My Women’s March on Washington
As soon as I heard about the possibility of a Women’s March on January 21, 2017, I knew that I would be attending. Even before there was a name or a time or any feasible way for me to get there. See, planning and logistics are not my forte.
The national plans came together in astounding fashion, though not without hiccups or controversy. Like so much of what we pass for feminism currently, it was overwhelmingly white and middle class at the start. The movement was called at first the Women’s March on Washington, co-opting (and many would argue trivializing) the March led by Dr. King in 1963. There were no trans organizers, nor seemingly any plans to explicitly include trans women. How would disabled women be able to participate? Would permits come through? We the pink “pussy” hats being knitted en masse cute, rebellious, or just silly?
But women are used to navigating adversity and diversity and intersectionality on a daily basis. It’s literally just what we do. And women are amazing. So this kernel of an idea grew, molded and morphed and became possibly the largest demonstration in American history.
And, as planned from the start, I was there. I boarded a bus in Saginaw, MI at around 9 pm and rode through the night with a friend and dozens of women (and a few men) who I’d never met before. I was stocked with blankets and books and portable snacks, water bottles and gloves and phone chargers. I couldn’t sleep. I stared out into the dark and texted friends who kept asking “how is it going?” but there was nothing happening yet.I got off the bus every time we stopped. Somewhere in Indiana, I think, we pulled into a large gas station/rest stop and as I walked in for a bathroom break and Starbucks, I saw swarms of people waiting in lines and confusing the graveyard shift employees. I walked into the men’s room to avoid bathroom lines and it was full of women. That’s when I started to understand the gravity of what we were heading toward.
The scene on the ground in DC was chaotic is the kindest, calmest way. I linked, literally, with my friend LeighAnn and a mother daughter duo who we’d met on the bus. The crowd we lumped in with took a wrong turn somewhere early in the route and ended up behind the stage area. We did not hear Gloria Steinem or Angela Davis or Van Jones or Linda Sarsour or Michael Moore or Janelle Monae or Janet Mock until we watched YouTube videos on the bus ride home and I did not even know Madonna was in town until a friend asked later that night, “So you saw Madonna tell the president to suck her dick?” We did see Amy Schumer make her way to the stage and I spotted Chrissy Teigen chatting in front of one of the guest trailers. The celebrity worshipper in me was disappointed. But I’d made up my mind to be there long before I knew any recognizable names would be in the crowd. And so we soldiered on, forging our own path through the city.
And by “we” I mean thousands of us. Hundreds of thousands of us. From everywhere. With all kinds of concerns and anger and love. Elderly folks with walkers. Little kids with hand-written signs. Muslim women in hijabs. Lesbians. Trans women. Indigenous women in traditional garb. Black women. Hispanic women. Men who shouted “Your body, your choice!” Even on the ground we could tell how massive the movement was, every inch of every sidewalk and street was covered with people. Peaceful people. Angry people, but peaceful people. We’d learn later than not a single arrest was made. We’d also learn later that at least half a million people were in the streets with us and that nearly as many were in the streets of Los Angeles, Chicago, back home in midwestern cities like Lansing, and all over the world. We could feel it, though, when a chant or a cheer started on some street several blocks away and grew closer and closer enveloping the crowd and it went. We could feel it as we were part of the earliest crowd to reach the Ellipse and stood for a moment, with the White House looming behind us, and watched the grassy area fill with our compatriots. I felt it as I had to wait my turn for a coveted photo of myself standing in front of Trump Tower with my middle fingers up.
I felt it on the long busride home, where I still didn’t sleep and my muscles ached and my stomach wanted food that didn’t come pre-wrapped or from a drive-thru. It was a slow, foggy, sometimes precarious drive, my brain was too tired to search for metaphor in that. So I looked at photos from the March online and took calls from friends who wanted to know “how was it?” And when I got home I slept for what seemed like an entire day. And when I woke up Monday morning I said to myself, what now?
To be continued.
Christi Griffis is a writer and bonne vivante in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region's café society. Her twitter handle is @christig .