I stumbled across this today:
“Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them, “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”
An Old Testament women’s march! Here, the women gathered and danced in celebration of their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. They were homeless, without food or water, walking with their babies into the wilderness, following a pillar of fire into the unknown. They were probably exhausted, bewildered, anxious, sad, scared, and excited. They were also jubilant and praised God together as women. Because something wild and wonderful happens when women raise their voices together.
This subject is great, and loaded, and nuanced, and so personal. I am leaving a lot of things out because of time, my own lack of understanding, and because there are way better things out there you could read. I could never write a comprehensive summary of feminism or a treaty on social justice. My life is too cushy for me to be that informed. This is a brief explanation of why I marched in Houston on January 21 and why I am a feminist.
I believe in equal rights and respect for all humans. The women’s march wasn’t about one issue or even one gender. It was “a movement of movements,” someone said on the radio yesterday. It was a showing of unity and affirmation for many causes. I marched to support equal rights and respect for everyone—women, ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, the disabled. I marched to support everyone who was belittled, shamed, and dismissed before, during, and after the presidential campaign.
I’m a feminist because I believe in equality. Sure, we can all vote now but equality goes so much further than that into the nitty-gritty texture of our lives. And if you can’t see the ways in which we do not all have equal access to resources, opportunities, and respect—count yourself privileged. Privilege is like health, you don’t know you don’t have it unless you don’t. Or unless you become aware of the people around you who don’t. Privilege is not a false burden to agonize over. It’s just something to be conscious of as you deal with other humans and make decisions that affect other people (like voting).
I marched to be with the least of these—people who are marginalized, ignored, people that some want to ship “back to where they came from.” Jesus spent every second he could with these people and so that’s where I want to be, too. Not informing or correcting or qualifying. Just being there. Listening. Dwelling. Breaking bread. Walking together.
I marched with immigrants because my ancestors weren’t indigenous. I marched with the indigenous because our ancestors took their land.
I marched to stand with survivors of sexual assault who felt silenced when Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women’s genitals without consent. Who felt silenced when we dismissed his accusers. Who felt silenced when we voted this man to our highest office. I marched to say that is not okay. To shout to my daughters and cousins and friends and to our mothers—it is not okay for that to happen to you. I marched to tell our sons (and daughters) that is not what we expect from them. That’s not what being a man is. That’s what being a monster is. I marched to say that there should be no safe spaces to brag about assault. That just because it’s common to be a misogynist, does not mean it’s okay or excusable. I marched to say we don’t have to take that.
I marched because words matter and the battle is embedded in our language, hidden in our sentences, concealed in our punchlines, written into our scriptures, passed down in song, lifted up in story, and consumed in articles, scrolling news banners, and soundbites.
I marched because I had something to learn from everyone there. And because my soul needed it. I needed to be around a crowd of people who affirmed that when one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us is cast down, we are all cast down. And when we rise, we rise together.
Some think of feminists and the marchers as angry, bitter people. Maybe they are just mad that they lost the vote. But no, so much no. There were some angry men and women there. But mostly there was a feeling of “we won’t give up on what’s important to us.” We won’t give up fighting trans-phobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia. We won’t stop demanding respect for women. We won’t stop advocating for better public education, reproductive rights, and the urgent need to address climate change.
You may have seen presidents come and go—their campaign promises watered down to small policy change. You have seen the pendulum swing back and forth with small progress and small setbacks. This may have filled your heart to apathy. People despair. Power changes hands. And conditions still improve slowly. But just because that seems to be the way of things, it doesn’t mean it comes without effort, without vigor, without fight. It’s easy to stay passive, to tune out, go with the flow, and mock the fighters. Lord, don’t I know it. But the fighters brought us the civil rights movement, improved conditions in hospitals and schools, the fighters brought birth control to desperate families and taught multitudes about AIDS prevention and treatment, the fighters carried the gospel and fed the hungry, started initiatives, gave a home to the homeless, made room for the orphans, eked out small improvements in the foster system, ended genocide, made room at the table for one more and one more and one more. We make progress because the fighters resist their own apathy one day at a time. And the battles rage on.
Many people I know are skeptical. Nothing will change. Without specific policy requests, the movement will die. And maybe if the world is watching for one single, concrete victory—yeah, it might seem all for nothing. But if the world is watching for a million small droplets of change, then they will be witness to a sea change.
Women are not one monolithic group and where we go from here will not be in one single direction. Some will write those letters to senators and visit their offices. Some will change their neighborhoods, communities, cities, and states with start-ups and ministries. Some will run for office and some will vote them into office. Some will write books and others will paint, grafitti, compose a new song, host an open mic. Some will speak up against racist language, some will hold open the bathroom door so a trans women can walk in. Some will support the single parent and some will serve in the military, or the Peace Corps, or the failing school. Culture change leads to policy change. We are changing the conversation and inviting everyone to join in—to speak and to listen, to teach and to learn. Where we go from here is everywhere.
What I experienced was a celebration more than a protest. An affirmation of many causes. I didn’t feel like I needed to sign on to every cause but I did feel an urgent need to learn about them—to listen. What is the tampon tax? What happens if Planned Parenthood goes under? What happens when the pipeline goes through? What happened to you? What happened to you? What’s your story? Why do you march?
Even if you are opposed to all the things the march represented, we marched for you, too. So that you can continue to not see the oppression, so that your kids can receive a quality public education, so that our planet doesn’t drown and suffocate itself. We marched for awareness that there are battles to fight with right-now and forever stakes. We marched for all humans. We marched against hate.
Edit: I also wanted to be able to tell my girls that I was there, and so were they, and so was their dad.