I’ve gotten to do some pretty awesome things in my life. I’ve traveled to lovely places, learned powerful ideas, married the love of my life, and even grew a person or two. Participating today at the Chicago Women’s March is very high up on my list of incredible life events. I shared this event with 175,000+ marchers on an unseasonably warm winter day. We crammed ourselves on trains, buses and cars to make our opinions known. Many carried signs, even more sported “pussyhats” our handmade signs of female empowerment. We filed onto Congress street to listen, and listen we did. A number of speakers imparted their messages to us through a PA system not equipped to reach the record number of ears present. Still, the crowd remained courteous to one another, chatting politely with those in their near vicinity, sharing as much of the speeches as we could hear. Eventually, the message reached us that due to the unexpected number of those who participated that day we would not be able to march. The crowd was told to exit, and without anger, the crowd followed directions and began to leave the way they were instructed. Disappointment was evident, but this group had agreed to a peaceful protest, and peace was what was kept.
As marchers turned with their signs towards the exits, they made way for those who needed to step in another direction. They let groups remain together without trying to push past them. In fact, I was not pushed or TOUCHED a single time by any of my fellow participants. The EXACT OPPOSITE WAS OCCURRING. People were patient. People were kind. People apologized. People turned around to care for the people behind them, announcing a step down, or a pothole. People took good care of one another.
As we exited, the march we all wanted became inevitable. A body of people, walking together for a common cause literally streaming down the famed Michigan Avenue and beyond simply CANNOT be anything but a march. Chanting began, signs were raised, voices were lifted, and our message was delivered. WOMEN’S RIGHTS NEED PROTECTION and American is prepared to use our democracy to defend them.
The women and men present today may have all been there for different specific causes or reasons. The women and men present today all certainly looked and sounded different from one another, but these differences didn’t make a difference today. Today the message that women’s rights are important was the uniting cause. And, we all banded together around that cause and respected one another. What has been labeled as an unpatriotic act, marching in protest, is quite the opposite. Peaceful demonstration is our democracy operating on its highest cylinders. Peaceful demonstration—around the US and THE WORLD—is a beacon of hope.
I shared some of my day with friends and family on social media (and I’ll share some pictures here too!) and received great support. And yet, I wasn’t blind to the backlash (there was very little present at the actual march along the route I traveled). The most difficult messages to read are those shaming women for their strength. Equally upsetting are those who shout that protesting against our government makes us look weak as a nation. I’m no math whiz, but 670 planned US marches plus nearly 100 more marches worldwide (with millions of collective participants) doesn’t look weak in any sense of the word. The truth is that America doesn’t look complacent to accept the “Make America Great Again” standard. As far as I’m concerned, an America without FULL women’s rights will NEVER be great. Today’s march, full of kindness, respect a renewed faith in democracy was pretty great.