Voices Raised in Protest: Women’s Marches, Part 2.1

Voices Raised in Protest: Women’s Marches, Part 2.1

We asked friends and readers who attended the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, and sister marches around and beyond the US to share their experiences with us. Here is some of what you told us:

DC March: It would be easy for me to talk about one of the many positive moments that occurred, but there two moments that stuck out to me illustrated how far we have to go. Both occurred when the crowd was getting antsy because the march was delayed and we were all tired and ready to move. A speaker was discussing criminal justice reform and mentioned Sandra Bland. To my right three friends (two white and one black) were getting antsy and one of the white girls said, "who is this Sandra Bland anyway and why do I need to care?" Her black friend tried to explain it and the two other girls just rolled their eyes and dismissed what she was saying. The other incident happened almost immediately after that. I was standing next to a woman I would guess was in her early 50s and she was pissed because "she didn't come to this march to be lectured about this stuff (immigration, race, etc.)." She came there to talk about women's rights. We had been conversing throughout the day and I felt comfortable enough to try to help her understand that these issues are very connected for some people. We can't talk about one topic without touching on the others. She just turned away from me and stopped talking to me. I would be lying if I said I were surprised by these encounters. They solidified my apprehension about this march and people's expectations of what this movement is about. - @CAndrewsDC

DC March: Finally finding a screen and watching that and the thousands and thousands of marchers go by toward the white house.  Not being able to disburse because there were just too many people and not enough places to go.  Driving out of town the next and still seeing all the signs, neatly placed on statues. - International Development Worker

Madison March: There was a point where I was stuck with my back against a storefront, unable to move, because there were so many people. I watched the signs and I engaged in the chants and I was simultaneously claustrophobic and bolstered knowing that I was surrounded by a progressive majority. - Jessica Fox

DC March: We got told the route was so full of people there was nowhere to march.  We were suspicious of being sent home, but Planning Mom was thinking it was a sign we needed to start leaving.  We hung around and thought about how to exit the city, and assured each other that we had come and we had done it all.  BUT THEN:  the march started from where we were and we just walked along with the crowd - puppets and singers and drums and chanting: "no pussy grabbing no patriarchy no fascist USA."  And a 7 year old boy child leading the most common call response chant: "tell me what democracy looks like / THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE".  I felt amazing.  I felt AMAZING.  I felt like Arab Spring pictures looked like.  THEN: we got near the speakers again, just as they were saying, "now it's time to march (3 pmish - about 2 hours after march was planned) - head along constitution towards the Washington Monument.  We said to each other "what have we already been doing" but we marched along anyways towards the monument.  YES!  A much shorter and easier ride.  - Annie M. Noble

(Washington, DC)

(Washington, DC)

Portland, OR March: I think the key moment for me was when our family entered the march, the looks on the faces of our kids. They were both pretty amazed at the whole scene, the noise and all the people and the signs, and walking in the street with no cars. Abe (my 7 year old son) had this sort of stunned, big-eyed look for the first few minutes. Then he kind of got into the rhythm and began chanting and reading signs and asking questions. I was so encouraged at how many people turned out despite the rain, it really was kind of an amazing thing to be a part of, and despite my generally introverted and non-crowd loving nature, I was really glad that I had come. One thing that was sort of surprising to me was how good it felt laugh and yell and sing with this great mass of humanity- so many witty signs and chants and songs. It was a good day. - Megan Newell-Ching

Portland, OR March: Joining the march and chanting "WE WILL NOT, GO AWAY, WELCOME TO YOUR FIRST DAY" felt very good. Like I was in a period of mourning, and a new creative spirit was emerging. - Matt Newell-Ching

London March: Trafalgar Square--the area where the march fed into--was so crowded, and when we arrived there, there were no clear pathways. People moved in any way, any direction they could. Marchers kept coming and coming: a wave, a push, an insistence. My daughter and I couldn't hear a single word of the speeches; we could catch the Jumbotron only out of the corner of our eye. There was a kind of chaos, and the buskers in front of the National Gallery were trying to guard their pieces of pavement, steering people even tighter into one another; it was a kind of chaos. I don't think I could have held my daughter's hand tighter, steering her through the crowd to find some breathing room, and in those moments it was nerve-wracking. But as we moved forward, and as people made paths for one another, you could breathe into it, catch a small wave, and move when you could, recognizing that it wasn't a dangerous chaos. I know that in the United States, there has been much written about how we shouldn't celebrate too much the "peaceful" nature of the march there, and that it's due to the preponderance of white women--versus, say, the Black Lives Matter protests that are heavily monitored and staffed by law enforcement--that there weren't arrests. I hear that, and I defer to people who were there in DC and that have been there for other marches, say, in Baltimore, for their experience. But in London, it felt that there was a very careful righteous anger alongside a caretaking for creating space for one another, for inserting gentleness where there might otherwise be a push or a shove. The number of people who took time to talk to my daughter about her sign, to take her picture (always asking me permission), and, as in the words of one fellow protester, to welcome her to her first protest now that she was "officially a resistor sister" when we were cheek to jowl, I won't forget that. And I want to give the protestors there credit for that, because it couldn't have happened without some sense of purpose about creating that space and honoring room for one another that felt, at its heart, authentically feminist. - Christy Zink

DC March: The whole day, I was just overwhelmed with emotion.  There were moments when I would just burst into tears.  When we started marching and chanting, there were times when I was so choked up with pride that I couldn't even participate.  It was incredible. One of the best days of my life. - Katie

DC March: The most exciting part was when our bus finally arrived at the stadium. It was so so cool to see all these busses with little clumps of women next to it, dressed in pink and rallying (even though it was about 7am). It was just nice to be like "I'm finally here with you! Let's do this!" - Marli

Who you are; why you went

DC March

DC March: White/Bisexual/33/Middle Class/Writer .  I decided to attend because I felt so powerless after the election, and I wanted to join a show of women so that those in power cannot ignore us. - Marli

DC March: white, female, 36  - Katie

Portland, OR March: Biracial (Asian/White), Male/He/Him, 37, middle class, nonprofit professional, because we need to show the world that we are better than this, and to be an ally - Matt Newell-Ching

Portland, OR March: white woman, 38, upper middle class, non-profit professional. I think the main reason I decided to attend was for my kids, to show them what it could look like to show up and use our voices to speak out and up for ourselves, and for people in our community that are vulnerable. - Megan Newell-Ching

DC March: I'm a 34-year-old single black woman with an advanced degree and working as a business analyst and database developer for a mid-size nonprofit. I felt it was important to lend my voice to the women's rights cause. I'm a firm believer there is strength in numbers and we have an enormous fight on our hands in this current political climate. I also attended to see how the organizers defined "women's issues." As was illustrated not only in the speeches, but also in the crowds reactions to some of the speeches, there was no consensus on the topics that are the focus for this work. I feel there is still to be determined how this mission will be realized. - @CAndrewsDC

Madison March: I am a white, female, cisgendered, middle class, straight, married, parent, educator. I attended because I have been getting more and more involved in politics in my home community and I am disheartened about the turn in our national politics. I wanted to be part of a visible image of resistance against racism, xenophobia, heterosexism, transmisogyny, and sexism. - Jessica Fox

DC March: White Bisexual (but invisibly so, as I am male-partnered) Woman, pushing 40 (38) - Annie M. Noble

London March: I'm a writer and teacher of critical writing at a university in Washington, DC, currently doing research and writing in London, England. I'm a white woman, and that I'm also an activist for women's health and reproductive justice. knew it was important for me to attend the march, because to be present in voice and body in the aftermath of a terrible election full of violence and hatred, and in facing down what might happen to push back women's rights not just in America, but in other parts of the world, too, felt an absolute necessity. I'm lucky that we're living in London, where the march was held, so travel was easy for me--just a hop down the Northern line of the Tube. There was no financial burden, and my husband handled child care coverage for my younger son (age 5). The harder part was deciding just what it would mean to bring my daughter--age 9--to the march and taking precautions to make sure she was safe in what promised to be a large crowd--and that ended up being much larger crowd than anticipated. - Christy Zink

(Washington, DC)

(Washington, DC)

How you prepared, how you got there

DC March: I really didn't do anything to prepare for the march. I would occasionally Facebook posts and would pay attention to any news stories, but other than that I didn't do anything. I went to the march with my best friend. I took the metro down to the march and while it was packed, the atmosphere was light and harmonious. We formed an instant connection with one another. It was very similar to the crowd at Obama's first inauguration. - @CAndrewsDC

London March: My daughter and I talked about the different reasons for the march, and that it wasn't just about Trump, and we made signs together. It felt important to talk through why it mattered for her, in her own terms. I had a moment when I thought, she's going to be 13 when this presidential term is over. Some of her most important years in looking up and working out her independence, moving from child to teen, navigating what it means to be female, are just ahead. This had to be her march as much as mine, but she also needed to have that happen in her own language and through her own understandings. We traveled by underground. I did know several fellow mums and their families were planning to go and be part of the protest; my daughter's teacher also helped to organize the march, so there was a sense of community in place rather than feeling we were going it alone. - Christy Zink

Photo by Christy Zink

Photo by Christy Zink

Madison March: A colleague at my college chartered a bus for 60 attendees to drive to Madison from our small city in Southern Wisconsin. I encouraged as many people to attend as I could (along with the organizers) and we filled the bus. The night before the march I made signs. - Jessica Fox

DC March: Packed a bag filled with snack, cell phone and charger, made some signs. We listened to lots of motivating music as we were making our signs... it got us super pumped! - Katie

DC March: I had several people I was supposed to meet - but barely managed to meet any of them.  One was several hours late due to packed metros. Others I just couldn't find due to poor phone and internet reception and the throngs of people.  I was terribly unprepared in terms of knowing where things were supposed to happen,  so mostly just found a not too crowded spot and people watched. - International Development Worker

Portland, OR March: I made sandwiches. And laid out proper clothing for me and my kids (it was cold and rainy in Portland) and planned our trip using public transit. We had loose plans to potentially meet up with several different groups of friends, family and a group from our church. In the end it was so chaotic that we just marched as a little family unit. - Megan Newell-Ching

Portland, OR March: I went with my family - Megan (spouse), two kids, ages 4 and 7 - Matt Newell-Ching

DC March: I didn't work nearly as hard as I probably should have to get to the march.  I opened my home to a frenemy from high school (now a friend thanks to the magic of Facebook and other online interactions) who was SO MUCH COOLER than I was when we were in school.  She booked a flight from Texas. Me and Frenemy Friend went to Walmart and Target to get last minute supplies the night before.  Because white women shop when we're anxious and planning, apparently.  Luckily I didn't plan on meeting people there - I hoped and gathered information about where people were, but I also couldn't handle the anxiety of not knowing what we were going to encounter and feeling obligated to make plans.  Another suburban white mom in my suburban neighborhood (which I am grateful is not all white, but our group was) did the planning (we'll call her Planning Mom)  and my husband watched the kids.  Then we picked up Recent Widow (70 years old) and her daughter (mid 40s?) and headed into the city on The Magical Road of 66, which was more congested than I've seen in the middle of the beginning of a snowstorm while construction was being done.  - Annie M. Noble

What you wore

Madison March: I wore a pink pussycat hat that my mother made for me (she marched in D.C.). I made 5 signs, with markers on poster board. They said 1) "Love Not Hate Makes America Great" 2) I am not free while any woman is unfree - Audre Lorde 3) Women, Black People, LGBTQ+ People, Immigrants, are what makes America Great 4) & 5) Women's Symbols with a fist inside of them. - Jessica Fox

DC March: I sported a Disney Villainesses tee I found at Target (seemed to fit the theme of Nasty Women), with a long sleeve undershirt.  And my stupid expensive but ultralight NorthFace jacket.  All of this was covered by my brand new hunting vest ($7 Walmart) which had all the pockets I thought I'd need for carrying my shit because I guess we all thought the police would be measuring our bags.  And jeans.  And tennis shoes.  And of course, a pink pussy hat knitted by my friend who knitted 7 of them (I was able to distribute all of them). As for a sign, I had no words.  I was out of words.  I found an angry emoji face pillow for $4 at Walmart, which said what my most used facebook emoji has been saying for the last several months.  I did ponder the irony of/problem with using as my sign something created probably by exploited female labor across the globe. - Annie M. Noble

DC March: I kept it simple; I didn't wear anything march-related nor did I bring a sign or banner. - @CAndrewsDC

London March: My daughter and I wore shirts made for the Women's March on London. We did make and bring signs. - Christy Zink

DC March: I wore my usual clothing - I was supposed to get a hat a friend knit for me, but we never met up.  No sign or banner.  As I said, very unprepared - International Development Worker

Portland, OR March: We wore rain gear, because Portland. We had 8 1/2 x 11 signs. Our 4-yo daughter watched the march [that] morning and saw a sign with the Powerpuff Girls on it, and it spoke to her, so I made a sign for her on the computer that had a picture of the PPG and "Girl Power" written on it. Our 7-yo son can write now, so he hand-made a sign that said "DT" (crossed out in red) and "W" (Women), which was circled in green with a checkmark next to it. I made a sign that said "I'm with her her her her her" (with a bunch of arrows) - Matt Newell-Ching

Portland, OR March: Layers, rain gear. I hoped to knit a pussy hat, but didn't have time in the end. I didn't have a sign, but my kids and husband did. - Megan Newell-Ching

DC March: I brought two hats - one very warm pink hat that says FEMINIST, the other a black baseball cap with a "Trust Women" patch. It was colder than expected so I kept the pink one on all day. I took some signs and buttons from R29, and I made sure to wear my button from the early 90s of a peace sign with a pink triangle. I didn't want to hold a sign all day because I knew I'd be on my feet and marching, but I wish I'd made one that said "Feminism WILL be intersectional or it WON'T be feminism," because we white women have a lot to learn. - Marli

DC March: I wore lots of layers and had a cross body bag.  I made a sign that said "Preschools NOT Prisons" - Katie

This post will be continued tomorrow in Part 2.2.

You might also like to read Part 1.1 and Part 1.2.

Editors’ note: All respondents were identified according to their wishes. Responses were lightly edited for obvious typographical errors. If you responded and don’t see your words here, STAY TUNED! We’ll be running more responses over the next couple weeks. Want to tell us your story? You can still take our survey!

Main image: “That’s Quite Enough of That” poster at the Women’s March in London, Christy Zink

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