By Alexis Book
I participated in Buffalo’s Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21 with thousands of men and women from the city that I love. As a “sister march” to the Women’s March on Washington, Buffalo’s march and rally joined over 3 million marchers worldwide to promote solidarity for women’s rights and express opposition to President Trump.
The (mostly) peaceful protests spanned across the globe, in every continent.
Despite the widespread support for this movement, many critics of the protests questioned why the march was happening. Some reduced the demonstrations to another temper-tantrum thrown by the left, while others insisted that the rallies were unnecessary because women already have equal rights.
Both assumptions are wrong, and both pissed me off.
Peaceful protests are an important foundation to successful democracy. There were critics of the civil rights protestors of the 1960s and there was opposition to the women’s suffrage movement. When we look back on 2017, will our protests of today be seen as heroic advocates for justice or as angry leftist crybabies? History suggests to me that it is the critics of today who will be critiqued in the future.
But, for now, I feel the need to explain why I marched last Saturday and why I will continue to march until my soles are worn and my throat is scratchy and dry.
I march because I believe that as women, it’s important to be loud and take up space. To demand that we are afforded the same rights and happiness as our male counterparts. To do as we’ve always done and stand hand-in-hand with our black and brown brothers and sisters and our friends and family in the LGBTQ community and fight against those who want to oppress us.
I march because when we take to the streets to peacefully protest, it is assumed it’s because we are lazy. Some assume it’s because we don’t have a job. That the working class are, of course, hard at work on a Saturday morning, while activists for women’s rights are skipping out on our American duties to attend these events.
I march not because women “need a handout” or deserve greater rights than men, but because I know that women work hard to keep the rights that we have. We are a nation of women who work multiple jobs while attending school, but remain unable to pay off our debt. We are a nation of women who will raise the next generation of Americans, but cannot afford the health care necessary to keep a healthy and happy home.
I march because there is so much opposition to feminism, from men and women.
The people who do not understand this (incredibly widespread) movement expect that we give them all the answers. However, it is not a woman’s job to explain their injustices to them. It should be their job, as well as their pleasure, to do the research themselves and understand the plights of their fellow citizens.
If you are amongst those who question why millions of women marched, I encourage you to read a book about the socialization of gender or the history of the feminist movement. I recommend you volunteer at a women’s shelter and to take time in your day to seriously question and wonder why women and children are consistently the poorest members of our society.
Maybe you believe you don’t need to do that, because you have already formed a counter-argument to every point I will bring up. You’ll insist that women don’t apply themselves or aren’t applying to well-paying jobs, or that they sacrifice pay in favor of taking care of their children. If that is what you assume, stop and think again. Think about why traditionally more “feminine” jobs are underpaid or why you associate a career with a gender in the first place. Think about why men don’t typically sacrifice work hours or promotional opportunities to take care of their children and why women are expected to be educated, domesticated, hard-working, and maternal in order to be successful.
I march because there are too many people who think that feminists are hated because they “can’t take a joke” or take themselves too seriously.
If anyone can explain to me why a joke about sexualizing women, sexually attacking women, or reducing women to nothing other than domestic figures is funny, I would love the opportunity to laugh. Maybe my small woman mind just doesn’t understand it yet. So, please, go ahead. Give me something to laugh about.
I march because I believe that the “meninists” of the world who assume feminists are asking to have “more rights” than men are clearly misunderstanding the feminist agenda. I march for men, too. I march so men aren’t reduced to their height or size of their genitals. I march so that as a society we can encourage or men to feel emotions and not be ashamed or belittled for not fitting the typical male stereotype. I march so that men and women can enjoy their lives without the constraints society has placed on gender.
I march because America ranks 28 out of 145 countries in the “Global Gender Gap,” which measures gender equality in terms of health, education, economy and politics.
I march because we are far behind other developed first world countries in gender equality, but people still insist we should shut up and be grateful for the rights America gives us.
Because saying that we have it better than other countries is a lame a excuse to stop progression in America. Feminism is a global movement. Together, we fight for the justice of all women. We can fight for the victims of genital mutilation in Africa while also demanding education for women in Pakistan and requesting affordable access to contraception and reproductive freedom across the globe. We can ask for paid maternity leave (and paid paternity leave), the enactment of an ERA, the ensurement of equal pay, without being ungrateful for the rights we are afforded.
I march because until my peers do not elect a president who jokes about infidelity (while supporting Vice President Pence, who believes it is not serial-cheaters like Trump who ruin the sanctity of marriage, but the LGBTQ community), undermines the purpose and quality of a woman who is not traditionally attractive, and brags about grabbing women by the pussy, I will demand America treat its women better.
Of course, I will continue to march for the next four years because it is still necessary to convince our peers, our Congress, and our president, that as women, we matter.
But at the end of it all, in the depths of my soul, I really march for a much more selfish reason. I march because it gives me hope.
In a world where Odyssey articles are the standard of how feminism gets talked about, it can be difficult to not feel hopeless sometimes. Being around like-minded men and women with the same dreams and aspirations as mine is inspiring. Seeing women with gray in their hair and canes in their hands, the women whose mothers gave us the right to vote less than 100 years ago, insisting that we aren’t done yet, makes me feel proud. Marching gives me hope and without hope, I don’t think I’d have the strength to get through these next few years.
I march because I will not sit idly by. I march because you may not understand me, but never again will you dismiss me.