The 2016 presidential race felt like an onslaught of America’s worst politicking with gender attacks, political infighting, class warfare, religious scapegoating and racism so thinly-veiled it seems too generous to call it dog-whistle politics. The Women’s March felt like an immediate and necessary salve for this. I had a to go. It had a theme. It had a manifesto. It allowed me to put my body in the streets, surrounded by thousands of other bodies each full of their own fire. It was imperfect, but it was action.
Growing up as a millennial, I’ve had near-constant access to technology and the 24-hour news cycle. This sounds empowering, but it’s not. It’s overwhelming. I studied government, and then environmental policy in graduate school, and yet I felt unsure of how to act in any meaningful way. I’ve seen millennials characterized as politically apathetic; my take is that we feel politically impotent. We’re inundated with news about how our social and political structures fail our most vulnerable communities, and yet we’re raised in a country that has an inherent distrust of government and offers no clear alternative for individual action.
I don’t want to wax poetic in describing the March as a watershed moment. Individuals and groups have been doing this type of work constantly and tirelessly. Black Lives Matter protests were happening before the Women’s March, and have happened since. But the shared shock at the size of the Women’s March was probably due to the fact that many groups in America are able to live oblivious to — or at least greatly sheltered from — the woes affecting other groups who don’t look like or live near them. It made the sudden grouping of millions of individuals in social protest feel like a flash flood.
In many ways, the Women’s March did feel like the rewinding of a stalled clock. Women marched, and then called their Senators weekly, and encouraged others to do the same. They marched, and then they donated. They marched, and then they volunteered. They marched, and now they’re running for office.
‘I realized I was not as #woke as I thought’