The night the Russia story broke (yet again) on January 11, I ordered an official Women’s March sweatshirt and asked a friend to march with me. It was a little act of resistance. I had watched as the march came together on a national Facebook group in the wake of the election, and kept watching over the following days and weeks as the regional march was organized here in Spokane. I was interested, but wasn’t sure I would really attend.
I have never done anything remotely like this. I am not a member of any political party, and have rarely voted a straight ticket. It’s true that over the past 20 years, I have come to identify more with the Democratic party than with the Republican party. This election, however, was about much more than party affiliation for me. And the reasons I marched on inauguration weekend were personal. Yes, this march was a response to the election. But it wasn’t about whining, being a sore loser, or promoting anarchy – and I certainly didn’t get paid. A week after the march, a friend sent me a private message asking me to help her understand what the march was really about and why I chose to participate. I appreciated her sincere question so much, and I have been thinking about it ever since. While I can’t speak for everyone, here are some of the reasons I felt it was important to make a public statement after this election:
- I marched in support of victims of sexual assault. Predatory behavior is not okay, no matter who does it. I want my daughter to know that. And my son.
- I marched in support of a safe work environment for every woman – one where her body is never a topic of conversation, let alone harassment or bullying.
- I marched in support of friends and family who are in minority groups – the ones who feel targeted and afraid.
- I marched in support of the women I taught at the community college in eastern Oregon. My students with Mexican heritage who taught me about doing hard work at jobs most Americans wouldn’t take, while attending school and parenting classes so that their children could have better lives
- I marched in support of the students I taught in a Women’s Program here in Spokane. The teenage mothers trying to finish their high school diplomas, and the newly single older women, trying to brush up their skills and get back into the work force. This program was dissolved after massive cuts to education.
- I marched in support of the women in my church who have been called to ministry by the Holy Spirit, only to be told that they won’t be equally recognized by the denomination because of their gender.
- I marched in support of women who need affordable, high quality health insurance. I spent five years with only catastrophic coverage in my twenties. By the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had full coverage insurance which gave me access to the kind of health care that caught my cancer early and allowed me to get the best treatment. It was still financially devastating. No one should have to face that diagnosis without comprehensive health insurance.
- I marched in support of women with pre-existing conditions, like a history of breast cancer. The ones who are fighting to stay healthy because they have things they need to do, people they need to care for, a life they need to live.
- I marched in support of lowering the abortion rate by providing women with easily accessible birth control and by making sure that there are social structures in place to support them after they have children.
- I marched in support of those same children who will need food, good education, safe housing, and healthcare – whether or not their parents are able (or willing) to support them. I believe that pro-life means we continue to advocate and care for those babies after they are born, as well as before.
- I marched in support of other Christians who refuse to have their politics defined for them based on one or two hot-button issues. The ones who have been bravely speaking up and the ones who feel they have to stay silent.
- I marched in support of my friends and former students in Ukraine – the ones who immigrated to the US and other places, and the ones who are now living in a country partly occupied by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
- I marched because I have seen what life is like under a corrupt government that is not accountable to anyone. One where bribes are necessary to get basic paperwork filed. Where the postal service is not secure. Where the only news comes from channels that are told what they can report. Where you have to be careful about conversations held in the privacy of your own home because someone may be listening.
- I marched in support of the values that I teach my kids: to be kind, to tell the truth, to be respectful even when you disagree, to stand up for each other, and to speak up when you see something wrong.
I wore a pink hat to the march, but it didn’t have ears. I marched for my own reasons, in my own way. As did millions in cities across the world. Here in Spokane there were women and men of all ages and backgrounds: church groups, feminists, families with kids, students and retirees. There was a friendly, easy-going solidarity in this huge crowd of strangers who smiled and waited patiently outside, missing the speeches because there were too many to fit into the convention center. We sang, we cheered, we marched. We realized that we were not alone – even in this conservative pocket of Washington. It was a response; it was a beginning. It was a buoyant, hopeful thing, and I’m glad I was part of it.