I’m out of my usual mode...telling stories about funny adventures, parenting drama, or trips to the big house. It’s all because of what I witnessed in full-force last weekend, what I saw all over the TV, what ninety percent of posts on Facebook were about, and what I dressed in a pink camo hat and took part in. The Women’s March. In my entire life I never woke up on a Saturday morning knowing hundreds of thousands of women like me, not necessarily “activist types,” would be “Marching On Washington,” especially not the day after a Presidential Inauguration. As last week was building towards the world-wide eruption that ensued, I was thinking of the women traveling to Washington, DC! I had local friends driving and flying there and I was feeling very proud of them for doing their part, for standing up for our rights as American women, making their statement, “We will not go back!” They were marching to ensure that Trump’s administration knows they have no mandate to gut the advances made by women over the past century. Advances that greatly affect more than just women. United, my friends and others would march against sexism, racism, homophobia...and the list goes on. I concluded I, too, must march on. I must get involved.
I took part in the Ely March with about sixty other women, men and kids. It was a great turn-out for a planned “low-key” event that was expecting about twenty participants. There was much gained by our peaceful gathering, despite threats that we would be pelted with snowballs by some locals who objected. I read many Facebook posts over the weekend in regard to the marches, many from angry, cynical or defensive women who did not understand why people were marching. Some saying, “I am not a disgrace to women because I don’t support the women’s march. I have a job, I have freedom, I do NOT feel I am a “second class citizen” because I am a woman….” Then I came upon this compelling piece by Dina Leygerman, on Facebook, that really touched me. I will share most of it. (slightly edited).
“You Are Not Equal. I’m Sorry.”
“Say thank you to the women who gave you a voice. Say thank you to the women who were arrested and imprisoned and beaten and gassed. Say thank you to the women who put their lives on hold, who – lucky for you — did not have “better things to do” than to march and protest and rally for your voice. So you don’t feel like a “second class citizen.” So you get to feel “equal.”
Thank Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul for your right to vote.Thank Elizabeth Stanton for your right to work.
Thank Maud Wood Park for your prenatal care and your identity outside of your husband. Thank Rose Schneiderman for your humane working conditions. Thank Eleanor Roosevelt and Molly Dewson for your ability to work in politics and affect policy. Thank Margaret Sanger for your legal birth control. Thank Carol Downer for your reproductive healthcare rights. Thank Sarah Muller for your equal education. Thank your mother, your grandmother, your great-grandmother who did not have half of the rights you have now.
You can make your own choices, speak and be heard, vote, work, control your body, defend yourself, defend your family, because of the women who marched. You did nothing to earn those rights. You were born into those rights. You did nothing, but you reap the benefits of strong women who fought misogyny and pushed through patriarchy and fought for you. And you sit on your pedestal, simply accepting what you were given. A denier of facts. Wrapped up in your delusion of equality.
You are not equal. Even if you feel like you are. You still make less than a man for doing the same work. You make less as a CEO, as an athlete, as an actress, as a doctor. You make less in government, in the tech industry, in healthcare. You still don’t have full rights over your own body. Men are still debating over your uterus. Over your prenatal care. You still have to carry mace when walking alone at night. You still have to justify your behavior when a man forces himself on you. You still don’t have paid (or even unpaid) maternity leave. You still have to go back to work while you silently suffer from postpartum depression. You still have to fight to breastfeed in public. You still have to prove to other women it’s your right to do so. You are still catcalled. You are still told you’re too skinny or you’re too fat, too old or too young. You are still judged on your outfit instead of what’s in your head. What brand bag you have still matters more than your college degree. You are still being abused by your husband, by your boyfriend. You’re still being murdered by your partners.
You are still worse off if you are a woman of color, a gay woman, a transgender woman. You are still harassed, belittled, dehumanized. Your daughters are still told they are beautiful before they are told they are smart. Your daughters are still told to behave, even though “boys will be boys.” You are not equal. Your daughters are not equal. You are still systemically oppressed. Estonia allows new parents to take up to three years of leave, fully paid for the first 435 days. The United States has no policy requiring maternity leave. Singapore’s women feel safe walking alone at night. American women do not. New Zealand’s women have the smallest gender gap in wages, at 5.6%. The United States’ pay gap is 20%. Iceland has the highest number of women CEOs, at 44%. The United States is at 4%. The United States ranks 45th for women’s equality. Behind Rwanda, Cuba, the Philippines, Jamaica.
But I get it. You don’t want to admit it. You don’t want to be a victim. You think it’s not classy to fight for equality. I get it. You believe feminists are emotional, irrational, unreasonable. Why aren’t women just satisfied with their lives, right? You get what you get and you don’t get upset, right? You don’t want to believe you’re oppressed. Because that would mean you are indeed a “second-class citizen.” You don’t want to feel like one.
Open your eyes. Open them wide. Because I’m here to tell you, along with millions of other women, that you are not equal. Our equality is an illusion. A feel-good sleight of hand. I’m sorry to tell you, but you are not equal. And neither are your daughters. But don’t worry. We will walk for you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you. And one day you will actually be equal, instead of just feeling like you are.”
And so as we march into the beginning months of a new administration, like so many of you, I am greatly impacted by what is happening in our country. As I learn, becoming more involved in political activism, I’m not going to allow being labeled, being pelted with a snowball, or being the recipient of an angry Facebook post to derail me. I’m standing up big, red-headed and bold! Loud at times, humble at others. In the end, whenever it may be, I want to know my life and my heart stood for something of value.
Lynn O’Hara can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.