Why I March.

To march, to protest, is inspiring. It is not celebratory. It is the sensation of being pulled by my umbilical cord, a yank towards something larger. My very humanity is at stake and in our collective agony and desperation we gather. It is an acknowledgment of the work left to be done, the task before us, and the responsibility on our backs. It is the investment in a hope, in a vision for what our society could be. A willingness to turn apathy away, to take the risk of continued heartbreak and betrayal, the pain of keeping dreams alive, a deep well of yearning, as we face opposition and must take to the streets for decades to come. Change is slow, but we will not fall into a resigned numb cynicism.

To march is to throw your investment in the ring. That investment is your life, your energy, your money, your time. To join, to hold up your sign is not an endeavor for status or to say, “look I have done my part,” but an awareness that we have clearly not done our part if we are still here in this moment demanding what seems so simple: to value life.

To march is a claim that what’s personal to you is personal to me, we are knit together, and though I have failed you before, I will not continue to fail. No longer will some be pushed to the back of the bus, in order to advance the interests of a few. No longer will white woman only speak of “we” in false solidarity, when we just use black bodies for numbers, votes, and a sisterhood defined by whitewashed issues. No longer will a man possess me as “his woman” to protect. I keep hearing of supposed male allies declaring to take a stand for “our women,” but count me out. Me — a full-person to stand with, not claim. No longer must a woman be a mother, daughter, sister, or bear a womb to birth a nation in order to be treated as person. No longer must I revolve in a universe with men at the center, taking a movement and defining our bodies in orbit of themselves.

It is not a coincidence that these global marches for intersectional women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and the revaluing of what’s feminine did not break down in violence. Not just through posters, hats, and speeches do we call for a way of being, it was invoked through the way in which we gathered. We know from India’s Independence Movement and the Civil Right’s activists, the past freedom fighters who peacefully marched, sat-in, showed-up, even when met with brutality, water cannons, bullets, that a movement built with patriarchal violent tactics, with destruction, cannot be a movement that nurtures equality.

This time calls for determined curiosity, the capacity to know when to listen and when to speak, to stretch ourselves beyond dichotomy. We must be nimble, move with dexterity, reform and revolt, engage with compassion, compromise, and defiance as tools in our tool belts. It is a time to read, a time for due diligence, to not just espouse liberalism, but to know the voices whom our values take root within, the stories of those marching for us long before we woke. It is time to own our identities as mixtures of survivors and harm-doers, victims and perpetrators. See where we are beneficiaries of oppressive colonialist capitalist racist patriarchal systems, refuse the paralyzing power of guilt and embrace the empowering call to own our duty.

So what is this movement? This movement seeks to dismantle the culture and institutions of extraction — the entitled contamination and acquisition of our bodies, land, and water. It is this entitlement that enables the poisoning of children with lead in Flint, the mass incarceration of black people, and the injection of policies into our pussies. What enables exploiting women so they are paid less for their work and what enables the government to build pipelines in Standing Rock are symptoms of the same disease; a disease that says, “the world is yours to tame, claim, and civilize,” a disease that doesn’t care about fairness, consent, or devastation as long as he came the night before. It is a disease with symptoms that look like mass shootings, male suicide, extremism, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the careless greed within Wall Street, and the warmongers in our present administration. It is the disease of toxic masculinity and capitalism’s addictive wasteful consumption, stoked by both men and women.

My vision for America is not one of rape, of penetration through extortion, of the lone male cowboy taking what’s his and building walls, of seeing his needs in opposition with mine and wrapping himself in a blanket of isolationism. My vision for America is vaginal, one that makes room, invites and expands, lives in community with, knows the world has moved beyond zero sum games and is unable to ignore another’s cries. My America is about a justice that gives people the chance to renew, to shed uterine layers of skin and blood and regrow. An America that doesn’t hold people hostage to stereotypes and past mistakes and believes in their capacities to remake.

The America I march for is one that doesn’t see selfishness and selflessness at opposite sides of a spectrum, but understands how our wellbeing, national and individual, is inextricably intermixed with the wellbeing of others, that sees how freedom is gained when all bodies have the choice to craft their lives, to love who they love, to express and act and define themselves beyond the confines of restrictive gender, racial, ethnic, religious roles. Where men and women aren’t trapped in suffocating boxes of masculinity and femininity. Where strength isn’t simply defined as physical and at odds with empathy and emotionality, where leaders show strength through reconciliation, diplomacy, and collaboration, not simply law and order.

The march may have appeared from the outside to not contain a cohesive message, to be championing unrelated causes from climate change to contraception access. But this is not so. There has been an imbalance for too long, one that is causing both the destruction of people and our planet. It is the imbalance where all that is considered female is irrational, weak, and less-than, where people’s lives are used as objects and the world’s resources are apprehended without thought to the costs. This movement is a call to rebalance, for people to be freer, our choices to be sustainable and compassionate, unafraid by the intimacy and vulnerability that comes with acknowledging our interconnection. We are marching for inclusion and equality in the most radical sense of these words, inclusion and equality that is truly terrifying for those who have amassed their wealth through oppression and who have crafted their identities to feel important, moral, and entitled in contrast to others.

It is time to prepare for the storm, gather our sandbags, create contingency plans, and be ready for the aftermath — bus women to states where abortions are still available, help families who could be deported begin designing back-up plans, stand in front of tractors, donate money to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. But we cannot just show-up the moment the sky darkens. We must begin the tedious and more uncomfortable work of changing the wind’s direction, of doing much needed disaster prevention. We must live this vision of America in our homes, our offices, through the items we buy, the places we choose to shop from, the entertainment we watch, the candidates we support, canvass, and vote for, the policies we craft, who we hire in our businesses, what we post online, what we teach and model to children, the conversations we do not shy away from and the tough questions we courageously ask. For inclusion and equality to be realized we must reevaluate our choices, truly desegregate our communities, and examine our entitlements, internalized biases, and our hypocrisies. The costs are too great for those most vulnerable and marginalized among us to keep on waiting for the privileged to discover they have skin in the game.

So, though, I am deeply moved to have marched in peace, I am not at peace. I am poised for movement.