I didn’t think I would go. I’m nursing a baby. On some level, I’m afraid. Until I realized… Wait. No. I had to go. I had to march. V. would simply have to come with me.
Because I won’t go quietly. Because my continued, near daily horror at the state of things is taking a visceral toll. Because I needed to roar with others who are worried, who are outraged, who can’t sleep. Because one day I am going to have to explain to my children how we gave them a leader who assaults women, who insults and bullies and demeans and bans great swaths of the country based on gender, race, ability, faith, and sexual orientation.
So we marched. We spent 45 minutes parking, an hour in line to get on the metro, another hour on the train, then several standing as close as we could to the stage, which ended up being 7th and Independence. We couldn’t see or hear the speakers, but it was all happening right where we were. We were there. As Gloria Steinem said in her speech, “sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.”
Had I gotten no further than the metro station, however, it would have been enough. Even there, a sea of pink hats, of signs raised high, of women uniting, I felt the energy, the collective motion. As I nursed V. in the carrier I would wear her in for half the day, I saw another mom doing the same and gave her a thumbs up. She smiled back as she swayed with her babe. Even nursing in public felt like a point of pride, a confirmation of what women’s bodies do for our humanity the world over. We birth you. We keep you alive. We raise you. How that turns into second-class citizenry is beyond me. I would see a lot of children as we moved closer, many families. At one point I saw three generations holding hands as they weaved through the throng. After months and months of devision, it felt good to feel a kinship on this scale. We may not have all gone with the same battle cry, but all of us were there to say, together, “Wait. No.” This leadership is not OK. This behavior cannot be normalized.
On the train, the driver welcomed and cheered us on and we did him. Every time the doors opened and more of us piled in, we cheered again. On the platform, as the line to exit switchbacked in front of the escalators, I noticed something else. A giddy calm. A positive, proud resistance. I thanked the officers standing guard, there to protect us. They smiled too. Finally out on the streets, I started noticing the hearts. Declarations of love floated with the crowds. Refusals to allow our womanhood to be used, grabbed, shamed, threatened. Our signs and chants were spotlights on what matters to us, what we feel is unseen by our new administration. And I realized what we were really all saying:
YES. Yes to unity. Yes to action. Yes to the fight ahead. The march was not so much the end of a long, hurtful election as the beginning of what happens next. For ideas on how to take action as we march on, I recommend looking here and here.
After, home, my body sore but strong from wearing my 19-pound baby for 7 hours, I showed H. photos from the day as I played the speeches I couldn’t hear live. She really wanted to know where her red heart had gone. After I explained it helped me stand up for equal rights, she went over to the table, got her notebook and pen and said, “Mama, I need to write my speech.” This is how the energy—harnessed from over half a million people uniting for women, for our health and our rights, for all those in need of humanity—spills over and inspires.
The march was quieter than I expected. V. didn’t need the noise-reducing headphones I had on hand. Chants and cheers periodically rolled over the crowd. We stood in awe, our backs straight. For the most part, no one shoved. Not one person was arrested. When people saw my baby, they gave me more room. When it became clear that there was literally no room to march, our mission felt accomplished. After all, we’d been marching all day.
That was Day One. Now, several more in, it’s clear that I am going to have to keep fighting for rights I was born with nearly four decades ago, rights I have needed. I am going to have to keep fighting for rights my daughters were born with but may not grow up remembering. At ground level, that thought alone makes me seethe. But now I know there is a determined, mobilizing collective. I saw it. I moved with it. That is why it’s so important to come together, to march. Because when we all scatter back to our homes and sleepless nights, we can remember that, wait, yes, we can do this. Because look at what we have already done.
And one day I get to tell V. that she was right there with me.