Doctor’s (marching) orders

womxns-march-fotor-1Exposition

I typed up notes for this post in a flurry of activity after I got home from the Womxn’s March and then decided not to finish and post it. Enough has been said on this topic, I thought. But then I said it out loud, finger poised to click “delete post” and I thought, as though someone else had spoken, “Are you fucking crazy?” So here it is: the gajillionth take on the Womxn’s March. My hot take: A) I was in Seattle and B) I was marching for women who aren’t much like me.

Also, I was there at the behest of my doctor.

Let me back up. My mom and I see the same doctor. We also have both been laid low by anxiety and creeping dread (and out-of-control emotional eating) due to the election. We have lost friends, stopped talking to relatives (in my case), and (in Mom’s case) stopped attending a once-vital club, all due to Trump and his spiteful minions.

Mom told our doctor about her feelings of helplessness and sadness at a recent visit and she prescribed activism. She said that taking action would help in a way that pills would not. She said that she and her husband and a group of friends were going to the Womxn’s March in Seattle and that we should come.

So we did.

We took advantage of the fact that most of  our neuroses are sort of like puzzle pieces (I can’t drive on the freeway, Mom can’t drive in Seattle – she has no problem with the freeway, I have no problem with Seattle) and worked around the ones we share (neither of us can drive in the dark, so we stayed overnight).

Still, we were both nervous. But being there together we were able to pretend that it was excited-nervous and not shit-imma-puke-nervous. (Or at least I did. Maybe Mom wasn’t faking. She’s a lot tougher than me. At some point during the march she told me that it wasn’t her first – she and my dad had marched for union rights a few years back and there had been police snipers on the rooftops!)

Stewart? What the fuck, Amanda. You’re on Jackson. In the International District. Where you used to work seven years ago?

The skyline and my mom (center, pink hat).

A post shared by Amanda Sterling Fink (@sterlingfink) on

White Feminism

But this was all we had to overcome: nerves. Not even full-blown clinical anxiety. (And I’ve been there. There was a time when I was having a panic attack a week while medicated. Now I haven’t had one in a year and it’s been five or more since I was weaned off my medication.) But other women were prevented by much bigger blocks: disability, inflexible jobs, lack of child care, or disapproving significant others. I decided to deal with my low-level anxiety and march for them. This mindset, in fact, was crucial in getting me over my nervousness.

When current events feel overwhelming and personal and the fear and confusion make me dizzy I try to remember that this is what it is like every day for women of color, indigenous women, disabled women, trans women, gay women. This is new for me but daily life for them. And I get angry on their behalf. I channel the anger into phone calls, emails, research, and tweets.

It took me a long time to come around to feminism in the first place (because like most people I had been lied to about it all my life) and after that to figure out what “white feminism” is. White feminism isn’t feminism at all. Feminism is an equality movement. It is named for the party that is being repressed in exactly the way that Black Lives Matter is. OF COURSE ALL LIVES MATTER THAT IS IN FACT OUR POINT. But in practice they do not matter equally and both feminism and Black Lives Matter work to address the inequalities.

White feminism is “feminism” that excludes non-white, non-straight, and or non-cis women. White feminism is just as bad as the GOP party line because it says “issues that have never personally affected me aren’t problems and should be ignored.” I do not believe that just because I, a straight white cis woman, have never experienced discrimination due to the color of my skin, my sexuality, or my gender identity, that it doesn’t happen to other people. When other people tell me that bad things are happening to them I do not respond “Well, they’re not happening to me, so you must be lying.” I respond “That fucking sucks, what can I do to help you?”

If your feminism isn’t for all women then it isn’t for any woman but you – and that isn’t feminism at all.

If you are white and a feminist (as opposed to a white feminist) here’s what you can do: you can use your privilege for good. In fact, I feel that I have a responsibility to do so. If I am closer to the goal I will claw and scrabble to get it and then happily hand it around.

As the amazing lady feral said on her tumblr “I also know that once all of these police-hand-shaking white ladies finish taking their cute activism selfies and put their pink pussy hats away in their keepsake boxes, they’ll pat themselves on the back and then they WILL leave the rest of us hanging. Maybe literally. They will retreat into the relative safety that being white and cis and straight gives them and leave trans women and disabled folks and black women and queers and nonbinary folks and sex workers out here flapping in the fucking breeze.”

I don’t want to be that asshole. I don’t want that on my conscience.

Next time there’s a smaller rally, maybe one that will have counter-protesters and more cops, I will do my damndest to figure out a way to attend. (I used to be a genius at bus schedules – I didn’t drive until I was almost 20) and I will use my whiteness and cisgender as a shield and march with women who need to be heard.

Something I cannot repeat enough is that back in the day the majority of white people thought that the civil rights marches and demonstrations like lunch counter sit-ins and the Freedom Riders were unnecessary, disruptive, and/or counterproductive and should be stopped. Now, of course, those same people claim that they were supporters all along. They may even believe that they were. I want to be on the right side of history from the get-go, thanks. I don’t want people of the future trawling through the archives of this blog and my Twitter and tsk-tsk-ing at my hypocrisy.

Getting Emotional

This was a very peaceful demonstration, and catered heavily to white women, but it was still a good start for me and a lot of other women who had never marched for anything in our lives. Though I knew this was sort of Activism Lite I still felt empowered because there were so fucking many of us (the latest crowd estimate I heard was 130,000 and only 50,000 were originally expected) and I still felt solidarity because there were women marching on all seven continents (yes, Antarctica, too) and in tiny little cities where a march of fifteen people made up 23% of the population.

Indigenous women led us (specifically Indigenous Women Rise) and I will follow them to hell because they are stalwart in the face of injustices I cannot fathom.

I didn’t cry until approximately halfway through the route, just after we had turned onto 4th Ave. I looked up at the classy Prefontaine Building, the monolithic Columbia Center, and the absurdly phallic Municipal Tower and I got a lump in my throat and my eyes burned. I was suddenly overcome by the sensation that our 130,000 person march was at least one short. I knew that my late mother-in-law would absolutely have been there next to me, had she been alive to attend. She would have had the loudest outfit, the biggest sign. She would have hooted and hollered and brought a mob with her from the Cascade foothills in a convoy of minivans. She would have thrown glitter on everyone who marched and thrown kisses at everyone who waved at us and flown the bird at the three (count ’em three, just three) counter-protesters.

 

What I Learned

This is physical work. I smiled the whole time (excepting the five minutes I choked back tears about my mother-in-law), but Jesus, it hurt. The route was just 3.6 miles, a length neither my mother nor I thought excessive – but because we were packed in like sardines we could not take normal steps. We shuffled. I took probably four tiny little mincing steps for every one stride I would have taken when walking anywhere else. We began our exit from the starting point, Judkins Park, at 11:00 am and we didn’t hit asphalt until 1:30 pm. And the whole time we shuffled. I wasn’t able to take a normal-length stride until somewhere on Jackson Street. And at that point I had been moving abnormally for so long that the muscles in my thighs and hips were clenched tight and shuffling was all I was capable of. I had walked 3.6 miles but I felt like I had taken 10 miles worth of steps – but in miniature. My legs didn’t really work right for the next two days. I had to get a new pair of jeans when I got home because the shuffling, combined with my rather generous thighs, rubbed right through the crotch of the jeans I wore to the march.

This was easy. (I know, I know, I just said this was hard. It can be both.) This was a sanctioned march on an approved route, fully permitted. There were portable restrooms every few blocks. The police officers who lined the route were mostly parking enforcement officers. Most intersections had just one officer each, just there to keep people from trying to drive up side streets and into the march. They leaned on their cars. They waved. The scene was dramatically different than the impromptu, non-permitted protests we saw the night before from our hotel window. There were a dozen cops per block, the protesters wore black, not pink, and most of them ran. There was a shooting on the UW campus, for fuck’s sake.

Liquid antacid is hard to find. They didn’t have it at WinCo or the IGA. I had to go to a proper pharmacy. (Liquid antacid containing aluminum hydroxide or magnesium hydroxide, mixed with water, is recommended for washing pepper spray out of your eyes.) I didn’t need it, but I wanted to have it on hand because if I (or someone else) needed it we weren’t going to want to wait for someone to run to a pharmacy.

130,000 people wearing Gore-Tex are very loud even when they are trying to be quiet.

— Amanda

P.S. I didn’t know where else to squeeze this in, so here, have a picture of a doggy that smiled for the camera when we were assembling in the park.

womxns-march-fotor-2

P.P.S. I moderate my comments, motherfuckers. Nobody but support is gonna see your hate.