What a Women’s March Looked Like From the Inside

The first word I want to use is safe. It was also cold, colder than what I’m used to having grown up in the south. Winds whipped at us as we made our way through downtown El Paso. A man on stilts with a rainbow-striped tall hat marched with us. People waved signs claiming their freedom, independence, and rebellion. I walked with my best friend, clad in a knit beanie and scarf — a seemingly unlikely sight for winter in the southwest — with thousands of women, men, and children. I explored parts of my hometown on foot that I had never explored before. I stood with women I’ve never talked to, and probably never will. I marched.

If you’ve been on social media lately, this probably sounds like a familiar sight. As women’s marches erupted worldwide, I joined what I thought would be a small group of women from the borderland who support the same things as I do. I was wrong.

It was jarring seeing so many people in one place, walking in the middle of the street. We started at a neighborhood park in south El Paso and made our way to a downtown plaza; a 20 minute walk at most. Cops marched and rode next to us, just in case one of us got out of hand or did something dumb or dangerous. I believe that was what people expected us to do. I believe that was what some of them wanted us to do, so we could prove them right.

In a way, I guess we did. You don’t march because you’re happy or content; you do cause you’re strong and angry and hungry for a fight — a damning concoction powerful enough to bring hundreds of thousands of people together to fight for a cause.

I don’t want to focus on that though. I think by now everyone should have a good idea of what the women’s marches around the world fought for, so I’m not going to rehash that. Instead, I want to talk about this indescribable feeling of community I felt as I marched with my fellow females. On the inside, as I walked on my tippy-toes to see above the masses of human heads and shoulders, I became lost in a sea of female fighters. It was warm and empowering all at once.

On the inside, we were human beings united for causes we care about; a mass of bodies moving together toward a more accepting future. We were musicians pounding the same drum, dancers singing the same song, and activists in search of the same rights. We were people from different backgrounds, religions, and races, and it mattered for all the right reasons.

We were more than just a horde of people obstructing the normal flow of traffic, the usual Saturday schedule. On the inside, we looked like family. On the inside, we were best friends. Each other’s number one fans.

I’d imagined it differently the night before. In a crazy, cliched vision, I pictured us burning our bras at the end of stakes and throwing bricks through windows, rebelling more than we ever had. On the inside, we marched peacefully, some of us chanting and singing and playing music.

I waited a few days to write this, because I needed to process it. I needed the hype to have died down a bit, so I could sit with my words, uninfluenced by the blasts of social media posts on the matter. On the outside, you see what you want. You compare us to unrelated people. If you felt what the inside felt like, I don’t think you’d feel the same way.

Normally, I wouldn’t feel safe walking by myself in downtown El Paso. But even if the police weren’t patrolling around us, I would’ve still felt safe. It’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll quite feel again, not with everything changing the way it is. The other women built an unbreakable wall around me. I didn’t fear what many of them protested (I’m sure you can figure out what that is). On the inside, I was safe. And I hope I can feel that way again soon.