Hello! Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 12 years and just now crawled out and somehow got yourself to a public library or internet cafe and taught yourself how to log onto the internet and started to type "how do I use this thing?" into your browser but instead only got as far as "h-o" and were miraculously re-routed to Hottsauceblog.com, and this is literally the first piece of world news or information you've read in over a decade, you're well aware that on Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America. And that the following day, Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of women and men gathered all around the world to express their hopes and fears over the new administration.
If you have, in fact, been living under a rock welcome and hello and OMG I must hear your story, what a wild adventure, and also yep, yep, and yes, Donald Trump is now the President of the United States of America. Uh huh, this guy. I know! Times are weird, huh? Wait, where are you going?? Oh, back under your rock? Eh...makes sense. Thanks for stopping by!
But yes, for the rest of you, you know the drill. You've seen the CNN coverage. You've read the backlash and the backlash to the backlash, and the frontlash, and the eyelash and now you have whiplash. But you haven't yet read MY thrilling account of the day so bust out your reading glasses and buckle up...because here it is.
I made the trip from NYC to DC with two of my besties, Maureen and Kathleen. We traveled by MegaBus Friday evening, a trip that was to take 5-6 hours and came in closer to 8, finally dragging into Union Station close to midnight. The bus was stuffy and bumpy and as we stopped and started down the Jersey Turnpike, it became warmer and warmer until finally, unable to bear the heat, one woman approached the driver to inquire about adjusting the heat, which he revealed to be a crisp 83 degrees. Oof. But from this discomfort emerged a warm camaraderie which would set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Nearly all of the other passengers were also headed down to the march, everyone with homemade signs and comfortable sneakers. When we finally did arrive in DC and emerge, blinking, from our brick oven of a bus, we saw dozens of other buses unloading fellow protesters, everyone buzzing with energy. I realized our bus parked right next to a bus marked with the emblem of the Chickasaw Nation, which had likely traveled in from Oklahoma, and I was awestruck -for the first, but not even close to last - time at the scope of the event in which we were about to participate.
Early Saturday morning we hit the streets, bundled in layers of heattech and spirited layered t-shirts - Kathleen had a homemade shirt with the slogan "Women's Rights = Human Rights" across the chest, and I wore my Unapologetic shirt, natch, the same shirt I wore to vote for Hillary Clinton and awkwardly interrogate the manager of the jewelry-thieving boutique in my neighborhood. Two equally momentous moments in women's history!!! After obsessively reading up on rules for the march, I had purchased a hideous clear backpack the only regulation bag allowed by the NPS, and filled it up with water bottles, because if I am one thing, it's a rule follower and if I'm two things, it's a rule follower who is obsessed with hydration.
But not quite as much as this guy, who is my new role model:
Not all heroes wear capes!
As we walked out the door we were greeted by a sea of women in the now ubiquitous pink pussy hats streaming through the streets. A man caught our eyes as we walked past, gave a grin, and said "give 'em hell, ladies."
And I'd like to think we did.
We arrived at the National Mall around 9:30 AM and finally dragged our addled bodies home as dusk began to fall. In between, we wandered from street to street, trying to take everything in. The march was a bit disorganized, I must admit, likely accounting to the massive swell of visitors. The day began with a rally featuring incredible speakers like Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, America Ferrara, and Michael Moore, and musical performances from Solange (omg), Katy Perry, and obvzzzz the Indigo Girls. Cell service came in and out throughout the day, but I managed to catch some just enough for my brother to text that Indigo Girls performing at a Women's Rally is the center square in Feminist Bingo.
El. Oh. El. Too true.
I am disappointed we didn't get to catch much of the rally, I really would have liked to see or hear more, but it was fun just to soak in the energy. As many people have remarked, the vibe was so, so, positive and polite. Everyone was elbow to elbow, constantly bumping into one another, and each time, the women would turn to each other and apologize. Kathleen, Mo, and I cracked up each time, referencing this classic Amy Schumer sketch, only to find ourselves blurting out "omg sorry!" the next time we turned around. People were sharing snacks, helping one another cross streets, high fiving cops, at one point a group was trying to cut through a large mass of people standing in the street...and they walked ON THE CROSSWALK! It was adorable. Anne Helen Petersen, one of my favorite writers, penned a really thoughtful piece about how the symbols of this particular march - homemade hats, signs, regulation backpacks - represented how inherently feminine this march was. Worth a read!
Finally around 4 PM, after having been out and on our feet for coming on eight hours, we decided to call it a day. We'd been so ensconced in our little cluster of folks right around the National Mall that we thought we were it. But as we elbowed our way out of the crowd, we realized we were just one of many mini-marches streaming all over the city. As we headed out, groups were pouring into the main area, blasting music, chanting, dancing. For several blocks in all directions the streets were blocked off, bars and restaurants open to the street, women in pink hats as far as the eye could see. It was truly incredible to be part of.
And then we went back to our hotel and were rewarded by a beautiful cable TV lineup consisting of a Lindsay Lohan marathon (Mean Girls and The Parent Trap) followed by Frozen. There is a god and she is good!
But more on the march! Among the protesters, we met a group of young women from Hanover College in Indiana, Mike Pence's alma-mater, who traveled 12 hours by overnight bus, doing their homework on their laps, to protest against the ideologies of their now famous (or shall I say infamous) vice presidential alum. We met women who'd traveled in from California, Georgia, Maine, Boston, Oregon. We chanted alongside the funniest young girl named Saja, who led the crowd in enthusiastic rounds of "not my president," hilariously throwing her whole body into the cheer.
The crowd was heavily skewed towards female, but a lot of men joined too. There were older women relying on walkers who still stood up and marched. Parents with babies strapped to their backs or in strollers. We marched next to a middle aged man in a wheelchair who wore a tshirt with "Donald eres una pendejo" emblazoned across the front. Feel free to Google Translate that ish!
I could have spent the entire day just reading people's clever protest signs. A large amount were focused on reproductive health, including several VERY anatomically correct reproductions of female genitalia and two gigantic papier-mache bloody tampons. But not all were quite so, um, graphic, with many bearing general female empowerment slogans, funny memes, or focusing on the enormous list of issues women fear will be threatened under the new administration: climate change, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, immigration, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, protection against domestic violence and sexual abuse.
One criticism the march received was a lack of a central theme - what are these angry women protesting, anyway?? And it's possible to look at this wide range of protest signs and say, you know, "pick one thing and stick to it!," but to me, it's an impressive, visual reminder that women's issues are WORLD ISSUES. And to downplay them as just, well, bitches bitchin' is a risk to our communal well being.
There were a fair number of others which poked fun at our new president, including one featuring ACTUAL CHEETOS, which I failed to photograph, many making digs at his close relationship with Russia, and this one which of course spoke very deeply to me:
FOR REAL THO.
And though the day did carry an air of Anti-Trumpsim, with the crowds erupting into hilarious chants like "He's orange, he's gross, he lost the popular vote" and, my favorite, "We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter," it wasn't just about him. There really was an overwhelming sense of communal forward energy, of women (and men, but mostly women) who have been quiet for too long finally speaking up.
One of the other of the main criticisms (oh, and there have been many) (some likely valid, I'm sure!), lobbed at the march in the past few days has been on this theme: "Where have you been before this?? Why are you just getting mad now??" This question comes from two distinctly different groups. First, from people who generally seem annoyed by the march and consider protesters "crybabies," who I would politely ask to mediate on the cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back" and also email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they'd like to discuss in depth in a civil way. But the second group is one I want to really take to heart, and this comes from groups of women who have been fighting on the front lines of justice for women, primarily non-white, non-straight women who have had to wage daily battles for their rights which I just haven't had to go through. Here, here, and here are a few pieces I've been meditating on, if you think this might be something for you to consider, too.
These two photos were making the rounds on social media following the march and have been lingering heavy in my mind as I map out my action plans for the coming days. I have not been as active or as vocal as I could have been. There's that saying "put your money where your mouth is," but the problem is, I kind of need to put my mouth where my money is. I've happily given as much as I can financially to causes I believe in. But I have yet to march in a Black Lives Matter rally. I just voted in a mid-term election for the first time this past fall and mostly only so I could show off about it on Instagram. I do call my senator every time there was a mass shooting (so like, once a week), but I never really follow up, I just kind of check it off the list and move on. In high school and college I used to be so active in community engagement and then when I moved to New York I just kind of stopped. I'll do some outreach here and there but I've never made it a cornerstone of my life the way I used to and I'm ashamed of that.
I suppose I have Donald Trump - and Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan, and Betsy "Dolores Umbridge" Devos, and the whole motley, racist, misogynist, homophobic crew - to thank for ultimately being the straw that broke my back, for lighting the fire that's been simmering inside of me, untended, for all of these years. I'm fired the fuck up. And should I have been protesting years ago? PROBABLY. Could I have been better about being engaged with the community? FOR SHEEZY. But is it too late to get started now? Is it too late to make a change? is it too late to apologize? No, Justin Bieber, it's never too late. Don't tell me what I can't do!
And I'm saying this both because it's like, a rah-rah, inspiring end to this blog post, but also, mostly because of accountability. Studies show that if you tell a people you'll do something - go on a diet, quit smoking, whatever - you may be more likely to actually go through with it. And anecdotal data has shown that I, personally, am very motivated by a fear of letting people down or being considered a failure. And also by attention, ha. So I figured if I told all of the millions of people who read this blog (hey mom!) that I was going to try to become a better citizen, well, maybe I would.
Now tell me - did you march? Where? How was it for you? How are YOU taking action and accountability in the coming days? I'm all ears for suggestions! Conversely, do you have totally different viewpoints that me and want to have a respectful discussion? I'm working hard to be a better listener, so I'd really love to hear from you.
Fired Up, Ready to Go -