I marched this weekend

This isn’t your typical “Why I marched” blog entry. This is from one of the men who marched with us. Trevor Twining shares his thoughts about the experience and where to go from here.

I’ve never marched for anything before. Most who know me would probably say I’m not a very political person. I have opinions, of course, but those tend to reflect from the work I’m doing, which is usually unrelated to the political sphere.

But Saturday was different. After Laura and I had first talked about men not attending, it became clear that enough wanted to show up that it made sense for me to join in. To count myself amongst those for whom this issue was important, and let people in our community see the counting.

So I marched. I deliberately walked at the back of the group, literally and figuratively ‘backing up’ the women who attended. Surprisingly, each time I thought I was ‘at the back,’ more women would join up behind us and I’d slow down again, move a bit further back. The fog was thick — but not that thick — and still you couldn’t see more than about a quarter of the march without the women fading into the fog. As far as political action goes in Niagara, it was pretty impressive. I don’t get the feeling that many people show up for these kinds of things here.

We shared stories, I heard their stories, and although I would say that some women consider me a feminist ally, I’m by no means an expert (barely a novice, truth be told) and I’m continually learning new things. This weekend I learned what cisgender is, for example, and how it relates to feminism. I have a long way to go to fully understand women’s struggle. But what I do know is that it’s real. I acknowledge its presence, and I try every day to make it better within my realms of personal influence.

For those who’ve never been to one of these protests before, I think it’s important to point something out. It seems very much to me like these kinds of protests are the beginnings of things, not the ends. People don’t leave these events feeling good that they did something. They leave motivated to do more. A fire is lit within them. I left that day eager to discover what more I could do to help. Whether that was through a program for women freelancers we might deliver through Cowork Niagara, or new topics for The Practical Feminist or other podcasts on Niagara Podcasters’ Network, the point was that I could do things that would help.

It was the day after that shocked me. Scores of people suggesting that there were other, better things to march for. Ridicule heaped on the marchers, with jeers that their action would be wasted and nothing would change. Animal rights, hydro rates, a right, proper mess of a Premier and a host of others were tossed out as issues more important than the equality of women both at home and internationally.

Shouting down someone else’s issue doesn’t make yours any better heard. It diminishes both messages. Women have never, ever said these other issues are unimportant. All they’ve done is chosen where they’re going to spend their time. All I did that day is choose where I would spend my time. Nobody is stopping anyone else from choosing to spend their time on any of these other issues, and I would suggest that choosing those other options would be met with encouragement, not anger.

What I learned on Saturday is that if the people who think these things are important really want them to change, they should organize a protest march as well. There is nothing that will motivate people aligned on an issue like a march. In fact, I’d say this is the best way to know for sure if you even have an issue that’s important at all. People will spend time on issues that matter to them.  But it’s the inspiration to do more that happens at the march that cements its place in the spectrum of civic participation. After seeing its impact this weekend, organizing marches is one of the most impactful, action-oriented things you can do to move your issue forward.

We don’t need to pick which voices get heard, or which issues get attention. We need all of these issues brought forward. The status quo is not okay! We need to work on all of these issues. But those other struggles aren’t necessarily those of the women who I marched with on Saturday. Just like Saturday’s march might not be where you’d focus your civic participation.

But you should focus it somewhere. If you want to see things change, then follow the example set by these women. Your voice matters, and acting on it is the only thing that will drive change. And a march is as good a place to start as any, because it’s the gateway drug that will help you find people willing to act for a shared purpose.  It might have been unintentional, but this is one of the things the Women’s March on Washington: Niagara Edition taught me.

If you have an issue you want to work on, but don’t have the space in which to organize or plan, Cowork Niagara is now making its space available to any organizer who needs it. Please reach out to me if you’re interested.