“We should have a march.”
The five little words my manager said to me on Friday, December 16, 2016, just five weeks before we had just that; a march.
For five weeks, in addition to my other responsibilities at work (and to my children and the community), I organized a march. I got us an emcee (which wasn’t difficult, because Ruth – my podcast co-host) is amazing); I created a Facebook event; I posted to social media; I spoke to people at the two locations we were using; I arranged a diverse list of scheduled speakers; I rallied women to knit, crochet, or sew pussyhats; I crocheted pussyhats and other pink hats; I did radio, television, and newspaper interviews; I answered questions; and I heard complaints.
On January 21, 2017, we joined our sisters in the United States and around the world to say that women’s rights are human rights. We marched for many reasons, not least of which was to say that we won’t stand for the kind of treatment of women that the new President of the United States espouses. We say representation matters when we talk about putting women and other minorities in positions of power. Well, it matters as much when a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic man is in power. It delivers the message that you can get away with anything and still reach the height of power. And that’s the wrong message to be delivering.
We also marched because the incoming administration has made direct threats against women’s bodily autonomy and economic equality and these are fights we continue to have here in Canada. It was an opportunity for us to stand up and say “don’t even think about it.” Someone once asked me why there wasn’t an organized pro-choice group here in Niagara, and I said, “because there doesn’t have to be, we won that fight.” But this is an issue that continues to raise its ugly head – that women’s medical procedures are up for political discussion – and I want to say right now that if those rights ever come under real threat, you better believe we’ll organize.
But bodily autonomy isn’t just about reproductive rights. It’s about being able to walk down the street and not feel threatened or afraid or even just irritated about the comments men make. It’s about being able to attend events and not be hugged and kissed and whispered to by men. It’s about being able to dress how we want, walk when and where we want, drink how much we want and not be blamed for being assaulted or raped.
I was moved not only by the number of women who showed up, but by the diversity. There were infants to great-grandmothers in attendance. The LGBTQ community was represented. Women of colour were represented. Women shared why they were marching. Women shared what they encounter on a daily basis. Women – especially women of colour (who I’ve always supported and not just because I’m raising one) – called us to action.
My hope is that yesterday’s march served to empower and inspire women; that it served to ignite a fire in women to speak up for what they believe and to speak out about what they will not stand for.
When I began organizing this march, other sister march organizers quickly found me and I ended up on a group e-mail list. One of those e-mails included a spoken word poem from Leslie Davidson in Revelstoke, British Columbia that I thought was just so fitting of the event, so I asked her if I could share it at the Niagara march and she graciously agreed.
After thanking everyone for marching with us and expressing my awe at the number of people who showed up, here is the piece I read:
Women of a certain rage
Protest the notion that burning bras
Was the definer of our cause.
It was symbolic liberation
At the birth…the loud gestation
Of a revolution that told the world
That we had brains as well as breasts and wombs
We were too large for kitchen tombs —
Of a struggle that continues to see our sisters, mothers, daughters
In Afghanistan, Iraq and down the street
Silenced in their yearning to seek justice
It is just this‑
When girls in schools are burned
For defying the traditions
That demand they stay hidden
We are none of us all right.
When the child torn from loving home and culture
Is shamed for all she cannot be or do
Because there was no one to love or teach her.
We are none of us all right.
When hate and greed walk hand in hand
And violence becomes the stand we take
When you and I cannot agree…
Oh, loved one, don’t you see?
None of us are free.
When ignorance elects a narcissistic prick
Who thinks he has the right to stick
His mitts wherever on our bodies he deems fit
It makes us angry, makes us sick.
We did not march for this!
It never was and will never be just about the bras.
Women of a certain rage
See sad irony and travesty
When majesty like Sojourner Truth or Harriet Tubman
Are less well known than some Kardashian.
Do you know Emily Stowe?… Or Nellie Mclung?
How about The Famous Five?
Women who were alive to all the bitter truth
Of an existence that denied equality.
And their persistence changed his to her story, too.
And they are buried in the books
Unless we liberate them
We inflate them back to size
And place them warts and bloomers, faults and pride
Back on the stage of Mother Courage
With all the other wondrous, valiant,
Long-gone women, forgotten women of a certain rage.
Women of a certain rage teach our daughters and our sons
The lesson of their infinite worth
Upon this fragile, battered, finite earth.
We celebrate diversity in all its wondrous manifestations
Womanifestations, gay and lez and bifestatations.
We sing the beauty of every colour, culture, creed‑
And this is what we need‑
To love one another.
To find the person in the other
To get our hands into the mess
And hold the unlovely and unloved
Within a selfless love’s caress.
The poet sang, there is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
We women of a certain rage, we shout,
See all our broken places?
That’s how our light shines out.
For in us lives the wisdom,
That speaks ‘this too shall pass’
And time will come, as morning comes,
And sorrow yields to mirth
There is a joke in everything…
The wise clown knows it, and the witch.
And, cackling wild, we reclaim glory
For that loudmouthed bitch,
The one who will just not sit down.
We have not seen it all
But we’ve seen much.
And our hands have learned
The touch that heals
And if you tear our heart, we mend.
Our mothers taught us how to sew.
And when you hear our laughter know
Women of a certain rage forgive,
Outlive, all the hurts
That tried to shape us into something less.
We are who we are meant to be
And growing, growing, growing on.
Until we rest, and we shall rest
In our very own profound
And halleluia-ed blessedness.
We women of a certain rage.