SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY
“Give Pence Common Sense” read one of the thousands of posters held up at the Women’s March in New York. Counting all the other marches that took place this year, that number could easily reach millions.
Obviously, in a broad sense, the purpose of the marches is to show support for the rights of women in the years going forward under the Trump presidency. The official Women’s March website states “we’re going to collectively generate a wave of thousands of grassroots-led protests, actions, and meetings directly engaging Members of Congress…” (www.womensmarch.com)
But on a personal level, what is the appeal of protesting? What is the intended outcome? The answer is likely different for everyone, but there must be some commonality.
“[We] hoped to inspire other people to protest so they would feel they had a voice. It was about having people who weren’t usually heard being heard.” said Cara Geser, an attendee of the New York march. “Elected officials might not think women can have a say, but we do. We are showing people that we will not just stay quiet.”
Cara and her friend, Rebecca Schilsky, both of whom are first year students at Skidmore College, went to the New York march together and each had a positive experience.
“It was more also a healing type of a feeling where everyone kind of went to this place to just feel better.” Rebecca told me during our interview. “Not to cause trouble, not for anything, but just to be surrounded by other women and even men who just felt the same exact way was just kind of a…like, I felt better after going.”
Rebecca agreed with Cara’s description of the march as a “cathartic shouting fest” and provided some examples.
“We had, it was like, cheer after cheer.” Rebecca said, citing a few colorful chants that expressed discontent with President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “So, yeah, it was definitely just like a scream fest, but it was definitely worth it. Like, I couldn’t imagine not going.”
While the march itself was enjoyable, the issues at hand were still daunting. Sarah Jones, also a first year student from Skidmore College, went to the Women’s March in Florida and shared some of her concerns with me during an interview.
“Just the women’s issues that I feel like [Trump] isn’t going to address and that we’re actually going to go backwards.” Sarah said. Her words echoed what I had previously heard from Cara Geser.
“Things like Planned Parenthood funding and the women’s right to choose…we had been making progress on, but now we’ve taken a huge step back.” said Cara.
Despite these fears, all three women said that the marches had great impacts on them.
“The feeling is always a kind of happiness.” said Sarah. “Being there and being surrounded by a bunch of people who…are just as enraged and just as, like, upset about what’s happening in our country as I am.”
Cara, Rebecca, and Sarah all found being part of the protests uplifting, but there were some who were indirectly inspired by this tremendous movement.
“I just drove around [the march] because I didn’t want to go into the city because of the traffic it was causing.” said Brett Cassidy, who is- you guessed it- a first year student at Skidmore College.
Brett is a resident of Washington DC, which also happens to be the where the largest Women’s March took place. He and his girlfriend were planning on attending the historic protest, but he would up having to drive back to Skidmore that day, through the hours of traffic. Rather than get angry at the wait, Brett took time to appreciate what was going on around him.
“It was inspiring to see what can happen when a lot of people come together.” Brett said. “It was fascinating. Everyone was there for different reasons. Not everyone was there for women’s rights, not everyone was there for black rights, not everyone was there for immigrant rights…people were there for all different reasons, coming from different ends of the spectrum.”
Sarah, Rebecca, Cara, and even Brett can all consider themselves participants in a legendary series of events. As of now, the Women’s March on Washington is the largest single-day demonstration in the history of the United States.
“ I was on George Washington parkway and it was backed up all the way to the edges of the city.” Brett recalled. “There were thousands and thousands of people in the city and there were people on the sides that had drones and stuff watching from the sky because it was so groundbreaking and historical.” Brett was not the only one to describe the event in this way.
“Something about being part of a historical moment is really important for me.” said Rebecca, who, unfortunately, could not attend the Washington DC march because of when Skidmore’s winter break ended.
“Um, you know, I wasn’t actually able to go down to Washington DC because we had to be back at Skidmore the next day, um, but that’s something I wanted to do.” Rebecca continued. “So, knowing it was right in New York City was great, um, and I just kinda wanted to show my support and just be, you know, saying these protests and doing all this stuff and saying all the cheers with everyone else because it made me feel better.”
“You’re walking with so many people and, just, I think about what’s happening and I’m just…being surrounded by so many women, I mean, I got, like, teary eyed.” said Sarah, recounting her experience at the march in Florida.
Protesting is often seen as a public or group movement, but interviews with these students show that the Women’s March was also a very personal journey. And, when asked if they would do it again, the answer was a resounding “yes.”