On January 21, women across the nation turned out for Women’s Marches across the country and the world, in what may have been the largest demonstration in U.S. history.
Glow employees joined them, marching in both Washington DC and San Francisco. These are our stories.
This wasn’t my first march on Washington. When I was hardly five months old, my mom brought me up to DC for a big reproductive rights march. She walked through the streets of Washington, gurgling baby on her back, demanding better access to contraception, improved medical services, the ability to choose.
This weekend, almost exactly 25 years later, we returned to Washington again, demanding the same. Joking about what a bummer it was that the mission of the Women’s March march was so similar to the march we attended together in 1992, that so little progress had been made, my mom came up with a new hashtag: #WhyAreWeStillMarchingForTheSameThings. Catchy, right? ;)
In spite of its dorky-ness, mom’s hashtag struck me. It’s been a quarter of a century, and we’ve seen few advances in policies surrounding women’s health. Many would argue that policies have actually digressed significantly since 1992. I’m saddened, disheartened — and determined to help history’s next chapter realize a different outcome.
At the women’s march on Washington, a community formed around this mission. A migration to a set of values is a powerful thing; a chance to share space and stories, messages and support; to come together. More than just a march, Saturday was a first day of a new global movement. Defiant and sassy, artistic and strong, we proved just how many people are committed to reclaiming women’s bodies and our ability to take care of them.
I come from a family of activists. My grandfather, a Spaniard and carpenter from San Francisco, traveled to Mississippi in 1963 to rebuild a black church that was burned down by the KKK. My mother marched alongside Cesar Chavez with the United Farm Workers in the 1970s, protesting toxic chemicals used in farming that were causing illness for Latino workers.
The Women’s March was not my first march; even so, it was an affecting one for me. I applaud the way that the women’s march energized and unified millions, but it also led me to wonder why so few of these women had shown up before. Where were these people at protests about race, inclusion, land preservation? We have a responsibility to stand up to oppression, regardless of whether or not that oppression affects us directly.
As Americans, we should help our fellow citizens who are down, even when we are up. We should help defend those who are different, even if we can’t identify with their struggle. I applaud the many first-time marchers at the Women’s March, but I also ask for them to see the experience as a call to action to protest the oppression of others, even when their own livelihood, health, and well-being is not at stake.
The Women’s March was the first demonstration I’ve ever attended. I had butterflies in my stomach heading over on the bus, nervously clutching my home-made sign. I’d really had no idea what to write on the sign. Nothing I came up with seemed clever or funny enough to be declared. I don’t get stage fright, even on actual stages with actual audiences. But I did get it on that bus, holding my sad, cheesy little bit of poster board.
By the time I got off the bus, it was with a flood of other women, all clutching their own signs, all wearing pink hats. The crowd only grew larger as we walked towards San Francisco City Hall — a march to the march. And somewhere along the way, all that nervous energy turned into something else. There were thousands of women, generations of women, from the very elderly to the babies dozing against their mothers’ chests all there, dedicated to making the world safer, brighter, better. I was no longer worried about my sign. It said: “I believe that we can win.”
And I did.
Hours before the start of the March, we began to see women (and men!) on the streets wearing pink hats, carrying signs, excited — almost giddy — for the day’s events. I myself was nervous. My friends had cautioned that the protests might get violent, and I feared they could be right.
Thankfully, the opposite was true: it turned out to be the kindest, warmest group of bad*ss protesters ever. From a woman in a wheelchair with a sign that said, “HEAR US ROAR,” to the daughters/mothers/grandmothers marching together, I’ve never felt more inspired. And being there, I felt just so proud to be an American (born of immigrants, no less!).
My time at the March also reminded me of the differences that continue to divide our country. Returning to the hotel, I found myself in a spirited conversation with a white father-daughter pair from Montana (who were definitely not in town for the March), and an African American woman from Atlanta. The girl from Montana was curious about the March and started asking questions about it; her father seemed to think it was about abortion and related to protests on Inauguration Day. I tried to clarify that neither of these were true. The woman from Atlanta agreed, and also expressed her belief that we’ll need to collaborate across parties to make change happen. Hearing their perspectives, I was reminded of how liberal my San Francisco bubble is. The March prompted a meeting of perspectives and dialogs, like this one, which weren’t happening as much before.
I flew home exhilarated, inspired, and bonded with millions all over the world. I hope this is just the beginning of our dialog — and of more action to come.
I was surprised by the number of children I saw going to the Women’s March in San Francisco. I met a mom holding her son on BART, on the way to Civic Center Station. She told her son how proud she was of him, and that “We need to let others hear our voices.” This was her son’s first time taking BART, and definitely his first time participating in any sort of march. It really moved me to see democracy in action, education carrying over from generation to generation.
Working at Glow, I cannot help but get swept up in the stories and lives of women in our community. We educate millions of young women who are just learning to navigate their sexual health. We support women who are desperate to conceive and others who are determined not to. We assist mothers, through pregnancy, postpartum, childbirth and even the first year of their baby’s lives. In the community, we hear their stories, and their lives touch mine.
Every single one of these women now faces an uncertain and perilous future. Women’s rights, not just those related to our bodies, but those related to our general welfare, have taken a huge step back. This is happening in every corner of the world: in America, and in any place where American assistance is needed and vital.
By participating in the Women’s March on Washington, I felt that I was coming together with millions of others to say that we will not remain quiet.