Opinion: Women’s March Shows the World How To Fight Like a Girl
Last Friday, I piled into an SUV with four other strong, independent-minded, Columbus-based women to make the seven-hour trek to our nation’s Capital and attend the Women’s March on Washington. On an average day, not one of us would even remotely identify as a “hippie,” but we cranked up Joni Mitchell’s 60’s-era protest tunes anyway and hit the road promptly after work, around 6 p.m.
The first hour of our trip was filled with conversations on logistics. We were staying with one of my friends from high school, so we discussed different routes to her house. We speculated about what time we might get in, how to structure the next morning’s schedule, and the feminist leaders who were scheduled to speak. We discussed historical marches and the potential impact of this event. Then, we all admitted something to each other.
We were a little scared.
We didn’t know what to expect, and we wanted to be prepared. We were concerned about the hate crimes that had permeated our newsfeeds since the election.
We discussed possible exit plans. Julie, a prosecuting attorney and our road-trip navigator, had a law school friend with a conveniently located apartment. If things got violent, perhaps we could hide out at his place. Meghan, our host in D.C., had a husband in the Secret Service. If we were too far away from the apartment, perhaps we could run in the direction of his office. Would Bikers for Trump try to hurt us? What about other alt-right groups?
As an educated, middle-class, professional American woman, I am thoroughly aware of my privilege. My parents did not go to college, but they helped me pay for my bachelor’s degree. My education and professional experience allow me to comfortably raise two children single-handedly. We live in Grandview, which is a wonderful, safe neighborhood with an amazing school system. I’m so appreciative of the life I’m able to provide here for the three of us. As a divorced mom, I’m also extremely aware of how changing any of these details could detract from it.
To date, I had never felt compelled to join a public demonstration. Until this march, I had expressed my support for the causes I believe in — Black Lives Matter, Marriage Equality, Gun Control, etc — through my writing. I have even considered myself brave for doing so. It takes a lot of courage to open yourself up to criticism by sharing your thoughts honestly in a public forum.
As it turns out, it takes a lot more courage to show up and support your beliefs with the physical presence of your body than it does to hit “send.” The danger of incurring physical harm, or being put in a position where you have to defend yourself, becomes very real when you decide to take part in a massive demonstration. But, for our group of five petite-yet-mighty females, the risk was worth it. We drove into the night to reach Washington.
The next day, we exited the metro station into what I can only describe as a massive sea of sisterly compassion.
Yes, I realize how cheesy that sounds. But I can’t describe the energy emanating throughout this event without getting a little cheesy. We stayed the entire day and marched through the city for hours. We moved shoulder-to-shoulder in a massive crowd of strong, righteous women and the men who came out to support them. Waves of pink-hatted, sign-carrying humans swelled and flooded the streets, sidewalks and all other public spaces.
In the days since, many people have asked me what it was like.
My response is that it was the most community-driven, love-based gathering I’ve ever attended. When the crowd encountered an infrastructural bottleneck — a fence or narrowing in the road — we crammed closer together and moved in small waddle-like steps so that no one would get hurt. When we came to a wall, we extended our hands and reached for one another, helping each other over it. When someone lost their group or lost their way, we helped them get back on track. When one of us felt faint or overwhelmed, she had five or six other women offering her a reassuring pat on the back or shoulder to cry on. I taught an impromptu yoga session in the lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, to help an older woman with her back pain. Women offered each other Chapstick, heat packs, water — anything else they could to help each other. We collectively embraced the members of the Black Lives Matter movement who offered us “free hugs” at the crowd’s perimeter.
The participants at the Women’s March weren’t focused on complaining about what had gone wrong. We were focused on demonstrating our commitment to fighting for what is right. We were five of the almost three million humans who stood in solidarity across the United States in support of women’s rights that day. We shared purpose, hope and support on a scale that I had never personally experienced.
Although crowd scientists have estimated the Washington D.C. Women’s March attendance at around 500,000 people, not one arrest was made. As a participant, I witnessed zero acts of violence. I learned what it was like when total strangers come together with nothing but absolute compassion for one another. We all discovered a new meaning for “fighting like a girl.”
Detractors of the Women’s March have called it pointless. They’ve told us that it will amount to nothing. They’ve accused our leaders of being unnecessarily vulgar. They’ve called the participants overly dramatic. But as someone who experienced it, I know that none of those things are true.
What we are is dedicated, passionate, and unified. And we will continue to fight for the issues that affect us with strength and dignity. We will continue to fight like girls.