Like many of you, we were proud to participate in the anti-Trump women’s marches this weekend. Lindsey was in Chicago, and I was lucky enough to be in DC. It’s hard to put into words what the experience of coming together with so many of our fellow citizens, mostly women, meant to us, but we want to try.
There are lots of reasons protest is important. Firstly, it reminds those in power that they are responsible to people with voices – whether or not they choose to honor that responsibility is another matter, but by getting off the internet and into the streets, we make ourselves impossible to ignore. Second, protest fosters community among those who are resisting – it gives us the opportunity to build connections and share and consolidate our personal power. Third, it energizes us to do the real hard work of resistance to come by reminding us that we’re not alone, that if we do our part, others will, too. These last few months have been terrifying – and, as I write this, Donald Trump has already taken steps to gut the ACA, reinstituted the draconian Mexico City Policy, and his cabinet appointees are racist, misogynist, and thoroughly unqualified to a man (or woman, if we’re talking about fuckface Betsy DeVos) for any government position, so it looks like our fears so far have been more than founded. It’s the kind of terror that leads people to give up before they’ve even tried, and that’s why these kind of collective shouts of NO! are so crucial: not because a demonstration is an end in and of itself, but because it can be the engine that drives us to continue the work in the midst of enormous fear and uncertainty. So, we want to share with you what it was like for us on the ground this weekend, and we want to hear from you, too!
My God, I just realized that I don’t really know how to write this. How do you write about something that was everything? I guess from the beginning…
First, I need to mention how incredibly honored I feel that I was able to do this not only in Chicago, a city that I adore above all others, but also with Sarah, whom I similarly adore above a lot of/most others. So, thank you Chicago for being such a gracious host, and thank you Sarah for being the friend and boss ass rally partner that you are. I love you both so, so dearly.
I had been looking forward to this march for weeks, but I don’t think that the magnitude of it actually hit me until the meeting location and march route got changed three times within the few days leading up to it due to the number of expected attendees growing at such a rapid rate. When I first RSVP’d via their Facebook event page, I believe there were about 15 thousand others who had also done so. An estimated 250 thousand showed up. I’ve never attended anything this monumental, this historic, or this important in my entire life. In a word, it was overwhelming, both visually and emotionally.
But, to back up just slightly, the emotions actually started the night before. If the rally was the fire, the night before the rally was the kindling. Because this was when we saw a huge group of women in the Joanne’s Fabrics on Elston, congregating in the poster board and marker aisles browsing for supplies that we knew were going to be turned into signs for the following day. I always knew that it was going to be special, but that was when it actually started choking me up.
Sarah and I purchased our poster board, Sharpies, glitter paper, and glue and then went and ate a delicious Cuban meal at 1942 Cuban Fusion Cafe in Humboldt Park (highly recommend their empanadas). We also rented the new Ghostbusters from a Redbox outside a Walgreens and purchased the shittiest heart-shaped box of Valentine’s chocolates that we could find inside said Walgreens. Because sometimes feminism does mean that you enjoy crafting, watching movies, drinking wine and eating chocolates with your girlfriends. Anyway, the crafting consisted of making a sign with a giant cat head with lasers coming out of its eyes that said “Pussy Power” on it, so that’s gotta count for something.
We got up at 7:00 the next morning and were in an Uber headed toward Wicker Park by 7:30. Our Uber driver was a woman and she was listening and singing along to “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha & The Vandellas. It was wonderfully, beautifully apropos. We were dropped off at Stan’s Donuts in Wicker Park where we got coffee and bagels (I know. We got bagels at Stan’s and not donuts. Feel free to shame us, but they were delicious bagels). While in line, an older man noticed our signs, laughed, and asked “Are those for Donnie?” We told him yes, and he said that he and his wife were making their way downtown as well. We sat at the window counter at Stan’s watching as person after person, group after group passed by with their signs and hats and buttons and flags.
We finished up and made our way up to the Damen Blue Line platform, which had already started filling up with people who were heading to the march. Our train was packed, and Sarah and I ended up sitting right in the middle of a group of women who all very clearly knew each other. One of them asked to see our signs, so we pulled them up from the floor and she and the woman sitting next to her burst into laughter and told us that we had to show the rest of their group. We turned our signs around and held them up over our heads to face the back of the train and were met with laughter, applause, and other ladies asking us to keep holding them so they could take pictures. They commended us on our artistic ability and creativity and we felt like stars. They were a group of teachers, also headed downtown for the march.
When we got to the Jackson stop, exited the train and actually saw how many others had been occupying the rest of the train cars, saw them going up the escalators, and then saw how many were already out on the street as we came up out of the station – that’s when the visually overwhelming part kicked in. There was a steady river of bodies walking towards the lake, and it was still an hour before the march rally was supposed to begin. Sarah and I walked across Michigan Ave, around the rally area for a bit, before deciding to just find a corner to stand on and hold our signs up and watch the people coming in since nothing had really started yet. We saw so many great signs from our post on that corner, which I will include below. We are also in the camera rolls of a lot of strangers’ cell phones right now.
The rally itself was awesome. There were so many speakers who touched on an impressive number of topics in the amount of time that the rally lasted – including but not limited to, reproductive rights, education, sexual abuse, the LGBTQ community, immigration, racial injustice, inclusivity, intersectionality, the importance of supporting ALL women. The protest was peaceful and the message was one of love and encouragement. The chants weren’t hateful, but instead we were asked to chant a promise to our fellow ladies that “I am my sister’s keeper.” Here is the mission statement from the organizers and here is the list of speakers if y’all are interested.
We realized once 11:30 came and went that the march was not going to happen because the streets were too packed with attendees and the route was completely covered with people. So, at this point, everyone began to disperse back into the streets and march anyway. It was truly a sight to see: something I will never forget and am so proud and honored to have been a part of. When I saw the aerial video that CNN posted later that day, I was in complete awe. And then when I realized that there were marches being held not only all over the US, but in cities across the entire world, and my friends and family started texting pictures from them, I cried a little. Just knowing that you were a part of something so much bigger than yourself is an amazing feeling. And as much as I would love to explain it, I don’t think I can describe what my heart felt like then. It was so full it felt like it was breaking.
On that note, I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that on the very same night of the march, I also attended the most lovely wedding of two of the best people I know. I could not have asked for a more love-filled and wonderful day. It is truly the first time that I’ve felt hopeful since November. I saw empathy and compassion, love and joy that I was beginning to believe no longer existed. So thank you again Chicago and Sarah. Thank you AJ and Max.
In the days after the march I’ve been seeing posts on social media from friends and family members scoffing at the marches, trying to minimize their efforts and distracting from their message. And it hurts. It hurts so fucking bad. It’s so hard to not get deflated when you see this type of reaction from people whose opinions you generally value and respect. But you know what? All that pain is nothing – NOTHING – compared to the feeling you get when some of the most important women in your life tell you how proud they are of you for getting out there and marching for something you believe in. Or text you saying that you’re their hero. These are the voices that matter. These are the ones you should listen to. Everything else is just a distraction.
I’d like to end this novel by saying please don’t get discouraged in the days, weeks, and years to come. All those haters trying to minimize, silence, discredit, and distance themselves from the millions of voices who showed up on Saturday and took a stand for their own rights and the rights of other people can stand to the left and keep on hating, and we’ll just keep right the fuck on fighting.
I am so lucky that a) I have a job with enough flexibility that I was able to make the ten hour drive to DC this weekend, b) that I got to march with a beloved friend (also named Lindsey) who has years of activism experience under her belt and who guided me through my first real protest every step of the way, c) that I got to march with another now-friend named Lauren who was insanely prepared, with everything from handwarmers to Starburst to mini bottles of Fireball in her backpack, and d) that I had the money to spare for such a trip. These are no small graces, and I am humbled by them.
Being in D.C., I had the unique opportunity to protest on the day of the inauguration as well as to march on the day after. The two experiences, while both largely peaceful, could not have been more different. On Friday, we spent hours waiting in line at a checkpoint, mostly alongside other protesters, but also with some Trump supporters, and it was wildly uncomfortable. My friend Lindsey was shoved, told by the same man who shoved her that he hoped she got raped later that day, and was grabbed by another man who shouted “I LOVE PUSSY!” in her face (a not-so-clever response to her poster bearing an Audre Lord paraphrase: THE PUSSY IS POLITICAL. SMASH THE PATRIARCHY).
By the time we made it through the checkpoint, I’d had to take an Ativan and ended up bumming a cigarette off a very nice lady who’d made a baby doll with a Trump head that was a work of genius. I quit smoking ten years ago, but there’s nothing like the seething, hateful eyes of an old man who thinks your friend deserves to be raped boring into you for four hours to make you feel like you need a smoke.
And here’s what I want to tell you about the Trump voters we encountered in D.C.: not one of them surprised me. Not one of them was anything other than what I’d expect. For people who love to talk about free speech (aka, be loudly racist), there is no group of people more offended by the exercising of First Amendment rights. At a distance, I can have compassion for these people, who voted so vehemently against their own interests – but on the other hand, maybe if they weren’t so fucking racist they would’ve made a better choice. All of this is to say that the environment was hostile, and in some ways I’m even more grateful for the experience I had on Friday than for the uplifting and positive magic that came the day after, because it showed me that resistance is often uncomfortable. It isn’t nice. It will make people mad – and, although I disagree with Trump’s supporters and would be lying if I said I respected them, it still didn’t feel good to have that many people mad at me. But it was important to greet the incoming President’s motorcade with signs shouting the truth, with other people who are as angry and frightened as I am. Because telling the truth matters now, more than ever.
We left the protest feeling good about what we’d done, but also drained, and we knew we had a big day ahead of us, so we treated ourselves to some burgers and beers and went back to our hotel to hit the sack. (Sidenote: I did not shower once the entire weekend, although I did take a very long, very stoned, and very hot bath on Saturday night – but I’m not sure that counts.)
On Saturday, the day of the Women’s March, we woke up at 3:45 am to catch the first train into the city. Getting up this early was Lindsey’s suggestion, and holy shit she is so smart, because while people who arrived later were literally miles away from the stage where the rally was being held, we found a primo spot standing on top of some trash cans. (See below.)
Standing with us was Amber, a girl who I’d guess is about nineteen, and who had driven all night on her own from her tiny town in North Carolina and asked if she could stick with us. As the space around us began to fill at a truly amazing rate, she looked at Lindsey with tears in her eyes and said, “I didn’t know there were this many feminists in the whole world. I thought I was the only one.” And that sense of wonder and belonging was entirely in keeping with the spirit of the day.
I knew the turnout would be impressive – or, at least, I hoped so – but nothing prepared me for the sea of bodies that accumulated by the start of the rally at 10 am. I’ve never seen anything like it. Later, the crush of people would be so intense that I wouldn’t be able to make it to a bank of Porta-Pottys in time, and some angel from heaven I will never see again said, “I’ll pee on this tree if you pee on this tree!” and released us both from our struggle. God bless you, my sister in extremely public urination, wherever you are.
But before I peed on that tree, I got to hear some of the most inspiring, life-giving words of my life from the likes of Janet Mock, Gloria Steinem, and ANGELA FUCKING DAVIS. I so appreciated how seriously the organizers of the DC march took the calls to be intersectional and inclusive, and I really hope that all of us that were there listened with open hearts and minds, because this movement absolutely must include trans women and women of color in order to be successful. While it can be difficult to confront the ways in which we as white women are implicated in systems of racism, transphobia, and inequality, our denial and defensiveness when we are confronted with those truths are mechanisms by which we use our privilege to re-enact our own oppression on the bodies of those less privileged than us. And I appreciated that there were speakers and long-time organizers on the stage who were not afraid to say just that. Like I said before, discomfort is good. It means we’re growing. It means we’re moving toward being better.
And speaking of movement, after that rally, we hit the fucking streets, and when I say it was the most powerful, uplifting, joyful experience of my life, I am not exaggerating. Half a million of us retraced parts of the route of Trump’s inauguration parade the day before, and raising my voice with women (and some men!) that I didn’t know but loved in that moment healed a wound in me that had dampened my will to fight. As I sit here trying to describe it, I realize that, quite simply, I can’t. It was a kind of magic. The magic of resistance. The magic of feeling proud of my country and myself and my fellow citizens for the first time since November 8th. The magic of being reminded that I can keep going, and I must. We all must.
We ended an amazing day at Nellie’s, a gay sports bar that might literally be the best bar in the country, eating all the fried things and dancing to Beyonce.
Now I’m home and so exhausted that I don’t think I’ll be fully recovered until next month, but I am ready to WORK. To call Congress, to work with organizations that help women and people of color (particularly those led by women of color), to grow in love and build community, to resist until my last breath.
Did you march this weekend? We’d love to hear about it or see your pictures over on our Facebook page. Stay hopeful, stay woke, and remember that women are powerful as fuck! We’ll C U Next Tuesday, when we’ll be talking about another important cause: brunch.