3 notes after a day at a protest
I brought my one-year-old to the Women’s March today. Now some day I can show her she was there.
Same with the stories of her being in the voting booth, as an infant barely able to sit up on her own. I want her to know that she’s been part of history since the beginning, that she has a role. That I tried and will keep trying every day to make the future one that embraces her. Not just the white side of her.
While she’s passed out now after a very long day, I am sitting here scrolling through page after page of photos. Protests in major cities across the globe. Signs in every shade. Moms and babies and friends and allies and fighters. People showed up in droves, moreso than the inauguration itself. Waves of women.
While I felt very empowered today — riding that civic-engagement-mixed-with-punk-rock high, I guess — I tried to also keep in mind that my privilege is what allowed to be in this space and feel that way.
A couple of things stood out.
When I was getting the baby out of the car, close enough to hear some shouting via loudspeaker from the crowds, an older black woman walked past and grumbled to no one in particular:
“The man’s already president. If y’all were so angry before, you should have done something before.”
Which is 100% true. The truth of it hung there as groups of predominantly white protesters streamed by. We have more work to do, but I wish we’d done more when it could have changed this outcome. I wish more of us had shown up in these numbers for #BlackLivesMatter. I wish this wasn’t the voting split.
Many many of the signs today hinged on (beautiful) images of vulvas, uteruses, and references to cis-reproductive anatomy.
I love vaginas. I try to love mine, I’ve loved others’ occasionally. I’m generally for art that seeks to celebrate and fight stigma against women’s bodies. At a time when so much of our healthcare is at stake, I get the natural inclination to focus on our bodies as battlegrounds. “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” “shed walls not build them,” etc. etc.
But: my privilege means I hadn’t considered how this may have felt for trans women, or people living without those parts.
We can celebrate and normalize while also not being exclusionary, can’t we? Not every woman is built the same. I hope to teach my daughter that we can embrace and love our bodies without reducing ourselves (and others) to the parts that comprise them.
3. “This pussy grabs back.”
Finally, the hard thing. For me, personally.
I’ve spoken about this before but always immediately deleted it because the reality scares me. Drawing attention to it is embarrassing. But I’m in therapy now and talking about it, so I’m going to say this and not delete it because it’s the truth but does not define me: I’m a survivor of abuse and sexual assault, and I’m really fucking angry about it.
The president’s words, and actions, revived something inside of me last summer that I had silenced for years; a therapist called it PTSD, and I am inclined to believe them.
Whatever it may be, every time I hear “Grab XX by the pussy” or a variation used as a joke, a protest slogan, a marketing gimmick by well-meaning liberals — that hurts me.
To use a divisive word, it triggers. I get defensive. I feel scared again, guilty again, in danger again. I wonder how many others do too. And how many days out of this administration I’ll feel that way. Maybe all of them? I hope not. I’m tired of being reminded of my trauma every day, and what’s grabbing back right now isn’t my genitals, it’s me, it’s me, it’s me, and I’m going to choke the life out of you.
Today was empowering and healing, yes. It meant a lot to be present in Philly streets with my daughter and friends.
It was important to me to show up, but also to walk away having learned something.
The work needs to get bigger and louder from here. And I hope it also means other people (especially my fellow white women) take time to examine our roles, privileges, biases, and responsibilities when doing so.
“To strong women: may we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.”