Will Nicholes: “Voices Of The March”
On Saturday, January 21, 2017 — the day after the presidential inauguration — thousands of women (and men) from across America will converge on the nation’s capital to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
I am privileged to know many friends and family members who are marching, either in DC or in one of the many sister events in cities across the country. I asked them, “Why are you going to march? What does the march mean to you?”
Here is what they had to say.
Beth Russell, Falls Church, Virginia:
“I am attending the Women’s March to show my support for all of the people who are scared and uncertain right now, people who are scared of losing their rights, their friends, and their sense of safety. I am going to show our new administration that I am one of many individuals who will not sit by and let this administration undo the social progress we have made, to show them that I will speak up when I don’t agree with them, and that I will be active in promoting change. I will march because I believe in equality, I will march for women, people of color, people with different faiths, LGBTQ, and all others who are concerned and affected by this new administration.”
Maureen, Arlington, Virginia:
“I’m marching because this is a watershed moment for American democracy. Women’s rights and freedoms were obtained after many hard-fought battles, and by gathering on January 21, our presence will be a visible reminder to President-Elect Trump and his supporters that we are not going backwards. Additionally, I’m marching to demonstrate my support for equal right of all people — whatever color, orientation or religion they may be. Finally, I’m marching because I’m so damn mad that a minority can roll back our freedoms and progress that the majority of Americans have enjoyed during the past eight years.”
Rachael Reavis, Richmond, Indiana:
“My life has been blessed with voices of encouragement and support. I didn’t notice messages about the ‘correct path’ or behavior for a girl and later for a woman. As a white woman, I have always been treated with respect and even deference from police, even when my irritation at having been pulled over was evident. I march so that all people have the freedoms, opportunities, respect, and justice that I have been given.”
Holly, Charlottesville, Virginia:
“I have watched the developing dialogue surrounding the March since its conception, particularly the concerns and criticism relating to lack of racial inclusiveness. My reason for participating, or more accurately my attitude towards participation, has evolved since I committed to attending (shortly after the election). Our culture has yet to shed its undercurrent of sexism, and I fear an incoming massive wave of open misogyny. I wanted to be part of a mission of visibility, part of something too large to ignore, to state that WE are unified in defending and preserving our rights and that WE will not ignore or normalize sexist behaviors. I still want that. I am seeking renewed hope, brought by the experience of being surrounded by thousands of people who unite opposing inequality.
“However, I also have been reflecting on the racist founding for the first women’s rights groups. In the last few months, I have heard dismay about history repeating itself. This movement cannot be another means for it to do so. My feminism can’t leave anyone behind. I stand for equality — for women, but also for women of color, all people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, practicers of diverse religious faiths, the LGBTQIA communities, people with disabilities, the socioeconomically disadvantaged … I started my thinking regarding the March in a place of advocating for my rights (and the rights of those who face the same discriminations as I do). Now I am educating myself about the best ways to advocate equality for all. My participation in the march will involve less speaking, more listening. I have a lot to learn.”
“The sea is only drops of water that have come together.” — Desmond Tutu
Carolyn Ogburn, North Carolina:
“I’m joining the Women’s March on Washington because of something I heard women say about Donald Trump, something that I recognized within myself, something ashamed and guilty and frightened about being born female into this world. I heard women saying, ‘At least he likes women.’
“Their voices were defensive, even proud. He likes women, they said. Their eyes hard, their chins tossed back. You don’t know, their voices said.
“But I do know. It was what I’d been taught: that, as girls and women, being touched is not a choice that’s ours to make (I was wrong). That we, as girls and women, are meant to understand a man’s touch, however violent or violating, as affection (I was wrong). He likes women, they said. At least he likes women. How many of our childhoods, our adolescences, our lives as women have been shaped by the belief that it is our role to take care of men? And if they treat us as if we’re less than human, it’s not that bad. We take care of each other. Come with me, wipe off your face. There, we whisper. You’re okay. Want to borrow some makeup? Here you go. You can’t let them get to you.
“Women who voted for Mr. Trump may believe, as I have believed, that this touch means affection. It means he likes you. If you’re hurt, it’s because you did something wrong. But it’s fine, really; you’re fine. You’ll be fine.
“If you think touch is affection, if you think Mr. Trump’s words indicate that he likes women, then you understand why most rapes go unreported1. Nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or attempted rape (CDC 2011). Only 18%2 of reported rape cases conclude in a criminal conviction.
“Like racism, bigotry, religious extremism (not to mention charlatan-ism), this kind of thinking didn’t originate with Donald Trump. In fact, to call it ‘thinking’ isn’t quite accurate, because what I’m talking about doesn’t usually rise to the level of conscious thought. It’s like reaching out to take something that you believe belongs to you, like touching a pet, or a sweater you’re considering buying.
“I march on January 21 for the women who hold each other in bathrooms, not knowing what else to do. I march for the rights of children living in the isolation of an abusive family. I march for my badass niece who was approached by a high school classmate the morning after the election by a boy who said, ‘I can grab you by the p***y now, because Trump won.’ (No, she said, you can not.) I march for that boy, who is still learning how to be male in this world, and for his little brothers and sisters. I march for those who are living today with an ever-present center of despair clenching their stomachs, their throats.
“I march because I refuse to be afraid.”
1 63% of rapes against women go unreported to the police. This is not counting child rape, of which only 12% are reported. This is not counting sexual assault against men (1 in 71 men will be raped during their lifetime.) This is not counting rapes against adults with developmental disabilities, who experience sexual assault at about 400% higher rate than non-disabled (83% of females, 32% of males), and whose perpetrators are almost never prosecuted or convicted. Johnson, I., Sigler, R. 2000. “Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Intimates,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 15 (1).
“I am going to the Women’s March to stand up for my rights, and for everyone’s rights. The horror that went with the election is unacceptable, so I will march. I believe that everyone has equal rights and should be treated with respect, and now, that is not happening. People in power now feel safe that they don’t have to treat certain people right. We have made significant progress in the last couple decades and now with the help of a certain orange man in power, it has gone in the garbage, and I repeat, UNACCEPTABLE!”
Bobbie Poole, Richmond, Indiana:
“Why do I march? For me, music says it best.
“Many years ago, I heard the Women’s Feminist Chorus in Huntsville, Alabama sing ‘Ella’s Song.’
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons
That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can but shed some light as they carry us through the gale
The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hands of the young, who dare to run against the storm
Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be one in the number as we stand against tyranny
Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
— Bernice Johnson Reagon
“I was an educator who felt called and this song captured the deep meaning of my call. I dedicated myself anew to not rest; to use my gifts as an educator to do my part. Over the years, I have felt that there has been some important progress and I have been able to contribute a small bit to that.
“Things are different now. Now, I am retired and I have grandchildren. Now I am scared by the blatant racism and anti-woman rhetoric filling our public lives. I am worried by the coordinated efforts of ‘conservatives’ to undo all of the progress that has been made in women’s reproductive rights, in freedom to marry and other rights for LGBTQ folk, in healthcare accessibility, in care of the aging, and even in basic civility and neighborliness. The fact that my grandchildren will have to live with this legacy makes everything more urgent.
“I’m marching because I believe in freedom and I can’t rest until it comes. I am choosing to stand on the side of love.”
I will stand with you – Will you stand with me
And we will be the change – That we hope to see
In the name of love – In the name of peace
Will you stand, will you stand with me
When injustice raises up its fist
And fights to stop us in our tracks
We will rise and as one resist
No fear, nor sorrow can turn us back
When pain and hatred churn up angry noise
And try to shout down our freedom song
We will rise in one joyful voice
Loud and clear and ever strong
When broken hearts come knocking on our door
Lost and hungry and so alone
We will reach as we have reached before
For there is no stranger in this our home
— Amy Carol Web
Charlotte Russell, North Garden, Virginia:
“I’m going to the Women’s March on Washington because I want my voice to be heard and I want to participate in this enormous gathering of women and supporters of women, and to be a part of the significance and symbolism of the event. Another reason I am going to march is to display my fear, anger, and distrust of the incoming administration. I am anxious that my rights as a woman and as a queer person will be ignored or deeply harmed. I’m afraid that this administration will repeal the Affordable Care Act which will make me lose my health insurance. I am wary that the administration will do nothing about climate change. I’m concerned that the hateful and bigoted rhetoric that was demonstrated by the President-elect and his appointees will continue in this administration. I cannot put all my current fears and concerns into words, but I will March on Washington and do the best I can.”
Alanna, Fairfax, Virginia:
“This election was a real eye-opener for me about the sexism women in this country still face. I grew up in a bit of liberal bubble in Northern Virginia, and because I had never experienced much discrimination because of my gender, I was under the impression that sexism was mostly a thing of the past, with a few abnormal exceptions. Until election night, as I watched the numbers climb in shock, I never dreamed that so much of the country still felt this way. Both the results and the media’s reaction were astounding, proving to me America’s continuing refusal to address the issue gender inequality. This march is extremely important, as it is vital that we demonstrate the presence of women in politics.”
Kathleen, Arlington, Virginia:
“I’m marching first of all for the rights and equality of women. And beyond that, equal rights for all people. I want our next president to know that we are active, we have a voice, he represents ALL of America, and we are watching him. He will be held accountable and he will hear from us. We will not allow progress and equal rights to be rolled back.”