The night before boarding an airplane to meet my mother, aunt, and sister in our nation’s capitol, I stood in front of my kitchen sink, washing the few remaining dishes from my dinner earlier in the evening. I hadn’t packed. I’d been anxious about this trip for weeks. I’d been a bit emotional about all of this. Afterall, I loved having Barack Obama as my president. The first vote I ever cast was for him in the 2008 primaries, but time has marched on, and his second term was wrapping up. As I stood there with soapy hands, hundreds of thousands of people were converging to march on Washington in protest. Needless to say, this was not how I pictured it. It’s not how any of us pictured it. Even though I don’t have many Republican friends, I think it’s safe to say it’s not how they pictured it either.
I haven’t cried much about the outcome of the election, save the day after. Momentarily, I was the embodiment of that Facebook video from The Onion that’s been circulating lately- ‘Report: More Women Quitting Their Jobs To Pursue Lying Face Down On The Floor.’ I picked myself up, though, by November 10th. In part, I suppose, I did it because the world didn’t come to a screeching halt, and I did it because it just didn’t seem real; it didn’t seem like January 20th would ever come. But with each day, more and more disturbing information surfaced. With every haphazard tweet, skipped intelligence briefing, and downright alarming allegations, Inauguration Day inched closer.
And now here I stood, in front of my kitchen sink, and I found myself thinking of the women who came before me. In some ways, I’m glad my Republican grandmother passed away before reckoning with this vulgar candidate, insulting and mocking people in such a way that certainly would have made my grandmother blush and mutter “Oh gracious!” I can’t imagine her reaction to our now-President bragging about grabbing pussies on tape. Did she know the word ‘pussy,’ anyway? Would that have been a vocab lesson for grandma? Afterall, she didn’t learn about cunnilingus until Vanessa William’s scandalous resignation from the Miss America pageant in the mid-80s. Family lore, at least, has my grandmother gasping “I didn’t even know people could do that!” when she saw the nude photos at a family dinner one evening (courtesy of her college-aged son).
Of course she was only 19 when she married, and moved to my grandfather’s farm. They did travel quite a bit, and as seniors, they’d winter in Arizona, but essentially she stayed on that farm until she died from complications of cancer nearly 61 years later in 2013. She was a woman of her time. Often seen, and not heard. No education after high school, no bank accounts or credit cards in her name. Her whole world was contained on the farm. She had no experience that she didn’t share with her husband and four children. Except for her private, internal and lifelong struggle with depression. That was hers.
My grandfather’s mother, Lily, was a different kind of woman. A wild, free spirit. She moved to Montana at 10 years old, in the back of a stagecoach, to homestead with her family. She was whip smart and took no shit. She passed in 1998, and had spent the last 20 years of her life in the throes of Alzheimer’s, so I only knew her through stories. She was known for gardening nude and frequently imparting the wisdom, “There’s no better feeling than running naked in the wind.” But she was still a Republican, she was still subject to the confines of her gender and era.
What would these old Republican women think of the new Republican president? What would they think of their granddaughters and daughters marching on Washington? What would they think? Had anyone asked them that their whole lives?
In my own kitchen, washing dishes by hand, these thoughts flooded my mind, and the tears came. I cried for the women who came before me, who were robbed of so many choices we have today, and who may or may not approve of what we were about to do.
In the morning, I boarded the plane, and several hours later, landed in Washington. My sister lives there now, and had some friends who work for the L.A. Times staying with her in addition to our mother and aunt. While I was deplaning and making my way to my sister’s Southeast D.C. rowhouse, these reporter friends were outside an event called the ‘Deplora-ball’ (I’m sure you can guess what that was about…). Protesters had gathered and things were getting heated. The protesters got carried away, throwing eggs and rocks at people leaving the ball. When a man was hit and started bleeding from his head, the police moved in and the protesters raged against them. It didn’t take the police long to unleash a stream of pepper spray and tear gas on the crowd, including our reporter friends.
The next day, during the inauguration, the protests continued in D.C. We chose not to wallow in the events of the day and went wedding dress shopping, of all things, across the Potomac in Old Town Alexandria. While people were piling up and lighting fire to trash cans and newspaper boxes in D.C., I was shimmying into beaded sheath dresses and wading through layers of tulle. Late in the afternoon, as we were crossing the river back to D.C., a column of black smoke was rising up behind the Washington Monument. We’d later learn that protesters had lit a limousine on fire in the streets. I didn’t choose a dress that day.
Image courtesy of Matt Pierce, with the L.A. Times
The next morning, walking to the Women’s March, I asked my mother and aunt what they think grandma would have said about all this. After some discussion, we realized we just couldn’t know. It would have been very unlike her to abstain from voting, but we really couldn’t imagine her waltzing into her quiet, rural voting booth, and checking the box for a braggadocious, blowhard, reality T.V. star. My aunt, a Seattle-based OB-GYN who spent most of her adult life in a loving marriage with a now-deceased woman, said that one time, many, many years ago, my grandmother turned to her and said, “If I could choose any other life to live, I’d choose yours.”
Me, my mother, sister, and aunt, in our ‘pussy hats.’
My full sign reads: “White Silence = Violence”
So that day, we marched for my grandmother, and her mother, and her mother, for my grandfather’s mother, and her mother, and her mother. We marched for my father’s mother, who was abused by my grandfather. We marched for our friends’ grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and her mother, who did not survive. We marched for my aunt’s deceased partner, who spent her 20s working for D.C. law firms to advance women’s rights and reading Ms. Magazine. Most importantly, we marched for ourselves, our daughters and our future daughters, so they won’t have to hear people being maligned for doing something ‘like a girl.’ We marched for our sons, so no one will ever tell them boys don’t cry. We marched for trans people, so no one will tell them which bathroom is right for them. We marched for our gay sisters and brothers, so they can enjoy the benefits of marriage. We marched for victims of sexual assault, so people will believe them. We marched for black women, so they can stop seeing their men incarcerated on trumped up charges, or shot in the streets by those who are supposed to protect us, so they can see themselves reflected and celebrated in our culture. We marched for refugees and immigrants, so their children can escape violence and prejudice. We marched with babies, millennials, and senior citizens. We marched with Latinas, Jewish women, black women, Native Americans, celebrities, senators, folks in wheelchairs, and pregnant women. We marched with people in solidarity all around the country and the world. We most certainly marched with a future president, but only time will tell who she is.
We marched toward the White House, one million feminists. ‘We will not go away,’ we chanted, ‘Welcome to your first day!’ When the Secret Service stopped us two blocks away, the chant changed. “The White House is our house!”
Of course, Donald Trump barely acknowledged us. He didn’t hear our cries. He was too busy peddling ‘alternative facts’ and swearing up and down, in front of sacred monuments at the CIA, that his crowds were the biggest in history. I suppose he’s not wrong. We were one of the biggest crowds in history, and we were there for him, just not in the way he’d hoped.
In the week since, a lot of ink has been spilled about the Women’s March. Critiques, praise, and galleries have flooded the internet. Meanwhile, Trump has been busily signing executive orders to move on many of the issues we protested. He’s signed orders limiting abortion access. He’s signed orders to start the big, useless, expensive border wall, and tried to end sanctuary cities. He’s continued the war on our nation’s free press, spinning falsehoods and pushing lies to sow suspicion.
So we marched, but we’re not done. It’s clear that we weren’t heard, but we won’t just shut up. We won’t stop standing up for ourselves and others. We may not have voted for him, but he should make no mistake about it: he’s our president too. If he thought we were nasty before, he better buckle up, because we’re just getting started.
Here’s what you can do now:
- Call your representatives.
- Donate to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, NPR, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and subscribe to your local newspaper.
- Hey, maybe even run for office!