…because there needs to be more of them, right? I actually think there does.
I woke up at 3am to catch my flight. I had my bags mostly packed and I grabbed a lyft to the airport, leaving my husband at the door and the kids asleep. I was happy that I would be on my second flight of the day during the inauguration so that I wouldn’t have to see it on CNN in the airport or watch the responses live on social media. I was not exactly excited when I got to the airport, I was mostly nervous and sad. If I let myself, I could pretend like I still lived in a vacuum where Trump wasn’t peacefully becoming the President, but the entire morning felt like the end of something.
In the security line I kept my eyes out for pink. Every single woman wearing any kind of pink I happily assumed was going to the Women’s March. That was probably untrue, but you’ll never prove it to me. I kept my pussy hat in my purse. This is where I’m going to admit to being a little bit too cool for school. It’s not a proud thing to admit. It runs through my whole life. I don’t like looking silly or standing out in public. I feel safest as an anonymous person. I don’t want people to see me.
When I made it to my gate there was a gaggle of women in pink hats over to one side. I went over and sat near them, I smiled. I still didn’t take out my pink hat. I watched as it became clear that they didn’t know each other, but it seemed like they did. They were taking photos together and sharing swag. Another woman came and sat near us. And another. And another. I saw one sheepishly take out her hat. “I’ve never knitted anything before,” she said. She was apologizing for the hat mess. But everyone just encouraged her and cheered. Literally cheered. Another woman took out her hat. And another. I took mine out and set it on my lap. I undid my pony tail and fluffed my hair. I slid my hat on and kept my eyes to the floor. I was a little embarrassed now that I had waited so long. One of the women in the original group asked all of us if we could take a group photo. On several women’s phones there is a group photo with me in it and a bunch of strangers.
One of the women, who said she was a teacher, started passing out stickers.
“Do you want a sticker?”
“YES!” I said.
“I have others that don’t have swear words, if you don’t like swear words,” she said.
“I love swear words,” I said.
As I walked on the plane I started out confident. But very quickly wanted to shrink away. Many men stared at me, glared at me. I heard whispers and hisses of “feminist.” I saw eye rolls and sneers. I stood straighter. The feeling was awful. I realized that the rareness of this experience is white privilege. I get to live anonymously, while many people of color never ever do.
On my second flight out of Denver there were so many hats. So so many. There were only a few people who were not going to the march on my plane. The flight had a buzz running through it of excitement. We were asked to all stand up (if attending the march), and turn for a photo. These photos ended up on a Buzzfeed list later that day. In my row all three of us were headed to the march. A 70 year old grandmother (who liked like she was 50, if I’m being honest), a 24 year old grad student, and 31 year old me. I got choked up when the older woman told us we had to keep fighting, that it would be ok, that we’d get through this, but that it was going to be hard. All three of us chatted for three hours.
I also want to talk about how I was afraid. It seems stupid to say now, but as I was headed toward DC no one knew how this would turn out. Would someone try to hurt large numbers of us to make a statement? Would violence break out? There were so many possibilities for something to go wrong. I had taken photos of my kids the night before I left. Purposefully. I looked at them before my flights. I was afraid, but I kept going. There were times,even though I could see the other travelers with similar purposes, where I felt like a lone soldier.
The morning of the march I was really excited. I wanted to get there, I wanted to see the people, I wanted to be in it. Walking over to the rally point the streets were absolutely filled with marchers. Women of every age, of every color, of every background were pouring in from all sides. As we walked close and closer the amount of people overwhelmed me in the best way. All of these women, on some level, had been gutted like I had been. All of these women, on some level, had decided to say NO. I had been fairly isolated in my fear/anger/despair. The internet is there, yes, but I mostly sit in my office all day, or sit with my children, or cry to my husband and pull at my hair, and worry that I am yelling into a vast empty hole. But this… tears fell out of my face as we walked by hundreds and thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people. I am not alone. We are not alone. There are many people who were there for a variety of reasons, but the uniting aspect was: THIS IS NOT OK. There really are more of us than there are of them. That has to matter.
OK, now I’m going to touch on a subject that is controversial. Hold on to your butts. I posted the photo of my coat as I was walking onto the plane and then turned off my phone. When I landed in Denver and checked my phone, I was beyond flabbergasted by the amount of support I was seeing. Comments and shares and likes and messages. Text messages, DMs, Facebook messages. I audibly gasped in my seat. The gasp caught in my throat. It is a very rare day where I feel so many people lifting me up, so many people proud of what I’m doing, especially because I initially felt the expense of going was selfish. I worried it was selfish to be doing something I felt more than ever called to participate in – even though it took me away from my family, inconvenienced Kamel, caused me to take a day from work, and cost us money we don’t really have. And then to have all of this support was just… a shock.
Now it has been a few days past the march. And though it may have been one of the biggest demonstrations nation-wide the country has ever seen, it is becoming really trendy to tear it down. Should we talk about why there were less POC? Yes. Let’s talk about it. Does it de-legitimize the purpose and the large show of resistance? No. I am now feeling immense pressure to apologize for the fact that I am a white woman and attended the march. I am feeling pressure to feel shame for attending an event that more POC did not attend. I wish I could have made the march feel more inclusive. I am resisting the urge to talk about how many Black Lives Matter signs I saw, I am resisting the urge to talk about how many POC their were, because it sounds a lot like saying “I HAVE A FRIEND WHO’S BLACK!” I struggle with how to talk about this because I am WHITE and I have FEELINGS and so I feel like those two things make any opinion I have either a cry of “you’re so privileged!” or “Stop putting your discomfort on the shoulders of people of color!”
But here is my truth: Maybe this march brought together people who had never had a political awareness before. Maybe it introduced them to what it feels like to be part of something bigger than themselves. Maybe it inspired them to donate money to causes that help everyone. I think those things are true. What I think is really unhelpful are comments like: “I better see all of these white people at the next Black Lives Matter protest.” How does shaming people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, who are asking questions, who are willing to learn, who are not career activists help the liberal agenda? And yes, white fragility. So sad, white people with their hurt feelings. But no one likes to feel like the thing they did that was hard for them was worthless. My truth is to have more compassion. Holding a person’s hand and helping them towards a path with more awareness and activism and woke-ness is way more effective than yelling at them and telling them how they still are wrong and uneducated and bad. Should POC be in charge of holding the hands of white people and leading them towards truth? No. And I am definitely not saying the experiences of POC should not be shared regarding the Women’s March. But instead of looking back and saying the march was meaningless, we should be encouraging everyone who participated on that day towards the next event. Towards the next call for social change and resistance of the Trump administration. Tearing it down, writing think pieces about it’s holes, and turning the viewpoint on itself is on ONE HAND important but an ANOTHER only benefits those who are most afraid of a united women’s movement. Proceed with caution.