The Women’s March On Washington

womens-march-on-washington-washington-monument“We are here not merely to gather but to move, right? And our movements, our movements require us to do more than just show up and say the right words. It requires us to break out of our comfort zones and be confrontational. It requires us to defend one another when it is difficult and dangerous. It requires us to truly see ourselves and one another… Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves.”

– From Janet Mock’s speech at the March

Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite cities. In fact, I might even say that it is my number one favorite. I’ve been there four times now and every time I find something to love a little more – its history, its culture, its geography of impressive monuments and old buildings. So it was with disappointment that, after Trump was elected president, I told myself I wouldn’t go back there for at least four years. I mean, who wants to be in the same location as a bigot covered in Cheeto dust?

I broke that promise to myself ASTONISHINGLY QUICKLY, sinceI was there the very day after Trump was inaugurated. I had a last-minute opportunity to attend the Women’s March on Washington so of course I jumped at the chance to go.

womens-march-on-washington-iowa-city-groupI’d been hearing about the march for weeks and months as it was planned but had no way of getting there, let alone to any of the large sister protests such as the one held in Des Moines. But I wasn’t really planning to attend Iowa City’s little march, either, mostly because I had homework to do. It seemed like a very all or nothing situation: I wasn’t going to go to a small protest because I had homework but when I had the chance to go to one so big I just couldn’t pass it up, I immediately said, “Forget about the homework. I’m going.”

So, yeah. That’s where I was this weekend. In case you were wondering. I’ve been much better at leaving comments on other people’s blogs / replying to comments on my own blog so far this year, but I let that fall by the wayside these past few days because I was busy, and some of you may have noticed that absence. SORRY, I WAS DOING A THING.

womens-march-on-washington-trio-of-postersI traveled to our nation’s capital on Friday in a huge van with a group of fourteen other women from Iowa City, ranging in age from thirteen to seventy-two. Some, but not all, had been to D.C. before. Some of us were new to protesting, while others had been at it for a long time.

Getting there was half the fun. We kept a list of silly things people said and tried to explain what an aux cord is to the oldest members of our group and brainstormed ideas for a feminist version of Goodnight Moon. (“Goodnight, Beyoncé! Goodnight, Ruth Bader Ginsburg!”) We had a row of seats in the van with women knitting enough pussyhats for everyone to wear. (Mine was glittery. It was awesome.)

womens-march-on-washington-youre-so-vainWe passed (and ecstatically waved at) dozens of busloads of fellow marchers on the highway tonight. At a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, Ohio, bus after bus rolled up during the time it took us to fill the gas tank and I stopped counting them once I hit twenty. Everyone wanted to know where everyone else was from! I felt so proud to know I would be marching with all these women the next day.

I don’t even know where to start in terms of describing the actual day of the event because it was so overwhelming! Although 200,000 women were expected to show up, initial estimates said there were at least 500,000 people in attendance – and that’s only based on who had traveled on the Metro subway system that morning, not people who arrived later or by other means.

womens-march-on-washington-selfieI don’t think I’ve ever been in such a large crowd before? I loved seeing all the posters of protest and it was really cool to see the wide variety of people there. I saw an old man holding a sign that said he was marching for his granddaughters. I got kind of emotional seeing so many kids there because I knew that a lot of them had never known anything other than the Obama presidency.

A number of my blogging friends were there, although I didn’t see any of them – and didn’t expect to, to tell the truth, not in a crowd that large – as well as many of my friends from Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

We walked around for a while looking at posters and talking to people, then found one of the Jumbotrons scattered near the National Mall and watched the live speeches. That is, I craned my neck and jumped up and down to see the speakers over the heads of tall people standing in my way and even then I couldn’t really hear most of the speakers due to the noise of the crowd.

I think we were there for Janet Mock’s speech, and we were definitely there for Scarlett Johansson’s and America Ferrera’s, but I couldn’t hear especially well. In fact, I was actually able to hear only one of them, delivered by a six-year-old whose speech was probably one of the best that day. (I have been listening to all of them on YouTube.) ¡Sí se puede!

When it was finally time for the march to begin, everyone was more than a little confused. We took just a few steps and then the crowd halted! It went on like this for more than an hour. During this time we traveled barely more than a block.

womens-march-on-washington-hamilton(I’m like 99.9% sure that the block where we began to walk was the same exact one where I bought my Obama “Hope” shirt, which I wore for the march, from a street vendor almost seven years ago. Time really flies, doesn’t it?)

At the time of the march, we didn’t know what was causing the delay. It later turned out that there were so many people there that the original planned route of the march was filled with protesters from beginning to end, with more people continuing to stream in from the middle, that there was nowhere to go.

After about an hour, I had had enough. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to be there and I enjoyed what time I did spend there, but I was exhausted and hungry and cold and, more than anything, anxious. Two of the things that set my anxiety off the most are crowds and loud noises, and this had both. Some of the other members of my group also did not feel well, so we left the march and took the Metro back to Arlington, VA, where we nursed our anxiety- and stress-induced headaches and got something to eat.

womens-march-on-washington-heartI’m so incredibly grateful that I was able to attend the march. I was unable to participate as much as I would have liked, but I left knowing I was a part of history. Also, I think it’s important to be aware of your limits when doing activism. I’m a very anxious person and it’s no surprise that I struggled with this during the march, but I still did my part.

I’m so glad I decided to drop all my (admittedly not very exciting) weekend plans and go! It was by far the shortest time I’ve spent in D.C. but it was totally worth it even though it resulted in my not sleeping for forty-eight hours. (I don’t fall asleep in cars. I just can’t.) It’s still a little hard to believe I was even there in the first place precisely because it was an opportunity that sprang up at the very last minute.

Ultimately, I think that participating in the Women’s March on Washington was a very healing experience. I can’t and won’t “get over” a Trump presidency (or a Pence one after, god forbid that should happen) but ever since November I’ve been struggling to process what happened this election. This past weekend helped with that, I think.

Further Reading

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9 Responses to The Women’s March On Washington

  1. themagicviolinist says:

    Eeeee, it’s so cool you were able to go!!! 🙂 I wish I could’ve been there, but I wasn’t feeling well that day and it just would’ve been a mess. It was really fun to see pictures and watch coverage from home while resisting Trump in my own way (watching feminist/diverse movies and donating to Planned Parenthood). I’m glad you had fun! You’ll always be a part of history now.

  2. Miriam Joy says:

    It’s very cool that you were able to go to the DC march! I have some friends who travelled to the London one, and a friend who went to the one in Reykjavik (which was… obviously smaller, given that Iceland’s entire population is smaller than DC’s), but I didn’t go to any. Partly because of the anxiety-related reasons you mentioned above, as I would have had a panic attack immediately; partly because of physical disability reasons (I literally can’t stand around or walk for any length of time without severe pain); and partly because it was my birthday this weekend so I was kind of busy trying to pretend world events weren’t happening and that my 21st doesn’t have to usher in the apocalypse. I think I was reasonably successful. But I enjoyed seeing pictures from the various marches, including the one in Antarctica, and there were some really great signs out there. Have you seen the little kid with the “I naps but I stay woke

    • Miriam Joy says:

      Ugh, WordPress posting before I’m done. The “I naps but I stay woke” sign? That’s probably my favourite — as someone with fatigue, I need that on a shirt…

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  4. Heather says:

    Congrats on getting to go! I loved getting to see the various signs and behaviors of all the people who got to go and march that day. 🙂 I also appreciated hearing the criticisms, because I wouldn’t have even thought about them otherwise. I like hearing all the stories about the march, so thanks for sharing yours!

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thanks! It was a wonderful experience and I’m so glad I got to be there in person at the main march!

      Ahhhh I’m glad you enjoyed that part of my post! I’m really proud of the March, but at the same time it wasn’t perfect, you know??? And if we can’t critique our feminism and demand better from it, then what even is the point?

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