Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This is What Democracy Looks Like

*Warning: This is a long and photo-heavy post*

This past Saturday, January 21st, I participated in the Women’s March on Washington.  I did so for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is far beyond time for me as an adult to stand up for what I believe in.  I have had a tugging and pulling at my heart and soul over that last 15 years or so that I often tamped down because it felt overwhelming to be a participant.  But what I have come to realize is that while in my own immediate circle, I may be equal and there might not be prejudices, we are far from truly overcoming those things.

The fact is over all, women are not equal – we still make less than men for doing the same work – and that includes CEOs, doctors, athletes, and tech – areas where you’d assume the playing ground is level. I know and have experienced personally being paid less than a male subordinate. Yes, I have been paid less than a person working for ME.  When I found out and questioned it, I was told it was because he was a young man with a family and needed to make more.  At the time, I was a single parent, not even receiving child support because my ex-husband left the country.  Let that sink in.

Men continue to debate the rights we should have over our own bodies, including if we should have free or inexpensive access to birth control, gynecological appointments and even prenatal care. Nor do we have paid (or sometimes unpaid) maternity leave as a rule.

As a runner, I have to be careful when I run in the dark – because if I suffered violence at the hands of an evil person, it would be considered “my fault.” I must also be careful that the running clothes I wear are not considered too provocative.   Even when I am covered neck to toe I am often subjected to being catcalled and objectified.

Women are constantly being told they are too old, too fat, too unattractive, to dress like a lady and make sure we have the correct designer clothing and accessories.

Now, imagine all of this plus being an immigrant woman, gay woman, transgendered woman, or woman of color. 

I marched.

My personal trip to DC actually was a 24 hour adventure, 14 hours of which were spent on a bus.

We left from a mall parking lot at 1:30 in the morning on Saturday and arrived in DC at 8:30.  

My amigos for the day

Immediately upon exiting our bus, we all started walking towards the metro then quickly decided it was probably going to be too packed.  We decided then to walk to the starting point which was about 2 miles away – it was a literal sea of bodies on both sides of the street. Right from the beginning we saw so many clever signs and expressions of what people were feeling.

We walked through the Capital Hill neighborhood and were cheered by the residents along the way.  Every single yard in that neighborhood had signs with Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes which were just all the more appropriate that day.

Look closely and you'll see the lady on the right is holding up her walker.  Love.

The Connecticut group was having a pre-rally at the Museum of the American Indian and we went looking for that but never found it because even before the official program began, there were people as far as the eye could see. 

Suddenly we heard a roar and figured the official program was beginning but couldn’t hear anything and so began to shuffle around trying to figure out where it was and how close we could get.  We were not successful and it became apparent that this crowd was much, much larger than the organizers had expected.  Everything, including the porta-potties were overwhelmed by the end of the day. We couldn’t even watch it on our phones because there was absolutely no service of any kind.

A friend asked me if I was disappointed about not hearing the speakers and I honestly answered no as I knew I could probably YouTube the entire program once I was home (and I have done that).  But also I wasn’t disappointed because wherever you were in the crowd, there were mini celebrations of various causes going on and it felt like a sisterhood of humankind.

About an hour before the schedule March time, the crowds really began to swell and suddenly my friends and I were so surrounded that we literally could not move one inch.  It was like a slight pressing in that kept getting tighter. One of the ladies I was with is fairly short – maybe 5’2” and I took one look at her face and knew I had to figure out how to get us into more open space – if that was even possible.  I actually have claustrophobia myself but I think my brain switched into survival mode and didn’t allow me to panic.

I got one of the other ladies, who was a bit taller than me to lead the way and we formed a human chain holding on to each other and began to inch our way toward the mall area that is surrounded by the Smithsonian museums.  It took us approximately an hour and 15 minutes to get a quarter of a mile!  And that was when we knew once and for all, we were at a history making event.

Finally out where we had some room.  Our favorite shirt on a man.
"This is what a feminist looks like"
What you can't see is how muscley this guy was!

At this point (1:30) most of us had been wide awake since 4:00 am.  Two of us who drink coffee hadn’t had any and had splitting headaches and we all were feeling like we just wanted to sit down for a minute.  The speakers were still going strong and the march was nowhere near started (plus we were hearing they might not let us actually march because the crowds were bigger than the march route) so we decided to see if we could find a place to sit and have some lunch.  I took the group to a street near the mall where I know there were lots of restaurants and we began to go into each one only to be told from a 45 minute wait to they weren’t accepting any more walk-ins.  We finally decided to just put our name in and wait and much to our surprise 10 minutes later we were seated.  (We think others who had put their names on the list just left which moved us up quickly).

This was a much needed break and we enjoyed bathrooms with running water, a lovely lunch, and simply exhaling for a minute.

Once lunch was done we walked back towards the mall to see what was going on and were delighted to find that the march had started and we jumped right in and walked towards the White House singing and laughing and chanting along the way. We kept thinking that we'd run into someone one of us knew, but never did.  Little Helen was there with her husband and sister-in-law but I never saw her!

As we neared the White House, we noticed the reviewing stands that had been put up for the inaugural parade were still up but instead of being empty, that day they were filled to the brim with supporters.

It was truly an amazing, life-changing experience – even though they did shut the route down and wouldn’t let us anywhere near the White House - we knew we were part of the beginning of a movement.  It was overwhelming being a part of a group of half a million people – all ages, colors, sizes, genders, races and ethnicities who are committed to upholding the guiding principles of our nation as well as our more modern principles of inclusivity.  In this huge, diverse group where we were all crushed together, as we made our voices heard, we did not see anything but kindness.  I was delighted to read the next day that not one single arrest was made.

You don’t have to agree with me and whether you do or not, I marched for you too.  Because THIS is what democracy looks like and I can't keep quiet.

This song was sung by women who had never met each other, and practiced via Skype. Alma Harel, a filmmaker happened to walk right into the group and capture it for us all.


  1. Right there with you!!! It was a powerful day and just the beginning of great things to come!

  2. I'm so impressed and proud of all the women who marched on Saturday! Thanks for representing and sharing your experience.

  3. SING IT SISTER!!! It's about time that these inequalities are put to rest once and for all - my gosh, it's 2017!!! As one sign that I saw from the march said "I can't believe we're still protesting this sh!t" - no kidding. Love that you have decided to speak up about this. LOVE it.

    This march was so amazing to watch from my computer, and knowing that you were there was really special. You were part of history. It's fantastic how peaceful all of the marches ended up being, and I love how the smaller groups within the large group came together and bonded. I also love that your group stopped for lunch and got right back into the march - self care and priorities at its best!

    That song was really powerful - damn, women are awesome.

  4. Thank you for marching! The song made me cry.

  5. So glad I got my computer running again so I could read this! Such an amazing, amazing day all over the country. So galvanizing, empowering and spirit lifting!

    We need to make sure we don't get tired because there is a long road ahead.

  6. I couldn't agree with you more on this and think it's great you did it and decided not to be quiet anymore. Thank you for marching for us.

  7. I loved every part of this post Helen! I am so happy that you took part in this - sorry you didn't get to hook up with your daughter and her hubs, but it would have been trying to find a needle in a haystack with that many people!

    So happy you'll have this post to look back at - and to show your future grandchildren too :D