Yesterday, what is being called the largest protest in history took place in the form of the Women’s March on Washington. An event that saw women from 616 communities around the world gather to protest the kind of man who is the new President of the United States.
I organized an event here in Niagara that saw more than 200 women show up to march and share their thoughts, feelings, and stories. Hear some of our voices here.
What I’ve read far too much of since yesterday afternoon is people – mostly straight, white, cis men, but some women too – complaining about the fact that we had marches. Carrying on about how there’s nothing to march about or telling us what we should be marching about.
Now, I will only speak for myself here, but I feel comfortable that many of the women in attendance at the Niagara march feel similarly.
First off, I recognize the importance of intersectional feminism, and not just because I’m raising children who are not white. I know that feminism has historically been and to a great extent still is today a very white, straight, middle class movement, and I call it out whenever possible. I know that feminism has historically and to a great extent still does today exclude women of colour, women from LGBTQ communities, women who are living in poverty, and women who live with various disabilities.
I also recognize the importance of fighting for women around the world, as we are all fighting different issues. I know that women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and Syria and so many other places have much more difficult lives than we do when it comes to the fundamentals of life. I speak out about these things when possible, I draw attention to them, I do not think our fight (and there is a fight) in North America is more relevant or important than their fight. That said, I am a working class single mother of two children and simply do not have the financial or political capacity to enact change in other countries. Do I wish I did? I absolutely do. But I don’t. Further, I’ve never seen so many white men so concerned about the lives of women in other countries until yesterday….
The fact of the matter is that I still cannot walk down the street without being harassed by men on an almost daily basis. I still cannot speak up on social media without some man or many men telling me that I am wrong or that my opinion is of no value or worse. I still cannot expect that I will be paid the same as a man for similar work. I still cannot trust that my daughter – prepare her as much as I can – will not be sexually assaulted or raped. I still cannot expect that when a woman says, “I was raped,” that men won’t jump to tell her she’s lying. I still cannot expect appropriate access to resources for reproductive rights (yes, that means I can’t easily terminate a pregnancy should I need to, and I know because I have had to terminate a pregnancy).
Yesterday was not about women saying the election results should be overturned, even if many of the women who marched wish he’d never won. Yesterday was not about a bunch of sore losers being crybabies. And, yes, we recognize that 53% of white women who voted (which is different than 53% of white women) voted for him. Yesterday was about saying that the way he treats women is unacceptable. Yesterday was about saying that the policies that he’s threatened to enact or overturn directly impact and outright threaten women’s lives, especially the lives of women of colour, LGBTQ women, and women living in poverty. Yesterday was about solidarity. In Canada, yesterday, was about saying that there are still fights to be won and also that we will do everything we can to ensure that what’s just happened in the United States doesn’t happen here.
Finally, yes, hydro rates are a problem – because, seriously, so many men told us we should be marching about hydro rates – but, frankly, hydro rates do not threaten my basic, fundamental rights as a woman.
So, if you didn’t like that yesterday’s marches happened; if you truly don’t understand what having a man like Donald Trump in the White House signals to the world, then I feel sorry for you. I encourage you to engage in some serious self-reflection. More than that, I encourage you to listen to women and to open your mind to the idea that maybe, just maybe, you don’t understand. Take some time to understand that you don’t understand and simply believe us.
What we did yesterday was significant. And it’s just the beginning.