The Future is Female: A Report from the Women’s March

On Saturday, women, men and children marched in every state in the nation and all around the world. They made history. My husband and I marched in New York City, and it was a remarkable day. The numbers are still being counted—reports are that it was one of the biggest, longest (10-12 hours in New York), most peaceful, and inspirational events ever.

In the crowd, which began gathering early in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations, people waited patiently and even cheerfully for the speakers to kick off the March at 11 a.m. Standing near us was an impressive range of people—women and men, elderly, middle-aged and children, Latino, black, white, East Asian, and Muslim. We snapped pictures of ourselves and each other, noting our favorite signs: a man carried one that said, “Free Melania!”—a little girl had one that said, “When I grow up I will vote.”

The speakers were introduced by actress Rosie Perez, whose fellow celebrities included Dame Helen Mirren, who said “Today I am a New Yorker,” and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as activists of all types. Sen. Chuck Schumer waded right through the crowd giving high-fives to fellow marchers.

Finally the bell of the church tower struck noon and the march began. Except it didn’t. There were so many people gathered on 47th Street, and around the corners on First and Second Avenues, where the crowd stretched farther than we could see, that the protest remained where it was for an additional 90 minutes.

Still, the mood remained buoyant. There was an atmosphere of hope, inclusiveness, and empowerment, as in the old  ’60s-era protest song, a feeling that “something’s happening here. . .”

Adding to the positive feeling, music was piped in through the speakers as we waited, and when the woman-wronged classic “I Will Survive” was played, the crowd sang along, raising fists in solidarity.

The men in attendance, and there were lots of them, were not intimidated, they were with us, though one held a sign that said, “My wife is a Muslim and she’s not a terrorist, but I’m still afraid of her.” Another had a sign that read “Usually I’m not a sign kinda guy, but jeez!”

The women’s signs spanned a huge range, including “Huuuge . . . mistake,” but many emphasized the need to protect our rights our bodies, and our health care.

Many of the older women had marched before—for women’s rights, civil rights, peace, etc., but there was an air of a new beginning Saturday. Women are tired of being at risk in this country: at risk of sexual assault, at risk of losing reproductive freedom, at risk of not having a full voice in their democracy. A few blocks away, my daughters and their boyfriends also marched. They are too young to remember the dark old days of back-alley abortions or Jim Crow laws, but they saw what happened in November when people did not fully appreciate the fragility of the progress we have made.

Numbers are being disputed, and it is important to stand and be counted in a careful way. If you attended a march, you can text the number 89800 and write the words COUNT ME. Michael Moore, in Washington, told the crowd yesterday to call their local representative every day if necessary, to express your views. He even made them memorize the phone number of the U.S. Capitol: 202-225-3121.

Women are tired of being passed over, ignored, and even abused. Many who felt the swell of emotion in the crowd Saturday are predicting a new movement championing equal rights for all. Women can do anything they put their minds to: this march itself was the brainstorm of one retired woman in Hawaii in a Facebook post. There’s a lot of work to do, and who knows, it may be that somewhere in that crowd was our first woman president.

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  • Pauline January 23, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks so much for this front lines report. Great photos, and great to know that Women’s Voices for Change is standing up for us!