Monday, January 23, 2017

I Marched. Because It Matters. (here's my reasoning and also an apology for those who need it.)

On Saturday, I was one of thousands of women who participated in Women's Marches all over the world. I only decided on the Wednesday night before it that I wanted to attend. Obviously it was a bit too short notice to make it all the way to the march in DC, so I opted for the Portland, Maine location instead.
Here's a picture of me before the march with my childhood church camp friend!

You might be wondering why I decided to go three days before the event when it had been planned for weeks (or even months?) already. That's a great question! But I'm not totally sure I can answer it. I'll try.

It occurred to me that night that I want to be part of this. That in fifty years I want to be able to say that I participated in a march against Donald Trump's presidency and for the rights of future women. Now, here's hoping that his presidency will not be the scandal that I fear it will. Just imagine a world where we ALL survive the next four years unscathed! I am all for it! But I don't hold my breath for that to be the case. I didn't vote for him; I did what I could to keep that petty, hateful person out of office. But it wasn't enough. It happened anyway. And I want to have done more to speak out against him than just having cast a ballot in favor of his opponent. I want to be able to look back and say that I stood up against whatever garbage I fear will come of this. (And I know- I KNOW- that being in the women's march is more of a symbolic gesture than a productive measure, but it's more than nothing. It's a start. Not the end.)

I have also read many, many facebook posts and blog posts and articles written by the many women who did not go to the marches for various reasons. And I hear you. Some of you felt excluded as women of color. Some of you felt excluded as Christians. Some of you felt excluded as indigenous people. Some of you felt excluded because you are pro-life. Some of you opted out because of the vulgarity and hate that came forth at the marches. I understand those reasons, and I want to say that my participation in the march was in no way intended to alienate you, and I'm sorry that it happened and that you felt that way. (Here is one such post written by a woman of color, and here is a blog post by a conservative woman that also quotes a popular facebook post of the same nature within it. I read these, along with several others, and think that they are valuable and that you all should read them, too.)

Also, I loved this sign! Touché, man. I'll do my best to see you there.
In brief response to women of color who felt excluded by this march: I am sorry. I am sorry that I haven't been out on the front lines fighting for black lives, that I haven't participated in any of the marches and protests that you have organized to support your cause. I have let you down. I own this and I apologize. It is my hope to step up more in the future. I want to be there for you because you deserve it. Because your lives absolutely matter and I think it is completely disgusting that a movement like Black Lives Matter needed to happen when it should have ALWAYS been obvious that black lives matter. People matter! You are people! You matter! Again, I see this march not as the end of my stand but as the beginning. Please continue to call out white feminists on our exclusion and single-sightedness. Because we need it. As embarrassing as it is to admit, my white privilege often allows me to completely look over your problems; I just honestly don't see them until you speak up. And again, I'm sorry for failing you in this way. But the only way for me to realize these errors is for you to continue speaking up. I will do my best to listen when you do.

In response to pro-life women who felt excluded: I am sorry. I am sorry that you feel the pro-choice movement is trying to undermine your womanhood. I am sorry that you felt attacked. That surely wasn't my intent, though I cannot speak for others who attended the marches. Please allow me to explain why I am personally pro-choice though I am in no way pro-abortion. I am pro-choice because outlawing abortion DOES NOT stop them from happening. They happened before it was legal, and they would still happen if abortion was outlawed (and additionally would very likely be less safe for all involved). I have heard the argument that abortion can be psychologically damaging to women for the rest of their lives; from what I understand, that isn't the case the majority of the time but I realize that it surely is the case some of the time. To me, that means we need to better care for women who have had abortions. We need to love them and support them anyway, ensure they have access to appropriate mental health care, and stop shaming them for their choices. Outlawing abortion won't make these women feel better. And ultimately, I feel the best way to prevent abortion is to make better alternative options. Why would it be beneficial to de-fund planned parenthood? That is an organization that promotes protection in order to avoid abortion. Because let's face it- people are going to have sex regardless of the risk of unwanted pregnancy. The BEST way to prevent abortions is to provide accessible birth control to those who want it. The second best way to prevent abortions is to ensure that pregnant women will have the resources and assistance they need to care for a child if they birth it. How can we expect women to want to bring a child into the world that they feel they cannot support? If we want them to have a baby, we need to make sure that the baby will be cared for. Otherwise, it is not okay to judge them for viewing abortion as an acceptable option. All that to say I support you, pro-life women! I value your opinions and your womanhood. I completely respect your opposition to abortion. I also implore you to be fully pro-life, not simply pro-birth or anti-planned parenthood. These things are not the same. The absolute best way to reduce the number of abortions performed is to increase availability of birth control, not to restrict it.

In response to the women who have posted rants with #notmymarch: I agree. Many of the civil liberties that seem in jeopardy right now are so basic that I don't even think about them. But it is really REALLY important to understand that that is not the case for everyone. When it comes right down to it, this probably wasn't my march either. I am white, I have plenty of money to get by, I am able to work because I am able-bodied enough to be gainfully employed, I have never been abused, sexually or otherwise, I got to go to college. This is called privilege, friends, and not everybody has it. I am learning to accept that my basics for life are not guaranteed to everybody equally. People born into poverty, people from abusive homes, people who came to this country seeking refuge from their own tragedies, people who aren't heterosexual, people who do not have bodies that work the way I take for granted that mine does, and especially people of color do NOT have the same access to opportunities that I do. It is a hard thing to realize and accept. It takes time and lots of examples and a huge amount of empathy to start the process of "checking your privilege" but it is something that we need to do as humans. So to those of you for whom this march "was not" I say this: you're right. It wasn't for you, it was for them. And it is probably your job, as it was mine, to use the privileges we have been given in order to help others.

In response to the accusation (presented in the post I linked to above) that marching for the rights of American women is absurd when there are women with real problems out in the world, I would agree on some level. But again, I implore you to check your privilege. Just because you don't personally face real and present danger in America today doesn't negate those sort of experiences many women have had. And I would also direct you to the Global Gag Rule which President Trump reinstated today. If you don't know what that is, please look it up. Please be aware of the repercussions that action will have on women in countries throughout the world, and how negatively it could affect those women that you have just said deserve our real support.

(I would also like to say that when you posted pictures of women with expletives on their signs and and used them to denounce hundreds of thousands of march participants as crude and vulgar, that may have been short-sighted. To those of you who showed these pictures with "This is supposed to represent me?!?!" I would say that no, those women wanted to represent themselves, and I think they are probably well aware that they aren't the majority and that you are, which is why they took the opportunity to speak for themselves when it was presented. To me, the march was an expression of individuality, where we could all put ourselves out there and be accepted. We accepted those people as a valid example of femininity and we accept you, too! You do not need to feel encompassed by that if you don't want to. That is completely acceptable. But don't shame others for expressing themselves.)

So, finally, I say this: I marched because I care. I care about people of color, I care about immigrants, I care about women who feel abortion is their best option, I care about everyone getting the right to express themselves and being able to represent their own opinions and not be falsely represented by others. I care about women who were sexually assaulted and now have to see their attacker supported as the President of the United States. Because that happened and I cannot possibly imagine how completely traumatic it would be to be in that position. If you're reading this, I care about you. You are valued. And the same is true for those who aren't reading this. To me, the women's march wasn't about judgement or exclusion, it was taking the opportunity, when I had it, to show support for those who need it. I don't feel that I personally needed the support, but I hope that if there comes a day when I do people are willing to give it and not condemn me. If I would ask others for this then I feel the need to provide it back.

In the words of the wise and eloquent Brené Brown, "I don't know Donald Trump so the most respectful thing I can do is take him at his word. And, when it comes to women, immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, and our Muslim sisters and brothers, his words have been threatening and dehumanizing. I march to say that's not acceptable or American." 

P.S. I tried really hard to be kind and understanding with this post. I am trying hard not to judge any of you, and just to be sympathetic to your perspective while illustrating my own. But this blog post also articulates really well what many of us are feeling after seeing those posts. Be careful, that post isn't trying as hard as I was to respect your perspectives. But it is powerful. And I do agree with it.