By Guest Blogger: Alison Scribailo
It’s been almost a week since I attended the Women’s March on Washington and, if I’m being honest; I need a pick me up.
Last Thursday, on January 21, 50 women from across Oklahoma, myself included, loaded onto a charter bus and drove 24 hours straight to get to Washington. After a short night in Fredericksburg, we woke up at 4:30 am on Saturday and made our way into the city. It was still dark when the bus dropped us off at the metro. The train cars were still mostly empty when we boarded. We arrived so early at the National Mall that it was nothing more than a mile of white concrete stretching out on both sides of us. The Washington Monument to the Capital Building was broken up only by the fog that hung thick and dense in the air. In fact, we were so early that we managed to get a spot only a few hundred feet from the stage where historic speakers like Gloria Steinheim and Angela Davis would speak only a few hours later.
Women suddenly stretched out for miles around us, a sea of pink hats and poster board. Arial video from above showed women filling the entire National Mall and all of Independence Avenue. It was a never-ending mass of people. So large in fact, that a rumor of the march’s organizers contemplated canceling the march entirely because there was no route left to even march on.
The rallying cries of Cecile Richards and Janet Mock and Michael Moore soon echoed out over the crowd. Alicia Keyes and Janelle Monae gave powerful performances. America Ferrara was eloquent and moving. Ashley Judd was passionate and outraged. I could easily write an individual post for each and every speaker that took the stage. The issues covered were broad and diverse.
Xenophobia, racism, transphobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, classism, climate change, the Dakota Access Pipeline, reproductive rights, and prison reform were all on the table.
It was spectacular; a vision of unity. The excitement in the air was palatable. There was a blatant restless energy as the crowd sporadically broke into rallying cries.
It was thrilling.
This week. The crash after the high. My ankles were swollen two times their normal size. My legs still ache. Politics were particularly dense. The week was filled with big, and in my opinion, depressing decisions on the part of our new government. Criticism of the march reached new highs both within the liberal community and without.
To a lot of people it felt like a tidal wave of divisiveness after the sea of solidarity.
But here’s the thing I have to remind myself of, criticism and divisiveness are not the same thing.
We are living in a time when so many people are being silenced that it’s important now more than ever to listen to each other.I went to the Women’s March on Washington and I thought it was amazing. It was history in the making. That said, it also illustrated to me how far we have to go.
For every person who was there for all the issues, I saw a person who wasn’t. At times there was a musical festival vibe that overtook the crowd. There were people who were disrespectful to others and to the organizers of the march itself. Stories have come out from many minority voices talking about how white women at the march tokenized and made them feel unwelcome.
After the march, social media was full of women who publicly declared the march a ‘disgrace,’ feeling that women’s rights in this country are not actually threatened. Elected conservative officials took to Facebook generalizing the march as a bunch of angry liberal women who just want others to pay for their birth control.
Many stuffed the whole event into a tiny box all based around one female, anatomical part.
This week has been an easy week to feel discounted and trivialized. It has been an easy week to feel defensive and angry and discouraged.
There was a moment at the march when I was complaining that I was tired and sore after standing for the rally (which ran over time by almost two and a half hours) and one of the other women from my bus turned to me and said “Protests are not supposed to be comfortable. They are not supposed to be easy.”
Oddly enough it’s probably one of the most memorable parts of the trip for me.
A reminder that this isn’t a time to feel good. This is meant to be hard. For many people who have been doing this all their lives this has been a lifelong struggle. We should be challenged by people who question our motives. We should be willing to listen and have conversations with people who doubt us. This is not the time to be defensive. There is enough room to feel proud of ourselves while also looking at ourselves through a critical lens.
Let’s make this the time when we prove ourselves.
Poet and activist Audre Lorde once said, “Revolution is not a one-time event.” We need to step up to the plate and challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable. Make phone calls even if it pushes our limits. Donate money to the causes that matter to us. March for protests that don’t affect us personally but affect others. Have rational conversations with the people who didn’t hear or understand our messages from the march.
And the beautiful thing is when we get tired and overwhelmed, when we feel like we absolutely can’t fight anymore, we now know there are millions of us that can step up to the plate while we recharge. We know we have the support. We know what impressive feats we can accomplish together. We just need to be sure we keep coming back no matter how hard it gets.
The march was the easy part.
I’m going to end with the words of my favorite speaker from Saturday, Kamala Harris, a Democratic senator from California, who spoke about how the economy, national security, criminal justice, immigration, and health care are all women’s issues.
“The fight for civil rights will be fought and won with each generation. Whatever gains we make will not be permanent,” she said. “That’s the nature of it, so let’s not be dispirited.… Let’s just get up, pick ourselves up and get out there and fight. Fight for equality, fight for fairness, fight for justice….
It’s going to get harder before it gets easier, but there is nothing more powerful than a group of determined sisters marching, standing up for what is right….
Let’s buckle in, because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”