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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

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Welcome to Your First Day

The Women's March, and beyond.

January 25, 2017
 
 

Last Friday I boarded a plane to D.C. with my grown children, Nick and Katie. We walked on with a smiling mother/daughter “team” and confirmed that we were all heading to the same event—the (now) historic Women’s March on Washington. During the flight, a woman raised her fist at the front of the plane, and 75 other women responded in their seats, raising their hands and whooping together (even though they’d never met before).  This bonding moment was a precursor to the remarkably peaceful but energetic, artsy, and empowering experience last Saturday, Jan. 20th in the nation’s capital. A diverse body of a million women, men and children chanted to the new administration, “We will not go away.  Welcome to your first day.”

No protest is perfect. The initial organizers for the Women’s March received negative attention for not including any women of color in the planning process, for disinviting an anti-choice women’s group, for being too “neo liberal,” not being “real” activists, etc..Even the fact that no arrests were made (I saw police officers wearing pink hats) could be read as a sign of white privilege dominating this large event. But organizers addressed many of the early criticisms with an impressive and diverse lineup of speaker/performers. One noted moment--talented actress/singer Janelle Monae, spoke first of slain women of color (Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna) and then led the audience in a call and response. While Mothers of the Movement spoke the names of their dead sons (Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner) shot by police officers in questionable circumstances, Monae directed the audience to, “Say their Name!”

Combined with “sister” marches in other U.S. cities and around the globe (Yeah Antarctica!), attendance broke records and surprised even the organizers. The crowd filled the D.C. Mall area so fully that there was barely room to march.  We stood in close quarters for hours, with no place to sit. Many were unable to hear great speakers like Angela Davis, Alicia Keys or a raspy Madonna commenting on live television that Trump’s election should help us to “Wake the f—k up.”  Despite a few inconveniences, though, diverse demographics were everywhere at the event. For every young marcher, there was a mother and a grandmother standing next to them, often leading their fellow marchers with cheers and song.

Many mothers, such as myself, came to the march upset that their daughters (and sons) are growing up in a new media world where sexual harassment and assault are cynically dismissed as ideas created by people who don’t appreciate “locker room talk.” But I found some humorous relief from this atmosphere of misogyny at the march when I saw costumed women dressed as early feminists, carrying signs, “Party like its 1917 (all over again)!” Or I sensed shared empathy when I spotted the sign, “Mamas marching for all our children!” From the stage we heard from the still vital eighty-year-old Gloria Steinem and the amazing six-year-old immigrant rights activist Sophie Cruz. The event was inspiring -- if you could hear it. The program is entirely online in case you could not.

But now comes the real work. Two days after the event President Trump signed an order (Reagan and Bush also signed) ending federal funding to international NGOs that provide or “promote” abortions. Yesterday he “banned” EPA employees from speaking to the media or tweeting. 

What’s tomorrow? Ending the NEH and NEA?  If a million women can get themselves to D.C. for a protest, then we can also call or write their congressperson or read Stay Woke’s Resistance Manual. Perhaps look over Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, attend the “Left Elect” conference in Chicago or consider running for office?

Get ready. We’re starting Day Six.

 

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