Gloversville resident participates in Women’s March
As a political science student and recent graduate of Hartwick College, I followed the presidential election with a ferocity I mostly reserve for football or hockey.
I, as well as my friends and colleagues, watched the ups and downs debate after debate while being politically active. We aided students and adults alike in registering to vote in the midterm, primary and presidential elections.
We held debate parties complete with pizza and chips. We wrote dissertations and presented on the historical election Americans were witnessing. We dissected the different campaigning strategies used by the candidates: an independent democratic socialist who ran a grassroots campaign; the Democratic Party’s first female presidential nominee; and of course, Donald Trump.
I refuse to believe in the perfect candidate on the grounds that I refuse to believe in a perfect person. Everyone has flaws, but none so tremendously nauseating and terrifying as those displayed by Donald Trump in his hateful, bigoted, xenophobic campaign. Despite this, the Electoral College saw this man as the better candidate for one of the world’s most powerful positions — President of the United States. Though the popular vote overwhelmingly voted differently, on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, we watched Donald Trump be sworn in as the 45th president.
The Friday of the inauguration, we saw one side of America. The next day, we saw another, very different one.
Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 — the Women’s March on Washington. Women, men, young girls, little boys, trans people, white, black, brown, immigrants, refugees, second generations, gay, straight, bisexual, young, old, parents pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, people with walkers, students, teachers, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Canadians, Rosie the Riveters, a baby dressed as Princess Leia, pink hats everywhere. This was the sight that greeted my friends and me as we pulled into the Shady Grove metro station in Maryland at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning.
Despite being relatively early, we still had to wait in the crowd — lines did not exist at this point — for at least an hour. Finally on the train, we were one of the lucky ones able to sit down. Very quickly, however, the cart became standing room only as people climbed in all with the intention of marching. It would become one of the busiest days in D.C. Metro history with 1,001,613 station entries, second only to Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Immediately, you knew this day was one for the books.
When we arrived at Judiciary Square, we got our “P— Hats” — pink hats with cat ears to reference the 2005 Access Hollywood video in which President Trump stated, “I don’t even wait … Grab ’em by the p— …” The march did not begin until 1:30 p.m., so we spent the time talking to people, trying to find out where everyone was from. In my group alone we could claim three different states — New Hampshire, Nevada and New York. Within a couple hours, we had found someone from almost every state in the Union. We even found a very enthusiastic group of Canadians. Perhaps my favorite people — we encountered a group of Muslim women with the sign Muslim Women: Rockin the Vote since 610 A.D.
Though the march originated around women’s issues — reproduction rights, sexual assault, equal pay — it quickly expanded to encompass voter suppression, environmental protection, immigration rights, police brutality, and education. Though we made sure to wear our Pride pins and Make America Gay Again shirts, it was the signs which truly relayed the day’s messages. Many focused on women’s rights, such as: “Why is my Uterus More Regulated Than Guns?”; “Stay Nasty Women”; “My Mom Carried Me for 9 Months, I Can Carry This for 4 Hours”; “Keep Your Theology Out of My Biology.”
One girl had sewn onto her jacket “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” referencing Hillary Clinton’s groundbreaking statement in 1995 in China.
Others dove into different areas of concern — Black Lives Matter; I Love My Muslim Neighbor; Feminist Muslim American; 55 Degrees in December but Climate Change is a Myth; Black and Beautiful. However, no women’s march would be complete though without inspiration from Queen B herself. Everywhere, there were signs referencing Beyonce’s Ladies Now Let’s Get in Formation. One grandmother had a sign which said, “60 Years Old … Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest This S—.”
One important fact to bring up about this march is, though there was intersectionality among races and genders, it was largely white women in attendance. One sign I saw which has since gone viral stated, “White Women Voted for Trump.” 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, whereas nearly 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. According to the Pew Research, white women make 84 cents to a white man’s $1. People often forget to mention that black women only receive 65 cents — almost half for doing the same work.
When looking into the matter of health care, almost 13 percent of white women do not have any form of health coverage. That percentage shoots up to 25 percent when looking at Hispanic women who do not have healthcare coverage.
The young black woman who held this sign was not saying all white women voted for Trump nor white women are to blame for the systematic problems in our country. She is saying that showing up and standing in solidarity is not enough. We must go into our communities and change the hearts and minds of people.
We cannot normalize anti-blackness. We cannot normalize xenophobia or Islamophobia. We cannot normalize homophobia or transphobia. As one 7 year old told me, “Don’t hate. Educate.”
White women must look at their own privilege and recognize where they benefit. I am privileged because I am a white, middle-class person who graduated from a private college. This does not take away the fact that I am a woman from a rural, impoverished town and make just over minimum wage. Recognizing one’s own privilege does not negate one’s disadvantages. However, without identifying the racism or the historic white bias in the feminist movement we can never truly claim to stand for all women. Therefore, it can never be a feminist movement.
Technology was not working in our favor that day. With the exception of a couple early Instagram posts and morning texts, data services were shut down for the day leaving us at a loss for what was happening in other parts of the country and the world. We would later learn that every single state had a women’s march. Approximately 3.3 million people nationwide in over 500 marches making it the largest demonstration in U.S. history. There was also a Women’s March in every continent — even Antarctica!
As we began to march, the chants took the stage and, in my not so humble opinion, the show. Shouts of: “No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants are Welcomed Here”; “Her Body, Her Choice / My Body, My Choice”; “We Are the Popular Vote”; “Sexist, Racist, Anti-Gay / Donald Trump Go Away”; “This is What Democracy Looks like”; “We Will Not Go Away, Welcome to Your First Day.”
My friend’s favorite was, “We Need a Leader Not a Creepy Tweeter.” Every police officer and National Guardsman also had a chant as we passed them, “Thank You, Police / Thank You, Guardsmen.”
Despite the despair and fear many felt on Nov. 8, the Women’s March was an oddly jubilant and euphoric day. Sarah Larson of The New Yorker claimed it was like “[…] laughter at a funeral.” That’s a pretty apt way of describing the mixed emotions we had. As our 14-hour day came to a close, the train cart was silent. Exhaustion, not just from marching but at the weight of what we will inevitably have to fight for in the near future, had hit everyone full force.
This was just one day, but the energy and passion needs to continue over the next four years. If not, the efforts made Saturday, Jan. 21, will be wasted.
We scrolled through videos and pictures thinking about what we had just witnessed and wondered how it will be reported on. I am pleased to say approximately 680,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Women’s March and not a single arrest was made. Not one. It was an entire day during which over half a million people gathered in a peaceful demonstration. Political activism at its finest.
Sunday, we went back into the city and ended up at the Lincoln Memorial. The Pink Hats had gathered and were cheering–“We Will Not Go Away, Wel