We got to the March late. After three hours at customs, we were delayed and knew we were missing the first hour of speeches. Luckily, we also missed much of the morning traffic into Washington as our bus got close to the blocked off area. The first group we saw were all young girls wearing pink hats crossing the street. And then another and another. Welcome to the Women’s March on Washington.
Before leaving Windsor, we were met mostly with folks who were concerned or miffed. Many of the women on our bus of 56 had never taken part in any political movement before. From the peanut gallery, we heard that we were wasting our time and we should be concerning ourselves with issues at home.
At the March, I was surrounded shoulder to shoulder. The March gathered speakers from different movements and organizations with the common theme that these are all women’s issues: immigrant rights, justice system reform, trans rights, Black Lives Matter, and many more. If you are fighting for women, you have to be fighting for all women.
“If shit ever goes down in Canada,” one woman said, “we got your back too.” Solidarity with American women was our main priority and we wanted them to feel the neighbourly support. However, the election and the subsequent win brought to mind the old quip that living next to the U.S. is like “sleeping with an elephant.” In the week that followed the Inauguration and March, the effects of ‘America First’ feel more and more global.
What did the Women’s March accomplish? I heard that question even before we left. Legislation moves forward with public support and historically, successful social movements have an active and vocal branch. This new President doesn’t seem too concerned with public support. This mass of people will hopefully be empowered to take on politics in an active way. I don’t know what the March accomplished right now, but the dialogue around these issues has gotten louder. We will see in a few years what grew out of the seeds planted on January 21st.
The March brought up uncomfortable conversations for many middle class white women, myself included. Being called out for exclusionary behavior like not listening to women of colour or ignoring social issues that have been active well before the 2016 Elections was a wake up call. This is an opportunity to grow and do better. The real accomplishment of the March will be if we expand into strengthening other movements through our time, votes, attention, and money.
Here is a post-March action plan: read a book. Read a book about people that are different from you. Read a book written by someone different from you. Get involved in politics in a tangible way: attend a city council meeting, write letters to your politicians, run for office, knock on doors. Learn about and get involved in issues local, provincial, national, and global. Maintain the true Canadian value of multiculturalism and actively reject those who want to divide us. Use Twitter to listen. Support and lift up women wherever you can.
Let’s put on our Pussy Hats, lace up our boots, and get to work.