White women coming to my city for the Women’s March: This is what I want you to know

This isn’t a party. This is people’s lives.

This weekend, thousands and thousands of people will be descending on my little city to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump. Feeling recently ignited by Trump’s election, many of them are new to protest. It’s great that so many women feel empowered and newly engaged. But feeling empowered to show up to a march is only half the battle.

As I watch women gleefully make signs and shirts in preparation for the big event the way I used to while tailgating the big game in college, I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable. A Trump presidency is a scary thing for a lot of people. If his policies come to fruition, the most marginalized among us could risk deportation or death. People’s lives are on the line. Show bold resistance, but remember that this isn’t a fucking party.

I’ve been protesting in favor of a host of progressive causes in DC for many years. The vibe can go from carefree to intense without warning. If you’re new to protest you may not know that all protesters are not created equal in the eyes of law enforcement.

If police make arrests — or worse — it’s marginalized people who will face the brunt of it. So if you’re an able bodied cis white lady excited to show off your snarky shirt, keep in mind that many Black, brown, undocumented, disabled, and Trans folks are putting their actual lives on the line by attending an event like the Women’s March at all. Be mindful of your role in all this.

I’m reminded of when community elders reprimanded white protestors dropping in at Standing Rock this fall for treating their life or death battle like Coachella, coming in to get the perfect Facebook picture of them “showing resistance” while actually making the action harder for the very people whose lives were on the line. Don’t be gleeful in the face of marginalized communities and their pain.

Yes, protest can be fun and protest can be cathartic. But you need to remember why you’re coming DC in the first place. And I hope it isn’t just to show off the Nasty Woman shirt you bought on Etsy. I hope it isn’t to get a cute picture of yourself with a knitted pussy on your head. Our situation is really bad; we can’t snarky tee shirt our way out of it.

Image: NotThisWhiteWoman

Another uncomfortable truth? 53% of white women voted for Trump.

I can understand the desire to use your attendance at this march to show that you’re not one of them, but what does that accomplish other than making yourself feel better? My advice is to not center yourself too much. This is not your big moment to show everyone how progressive you are. A lot of marginalized people are now at risk because of white women voters. Don’t spend too much time patting yourselves on the back if you didn’t spend the time trying to talk to your sisters, mothers, aunts, and cousins before the election.

Remember that a good “ally” doesn’t take up too much space. An “ally” doesn’t make everything about them. I’m sorry white women, but some of you helped get us into this mess. Perhaps it isn’t your voices that need to be amplified in the aftermath.

Remember that here in DC, the mood is somber. Many of my DC friends aren’t excited for the march at all; they just feel exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed. If you’re busing into DC from wherever and leaving when the weekend is over, remember that many of us live here. This is our home. We’ll be dealing with the Trump administration in our city for the next four years. Be respectful of this while you’re here.

If I’m being honest, I’ve always been conflicted about the Women’s March. I was skeptical when they started making unexplained changes to their platform to exclude sex workers and even more so when they partnered with an anti-choice women’s group and then un-partnered with them with no explanation.

I was skeptical when I saw similar ally theater being performed in the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group being mistaken for genuine action. It may feel cathartic, but getting that perfect picture of yourself in a Nasty Woman shirt at the march isn’t going to help the marginalized communities who are now at risk.

Despite all this, I am still planning to attend the march this weekend and I don’t begrudge anyone else planning to do so. I also don’t blame those choosing not to go. Jamilah Lemieux wrote beautiful piece about why she’s opting out. But I know why I’m attending. I’m attending because in the era of Trump I need to believe in the power of women and I need to show up for it too. Margaret Meade once said that you should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Despite my reservations I’m attending because I need to believe that she was right.