Of the things I’ve done in my life that I’m most proud of, one is the time I wrote a letter to my health insurance about why a woman’s annual gynecological exam should be completely covered, because a man’s annual exam was, and they actually changed the policy because of my letter. One small step for women, at least those on that health insurance. I kept the letter they wrote back to me; I want to be able to tell my daughters one day that I did my part, however minuscule, for women’s rights.
Today I had the privilege of taking part in something much bigger. Today was, quite simply, empowering. What started as a Women’s March on Washington on Trump’s first day as president turned into an international phenomenon, with women’s marches, rallies, and protests happening in hundreds (thousands?) of cities in more than 20 different countries. Dang, girls. Global high fives!
This felt Important with a capital I, and I was not going to miss being a part of it. When Obama was elected in 2008, I was elated. It felt like we were finally starting to get somewhere, electing an African-American president. A big step forward, it felt like. And this year I was so excited to vote for what should have been our first female president. Instead, we somehow went completely backward, electing this misogynist who has managed to offend basically every type of person out there (except for those who voted for him, I guess? I don’t know who those people are? I know you’re there, but you’ve been awfully quiet. If you didn’t want to vote for Clinton, fine. But I would just like to know how in the world could a woman vote for someone who has said such vulgar, degrading things about women?? Your silence is deafening).
The night of the U.S. presidential election, I was hopeful that Clinton would win. Certainly most people I know had voted for her! Then when I woke up around 4 a.m. London time to breastfeed my days-old baby, I checked the New York Times website on my phone and was astonished to see that they were saying it looked like Trump would win. I woke up M to tell him, and we sat there in the dark, horrified of what that means for America and the world. As I fed my newborn daughter, I cried. I cried out of fear for her, for what this says about what so many people apparently think of women, that they would rather vote for someone so clearly unfit for the job of president than vote for a woman.
But today was not just for women, who certainly have every right to be especially pissed off; people of all types are MAD about Trump as president for loads of reasons, and we want our voices to be heard. (If you need me to list the reasons, then you have been living under a rock. “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.”) Well, I think the message was sent loud and clear today.
Since I have a breastfeeding 11-week-old baby, she came along for the march too. I decided to leave my 3-and-a-half-year-old at home with my husband, because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of crowds, public transit issues, and, of course, places for her to use the toilet! I wore Baby R in a carrier so I wouldn’t have to deal with a big buggy and getting it there by public transit by myself, and that was absolutely the right call. I was nervous about running into problems with the various transit systems, since there has been an ongoing train strike, at least one tube line wasn’t running, and buses and cabs would be subject to road closures, but getting there and back home actually went really smoothly! I walked to Clapham Junction, took a train to Vauxhall, changed to the underground Victoria line, and got off at Green Park, where I met my friend Melissa and her 4-year-old daughter. We then walked the rest of the way to Grosvenor Square, where the U.S. Embassy is, for the start of the march.
When I left my house and started walking to Clapham Junction station, I felt a little uncomfortable attracting attention to myself with my big sign in hand, as well as a sign pinned to my baby-carrying coat that declared “Tiny Feminist on Board.” But as I went, I started getting smiles and encouraging words from other women. Then once I got farther into the city, I was joined by lots of other people carrying signs and wearing “pussy hats,” the preferred headwear of the day (I was impressed by the number of pussy hats being sported by men, children, and elderly people as well). Today I spoke to more strangers in London or on public transit than I ever have up till now, combined. There was such a great energy and feeling of solidarity all around.
I came up with what I thought was a pretty clever sign idea, but I wasn’t sure if I should do something that’s funny/sarcastic (though with a serious undertone) in case people thought I was just perpetuating negative stereotypes some men have about women. I decided to go for it, with a simple “Love Trumps Hate” on the other side, and… people LOVED it. I posted it on the Women’s March on London Facebook page and, as of right now, it has gotten more than 2,600 likes and 160 shares. I lost track of the number of people who smiled, laughed, asked to take a picture of it, and said it was their favorite sign they’d seen. Several people even told me they’d seen the picture of it online, or someone had sent it to them! OMG, you guys… I’m trending.
We made it to Grosvenor Square, where we spent the next hour, because it took a long time to funnel all the people out into the road for the march. Eventually the pace picked up and we marched through London toward Trafalgar Square, waving our signs, chanting, and demonstrating against pretty much everything Trump and his supporters stand for.
Baby R slept through just about the whole thing. But someday I will tell her that she was a part of this, and I hope she’s proud, and I hope by then the world is a better place for my daughters and they are treated better than previous generations of women.
And I want to give a big shout-out to those previous generations of women who did so much for women’s rights! What we did today was awesome, but it would not have even happened if it weren’t for the sense of empowerment we were given by our mothers and grandmothers, who first stood up for our gender and taught their daughters to be strong, and to own who they are, and that they are worth every bit as much as men. My own mother is marching in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, today, and I want her to know I am proud of her, and I am grateful for how she raised me.
To all my sisters marching in Washington, D.C., and other cities all around the world today, AND to the many incredible men who support us, you are all amazing. I’ve never seen or felt such a demonstration of love, and unity, and inclusion, and STRENGTH. It gives me hope. Thank you. I am also feeling grateful that I live in a place where I am able to go out and publicly voice my dissent. Today I marched for the women in this world who are far more oppressed than I am and are not able to speak out.
And now, for some photos and favorite signs from the march in London: