It was hot, much hotter than expected. I was glad that I left my jacket behind, but as it got closer to 12 pm, I wished I was wearing shorts.
When we arrived at the State Capitol in Austin, there were far more people there than I expected. I’m not sure what I expected to see at the Capitol, but I’m glad my expectations were far exceeded. There were women of all ages, from newborns to grandmothers with blue-white hair. There were dads and boyfriends and single men. There were women and men sporting LGBT pins or holding rainbow flags. There were teens and children — college students and groups of friends. There were people of the cloth, of different races, sizes, in wheelchairs, and from different places. There were liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Socialists, Republicans, and all that’s in between.
The signs were plenty — held high or down low as we moved about and I couldn’t help but get lost in the sea of positive messages. They played music in the background which was broken up intermittently by speakers talking. I and my two friends made our way to the middle of the crowd, holding our signs and sporting Fempotential shirts. The atmosphere was infectious. I felt happy, welcomed, safe.
We were all there for different reasons. Some of us just wanted to be a part of something bigger. Some wanted to show that women’s rights are human rights. Others marched for their respective identities — immigrants, people of different faiths or races, LGBTQIA, disabilities, etc. Some marched to remind Donald Trump and his new administration that we want a country of progress, not regress. There were those who marched for all of these reasons plus some.
I was there to march for myself and others. As a woman, I have experienced the gender wage gap, have been sexually harassed at work and in public, stalked by men, and told that I was less than because I was a girl or a woman. As a mixed woman of part Hispanic descent, I have dealt with racial discrimination first-hand. I also marched for my family. My siblings have identities that are at risk to discrimination and laws meant to deny them basic rights — LGBT, disabled, and Hispanic. I was there for my friends who have experienced racial discrimination, called the “n” word or told to go back to “their own country” even though they were born here. I marched for the women who have written for Fempotential, some of whom have been raped, sexually assaulted, verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, mentally assaulted, and never received justice when they sought justice with police or the justice system.
I marched because I want access to basic women’s health care and not be told what I can do with my body or what I should do. I marched because I’ve witnessed people make fun of my sister or other people with disabilities. I marched because my brother has been bullied online and threatened because of who he loves and who he is. I march because as crazy as it seems in 2017, there is legislation that is passed or tries to get passed that takes away my rights, my family’s rights, my friends rights, or even the rights of total strangers. And worse, there are laws that could be passed that could add more protections for women and other disenfranchised groups in the work place and public sphere — and are not, and therefore, allows for harassment, discrimination, and injustice against oppressed groups like women to continue.
As we waited for the march to start, we baked in the hot sun, but that didn’t put down our spirits. I couldn’t help but smile at the 70 year old women with their canes, standing ready to go, to march once again for their country (or for the first time!). Every once in awhile, a cheer would go up and it would reverberate through the crowd on all sides.
I didn’t know how large the crowd was, not until we began and it took us 30 minutes to get off of the South Lawn and onto the street for the actual march. There were people ending the march as we began. Numbers estimated at the Women’s March on Austin were 40,000 and I don’t doubt it. I’ve seen the aerial views. But there in the moment of the march, it didn’t feel so large. And by that I mean that this large country that I live in, the different types of people with different opinions, which can seem so large and separate sometimes, came together on those streets, and for those hours, I felt cozy and warm and comforted — and truly American.
There were no hecklers. No one yelled or did anything mean or ugly along the way. Marchers and police got along just fine. Kids were pushed in strollers or played on the South Lawn. It was a beautiful day and something that is beyond describable words. It touched a deep spiritual nest within me that doesn’t always get nourished in the throes of daily life.
But I will say, those feelings were slightly marred following the event when I went on Facebook to share pictures. I saw things — mostly from family or those from my home town, that were disheartening and I’d like to address that here.
First, I was very disappointed. Saddened, not mad, just extremely sad on a day that I experienced so much love from absolute strangers — and yet, the people I love or had loved were not doing so much of that in the online atmosphere because there is a lot of confusion surrounding the march and what it stood for.
To those women who have posted anti-March rhetoric on their Facebooks, I want to tell you, first, I love you. Now that that’s out of the way — for those who believe that the march was whining, or ridiculous, I’m sorry this is where you research into the march ended. This march was not to put you or your lifestyle down. It was not intended to make you feel less or convince you to be a feminist. It was not meant for you to do anything, feel anything, or be anything. It was just there for you to join if you wanted and not join if you didn’t want to. But I will say, that many of the marchers marched for you and for every other woman around the world; I know I did. This march was a means of uniting a world that is separated by a billion things every day, and for one day, it came together in a pretty cool, peaceful way.
If you felt the need to write a post defending yourself, your life, or to make comments in opposition to what you think the march was about, I want you to know that it is okay. I know it seems ridiculous to you that women are marching for their rights, but that’s because you probably live a wonderful life in which you’ve never felt like your rights were at risk — and that is a fucking (language is used for serious effect) beautiful thing. The marches were done in the hopes that every woman around the world feels like YOU FEEL EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE — safe, happy, proud, comfortable, and taken care of. Because the reality is, your reality is not the reality of every women around the world or even in your own community.
And I get why you wrote the posts you wrote. It’s scary to find out that what you thought was the norm — your life — is not so for all others. And for some reason, you feel the need to defend why you weren’t at the march or participating and that meant for you, separating yourself from the march and what you perceived it to mean and why you didn’t feel like you belonged there. (Which is saddening too, because your thoughts and beliefs were just as welcomed there as mine were).
And that’s okay. Now you may think this is crazy talk — just another marcher or protester “trying to sway me from my beliefs”, but that’s not the case. Believe in your beliefs, your thoughts of the world. I’m not asking you to change. I’m not asking you to march, and neither were any of the marchers or protesters. Because you don’t have to march, you don’t have to be political, or active, or woke, or aware, or prepared. That’s okay. We never expected any of that from you. You didn’t have to post on Facebook in support of us or against the marches, and you sure don’t have to draw a line between us and you — not in your life and not on Facebook. If you felt the need to separate yourself from us with a self-declaration (which was never expected or needed from anyone), I implore you to reflect on the why. We all want the same thing in this life — but we all have different methods for going about it. And the way I did it was to march.
I marched with 2.2 million people in the world on every continent in 300 cities worldwide on the same day. That’s impressive, no matter what the march was about to you or to me or anyone else, as such a thing has never happened before — not even for things you would think that could bring that many people together (like religion). I can’t impart how amazing it felt to be there, wearing my Fempotential shirt. The Women’s March is something that I will never forget. It has planted a feeling so deep within my soul, that it beckons me to continue forward helping my sisters and brothers and gender non-conforming humans to have a better life
as they all deserve.
I want to give a warm thanks to a few people in regards to the marches. First and foremost, to Christina Grant Burt. Thanks to her and her heartfelt donation, I was able to go to the march in Austin with two of my friends and we had an amazing time and feel even more empowered and inspired to give back to other women. So thank you so very much, Mrs. Burt — I hope to do for others what you did for me a thousand times over.
I want to also thank my two friends who joined me — Vanelis and Megan. We laughed, we cried, we ate Quiznos chips and we did something that will bind us for the rest of our life. I wish you so much love and luck in your respective journeys and thank you for supporting me and Fempotential.