your skin, you and others who look like you, JUST by showing up, not even by speaking out but solely from your presence, you can confer protections on those who are marginalized and minimized.

    I couldn’t go because I’m already physically crippled to an extent that I’d be laid up for at least a month after and we simply don’t have support here to deal with that. But because of you – YOU-Lauren – I felt like I was there. Someone I love took on the hardship and the fear and stepped out of your zone to try and do something tangible. And that made me feel part of it, and like you were standing for me, as a WOC, as someone who isn’t able bodied.

    I get that there was felt to be a dearth of WOC or disability or Native representation. I hear that and I don’t dispute that. But for me, from where I sat, I felt that my able bodied white women friends who made the effort, whose families supported them, I felt like you helped to represent me in your hearts. I’m used to being left behind, disregarded, unthought of because of my inability to physically participate, but this wasn’t one of those times.

    It wasn’t your reason for going, but I thank you all the same for doing it because you made the effort and it warmed my prune of a heart.

    1. You do NOT need to thank me. Don’t you dare. But I was thinking of you. You have made me more aware of many things. You have been a gentle prod in a more aware direction for me, which is why I want to pass that on to others and not in a way that makes them embarrassed or ashamed or feel that nothing they do is right. I was absolutely thinking of you. <3

      1. <3 There are some willfully ignorant people out there that I sort of approve of shaming because OMG the frustration but that's not a useful reaction. So I'm focusing on appreciating when someone is choosing to face up to the hard realities when they could choose to live blissfully in ignorance. I appreciate that quality in you, and your efforts to share, very much. This isn't giving you a cookie for doing the Least Possible, this is just appreciating you for being a decent human. Seems we need more of them.

  2. Last year I read Christena Cleveland’s book, Disunity in Christ, and it really opened my eyes and made me realize I (as a white woman) need to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable, especially when it comes to confronting inter-sectional feminist issues. It’s not enough just to recognize my privilege. I went to the March in DC and it was an incredible experience. Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez did a fantastic job. It was so positive and I hate to think other white women were making POC feel less-than although it doesn’t really surprise me either. We have a lot of work to do TOGETHER.

  3. You got me all weepy, Lauren! I went to our local march (in our red state, with about 10,000 people and my 6-year old daughter). I was on the fence about going for the reasons you mentioned (mainly fear of an attack), but finally asked my oldest if she wanted to go and she was SO excited; shouted “yes!” the second I asked. She’d just learned about Dr King’s work at our home and at school, and made the connection that this would be similar. So we went & I had a similar mix of feelings that you describe. It was really emotional and cathartic and overwhelming at times. I desperately hope that the people who attended take action, and that it makes a difference.

  4. You were one of a few people in my life who made it all the way to DC and shared your experience with us via social media, and I am so grateful to have been able to feel what it was like there, and see that our little local march (of 7,000) was part of that bigger, huge thing happening where you were. I am inspired by the many people in my life who listened to their hearts that told them “GO”, and went all the way to DC. For a variety of reasons I knew I’d be better spending my time to stay in place, and attend a workshop on taking action, and dealing with health issues. LOL and while I am certainly grateful for all the men who encouraged and supported their ladies going, I also don’t want us to spend too much time patting them on the back for holding up their end of the deal for ONE DAY. No, nope, nuh uh. That headline…..!!

    Anyway, I am really interested in the method by which we all come together and mobilize going forward, and how to decide between and us-them, fightfightfight mentality vs. a we are one, let’s be kind approach. I see the value in both – in pushing each other sometimes, in calling out problematic behavior, etc. But I am such a softie and I see how many times kindness and gentleness to those who are open is the way change is made, just as you said. So I sometimes feel torn between my activist friends who are pushing for more awareness, more action, more inclusion, calling out problems, and the people in my life who are tentatively, tentatively taking steps in that direction and need space to say it is hard. It’s not exactly an answer, but basically I figure that if what we are trying to achieve is a world where all are respected and kindness is important, then we have to treat each other that way as we walk the path to get there. It’s a big question, really. I’m glad you posed it. I am very eager for us to all find a way to make a more just world in a more just way. Staying tuned…

    1. Another thing that has been coming up a bunch among my network lately… and I think is related to the messaging around activist types saying the march was useless… and I’ll just speak from my own experience. As of November 9, I had been working flat out for 6 months, and pretty hard for 2 years on social justice advocacy work. Organizing, mobilizing, advocating. And so when Trump won, it was just devastating. It made it feel like the tiny incremental gains we had made after two years of work on one issue were wiped away in a single moment. It was painful and demoralizing. And then everyone in my life who had been watching, cheering me on even, but basically not involved started saying, WHAT CAN I DO? And it was just… hard. Hard not to turn on them with my frustration and say – if you had asked that sooner, we wouldn’t be here. But instead, I tried to say, “yes, please, get involved. I need to rest.” I’ll be back soon, and I’m here if you need me for things. But I needed a chance to not lead for a while. To recover from the blow to my hope and my efforts.

      And I’m just a parttime volunteer organizer, and a newbie at that. I can only imagine what it’s like for people who have been fighting all their lives, full time, to go through that same process.

      Maybe that helps a little bit with understanding where some people are coming from with annoyance, and frustration.

  5. Hi Lauren. I was in D.C. also! Thank you for writing about the event. You put a lot of my mixed up emotions into words very well. My husband and I went on Friday night and attended a giant meet up of Deaf women along with a couple friends of ours who live in D.C. Tim and Geoffrey weren’t even planning on going to the March because they thought as gay men they weren’t really represented there. But we talked about how the event was representing all our various worries and they did come after all.

    I am profoundly aware after this event that in spite of how I am treated as a Deaf person, my color is still the first thing people see of me in these situations and I have been even more convicted about the fact that my advocacy for disability rights is one prong of the whole. I think we are all working towards a better way. At least I hope.

  6. On the one hand, I think we (white women) need to be open to criticism. We need to be able to feel uncomfortable and do better. On the other hand, this march wasn’t just about feminism or black lives matter or your average opposition to Republicans. This man is going to threaten EVERYTHING. I do not feel safe while he has the ability to launch a nuclear weapon. He is eroding the meaning of truth. I just do not have time for shaming or guilt. This is a nightmare. He is nightmare. All action, as flawed or imperfect or messy as it is, is needed.

  7. Lauren!! I have so many feelings! Thank you for also having feelings and for being so open about them.

    First, I legit cried at your description of being in the airport- this is the best non-POC description I have ever heard of what it’s like to be “different”. Thank you for seeing us.

    May I gently suggest a reframing of “we better see all these white women at the next BLM march”? I see it as an empowerment- “hey women! This may have been your first march, and now you know how much of a difference it makes- you’re so welcome at the next one.” Is this framing perhaps what was intended? No. Is it the way that you can take it so that you can keep moving forward, keep learning, keep educating those around you? Maybe. Know that the tools of the oppressor are used to tear us apart- and often we have internalized these tools because culture is insidious.

    I think the hardest thing about community involvement and community organizing (yes, former community organizer there. Republican men love to tell me that my work wasn’t “real work”.) is knowing that people are all trying to do their best and what they think is right- and that we can do hard things together even if we don’t agree completely and if it’s hard and if we end up at the end of a barbed remark. Because it’s by being a real community and showing up anyway that we make the difference.

    Thank you for going, because you had the ability to do so and you put your money where your mouth is. We went to our march here in Vancouver BC and it was great, but I loved seeing things from DC!

    1. This comment is above and beyond anything that I deserve. I love that take on the comment about white women showing up to BLM stuff. I think there is a really big disconnect between women of color and white women in regards to oppression. I’m going to talk about this more when I do the Gloria Steinam book review, which i finished on the plane HOME from DC! But anyways – white women have a different kind of upper class oppression than women of color. That oppression takes the form of silencing, of removing a white woman’s voice, of not allowing her the space to “act out” and by forcibly sheltering her for generations and generations. Both physically and ideologically.

      Women of color have a lot of room to be angry at white women, but the same systems that are holding them down are also holding white women down, just in different ways. I am not so easily shamed or bossed around. But I don’t want to see that moment that has begun halted. We want as many people on our team as possible. The more exposure white women get, the stronger we ALL become and our numbers will swell.

    2. Know that the tools of the oppressor are used to tear us apart- and often we have internalized these tools because culture is insidious.

      This X 1,000.

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