Disclaimer: I know women marching today have all sorts of reasons for doing so, so the opinions below are my own. But, I do think they’re representative of the heart of the marches.
Today, women’s marches are taking place all over the United States – and all over the world. I wish I could’ve joined, but I have a six week old baby. The idea of strapping her in her Baby Bjorn and trekking around downtown with her seems like a wonderful way to mold her young mind, but the reality of trying to feed, change, and soothe a screaming baby in the middle of a massive crowd was… not so compelling. Plus, taking an infant on the Metra? No thanks. So I’m home.
Although I didn’t physically attend a march, I’m so proud of all my fellow women (and some men!) who took the time today to do so. I’ve seen a lot of chatter around the purpose of this march: What is the official stated purpose of the march? Do I have to agree with every single stance the original organizers laid out, in order to participate? What exactly are “reproductive rights”? (sounds like an obvious question, but ask ten people and I’d bet you’d get ten different responses… maybe only subtly different, but those nuances are important.)
Just from the sample of women on my Instagram feed who are at the marches, I know there are many different answers to those questions among the attendees. Some may say they’re marching because they’re staunchly pro-choice and are afraid of access to legal abortion changing. Some are pro-life and would totally disagree with the pro-choice stance, but are marching to give voice to women who are victims of domestic violence. Some are men who are marching in solidarity with the women they love: mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, friends.
But no matter what the “official” stances are, or the variety of reasons the marchers have, it seems there is one underlying current that has brought all these women together – and at this time, right after the inauguration: the idea that women deserve respect and equality. We’ve just witnessed the election of a man who has not only disrespected and denigrated women, but also people of color, refugees, immigrants, people of different nationalities, the disabled, the LGBT community, and the list goes on. The over-arching idea of the march seems to be: YOU are important, loved, valued, and respected no matter who you are, and no matter what our president – and by extension, much of his chosen administration – thinks of you.
I was pregnant with my baby girl during the latter half of the election cycle. Side note: it’s insane that our election cycles are so long that a nine month pregnancy only accounts for part of it. When I heard either candidate speak, I heard their viewpoints through the lens of my impending motherhood. How would this person’s policies affect my child’s life? What will it be like for her, to see this person in power? What will she consider to be the qualities of a leader, based on how this person acts and speaks? How will this person shift culture, and how will those changes ultimately affect my daughter?
I have always been upset and concerned with the way Trump treats women. He has bragged about adultery, spoken to and about women in derogatory terms, and it seems he believes the highest compliment he can give women (including his own daughter) is about her beauty. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s wrong to compliment a woman’s looks, and I myself have found myself calling my daughter variations of “the most beautiful girl in the world EVER BY FAR, YOU’RE SO PERFECT” many times (followed by a reminder that acknowledging physical beauty is OK but her true beauty lies on the inside, and is manifested in how she lives and how she treats others. And yes I think she’s somehow internalizing all of this, even though she doesn’t even know her own name yet.). However, when looks are the first thing a man thinks to compliment (or insult) about a woman, there’s a huge problem. When men use a woman’s looks to give or take away value, we’re sending the wrong message to our girls and boys about what truly gives a person value. The problem is the false idea that a woman’s looks and sexuality are the primary things she has to offer, that her value is based on how men perceive her, and that – if she could only look different – she would be happier with herself. These things are lies.
As much as these comments disgusted me, (“blood coming out of her… wherever”) I was completely horrified by the Access Hollywood tapes that surfaced last fall. Totally taken aback. And I thought, surely this will be it. Surely this will sink him. How could so many people support a man who speaks of – and thinks of – women this way? And on election night, when I sat on my couch watching the returns and feeling my baby – due to be born weeks later – kicking me, I was stunned and so disturbed. So happy to be looking forward to her birth, but sad to be bringing her into the world at a time like this.
Committing and bragging about sexual assault were not enough to stop someone from becoming president. Plain and simple. And before you think (as many people do), “well Hillary was bad too!” – this isn’t about her. This is about him. And the acceptance and celebration of his backward and dangerous views about women (not to mention so many other groups of people).
I was so disappointed that I would be bringing a daughter into a country where you could treat women horribly, and not only get away with it, but ascend to the highest, most powerful office in the country. Where sexual assault was not a dealbreaker. This is so contrary to the heart of God, who loves us more than we can imagine… who deeply cherishes all people, regardless of what society says about us.
So today, as I sat in my gliding recliner and nursed my baby girl, I prayed specifically for her and for all the precious little girls I know. This was my small way of participating in a march. I may be nourishing her, but God is the one who loves and values her most of all, and I pray that she comes to know that. For all of these girls, I prayed:
In a society where many women are sexually assaulted: that they would be safe from harm, and that the boys and men they know and encounter would be respectful and not hurt them in any way.
In a society where many women are hurt by or die from domestic violence and gun violence: that my generation would continue fighting for a safer society, laws that protect women from violence and hold the perpetrators of it accountable, and easy access to help for women experiencing violence.
In a society where girls are often told – in both overt and subtle ways – that they’re less capable than boys: that adults in their lives would encourage them, nurture their talents and gifts, and let them know that their sex has no bearing on their value.
In a society where women want to have children but have too many barriers (financial, job-related, health-related): that we would be committed to affordable and accessible healthcare for all, and better maternity leave policies that actually value the parent-child bonding experience (which is incredibly important for strong, healthy families, and the social, mental, and psychological development of babies). That we would consider pregnancy, birth, and raising children not as “women’s issues” but as “human issues” that we should all care about, because they deeply impact the future of our society.
May the term “pro-life” not just mean “anti-abortion,” but may it come to stand for valuing life in all stages: in the womb, as babies, as school-aged children, and beyond. As a society, may we commit to supporting women as they’re planning to have a baby, pregnant, as new moms, and as moms who want to provide their growing children with the best lives possible. Side-note (are you sick of how often I’m writing “side-note”? I can blame this on sleep deprivation, right?): the whole pro-life/pro-choice argument is certainly a very important one and one that many marchers disagree on, and one I was planning to write about, but my child needs to be fed again soon, so I’ll write about that later. But for now, I will just affirm the value of life in all stages, and say that, in order for many of the pro-choice community to take the pro-life stance seriously, it absolutely must start putting the same energy into caring for babies and children who are born as it does into stopping abortions.
So for now I’ll just say, let’s keep getting better. I’ve heard and seen some comments that basically communicate: “hey, life is pretty good for you white middle-class women from the suburbs – what do YOU have to march about?” And to that I would say, the presence of overt sexism in our highest political office is reason enough. It’s a huge reminder that, although we’ve come a long way, there is still work to be done and minds to be changed. And relativity is not an excuse for inaction. You can be grateful for your life, and still be able to point out the injustices and demand better. And if you’re at the more privileged end of the spectrum, you can also use your voice to speak up for those who don’t have one. So, there is always a reason to call out injustice. Always.
Having a baby girl – in this time in history – is interesting. Before she was born, I remember thinking, as excited as I am about her, why am I bringing a kid into this messed up world? And I still feel fear for her future, for the (in some ways) insane world I’ve brought her into, for the pain she may go through in life. But I also feel so much hope. For me – and I think, for most parents – the act of having and raising a child is a hopeful thing. It’s like saying, I know this world is messed up, but it can be better. As long as humans are around, we have reason to keep loving people, keep investing in other people, keep contributing good things to society, and stay hopeful about what this world could be. It’s having the belief that, life is beautiful enough to want someone else to experience it, too. Having a baby is the most hopeful thing I’ve ever done.
And I think that encapsulates the spirit of the march: that no matter how hard life is, or how much injustice you experience, we can always, always have hope. We can hope for a better future for ourselves, but we can also hope for each other – especially when it’s too hard to have hope for ourselves. That is such a life-giving thing: to know that others have your back, and see your worth, and let you know it. And women do that so, so well, which is why it’s no surprise that so many women have turned out to march today. My mom and my girlfriends are some of the biggest reasons I can live my life confidently and boldly, knowing I’m loved and supported no matter what, and I hope and pray my daughter can say the same thing someday. And so, with that hope in mind, we march.