If you read my most recent post, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with how to balance activism and staying informed about the current state of events in our country with my own mental health.
I struggle with whether or not I’m just using it as a crutch or an excuse. I struggle with guilt in not participating in ways others are.
As the Women’s March approached, I wrestled in my mind with it. While I now live less than 100 miles from Washington D.C., I am nowhere near my amazing, strong feminist friends. And I have pretty crippling anxiety regarding crowds and loud places. So the idea of going to one of these events, let alone by myself, seemed impossible. There were some smaller events locally, but even the idea of going to one of those stressed me out.
And so I stayed home, glued to social media. I was inspired and energized and filled with love and hope, witnessing literally HUNDREDS of my friends attending these events all over the country and even world.
I found a livestream of the event in DC and watched that for four hours straight (I missed the first two), with tears streaming down my face for a large portion of the time.
I was so inspired by the intersectionality of it all. (Read my post a regarding intersectional feminism and why mine always has been here!) I recently listened to a podcast (I think it might have been Another Round, but they may have also talked about it in Call Your Girlfriend) in which they interviewed several of the head organizers of the Women’s March. When the idea first came about for the march, people moved quickly. There had been some discussion and criticism that it was going to be a “white feminist” event, which was never the intention, and the committee quickly filled out with people of all identities, orientations, religions and ethnicities. And it was so clearly evident as I watched the event.
The list of speakers was extensive.
A woman named Donna Hylton, who had formerly been incarcerated for nearly 30 years spoke. She is now a Criminal Justice Reform activist, and as she talked, I was moved to tears. She called out the names of her friends, women still incarcerated, giving recognition to these people so overlooked by the system. (The following video doesn’t include audio of her speech itself, but it’s an interview of her speaking about her experience and her platform. Her speech itself can be found at the 2 hour, 26 minute and 30 second mark in the livestream video I posted next.)
Janet Mock, an amazing advocate for women’s, black and trans rights and New York Times bestseller author of Defining Realness and TV personality, gave a voice to trans women of color. I’ve been a fan of her for a long time, and she’s been a tireless fighter for all of her marginalized sisters. The full transcript of her speech can be found here, but here’s a taste:
I stand here today most of all because I am my sister’s keeper. My sisters and siblings are being beaten and brutalized, neglected and invisibilizied, extinguished and exiled. My sisters and siblings have been pushed out of hostile homes and intolerant schools. My sisters and siblings have been forced into detention facilities and prisons and deeper into poverty. And I hold these harsh truths close. They enrage me and fuel me. But I cannot survive on righteous anger alone. Today, by being here, it is my commitment to getting us free that keeps me marching. — Janet Mock, Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017)
Janet’s speech can be viewed at the 2 hour, 6 minute mark of this complete livestream:
Janet Mock: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Donna Hylton: 2 hours, 26 minutes, 30 seconds
Janelle Monáe: 4 hours
And then there’s Janelle Monáe.
UGH. She’s the closest thing to a goddess I can imagine. I’ve been a fan of her since I first heard her song “Many Moons” in 2008.
Beautiful and adorable with a fantastic androgynous flair and an offbeat sense of artistry, I was in love.
I MEAN SERIOUSLY
And she has now dipped her toe into the world of acting…and by “dipped her toe,” I mean really seriously stirring shit up in an amazing way! She was in Moonlight and most recently in Hidden Figures (which I NEED to get out and see ASAP…I know, I know…)
And of course, there’s her activism. She’s unapologetically black and female, and, though there have been many speculations about her sexuality, she’s been very private about it. But she embraces the LGBTQ+ community and we, in turn, love her.
She started with an impassioned speech. (You should really, really watch it. There’s just a cut of her speech available here)
“It was woman that gave you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was woman that gave you Malcolm X. And according to the Bible, it was a woman that gave you Jesus. Don’t you ever forget it…
I am here to march against the abuse of power. I want to say to the LGBTQ community, my fellow brothers and sisters–to immigrants, my fellow brothers and sisters–to women: Continue to embrace the things that make you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear…
[Women] will not remain hidden figures. We have names. We are complete human beings. They will not police us. So get off our areolas. Get off our vaginas. Again, we birthed this nation and we can unbirth a nation if we choose.”
She invited the Mothers of the Movement (Sybrina Fulton, Lucy McBath, Maria Hamilton, Gwen Carr), to chant their slain sons’ names as the crowd chanted: “Say his name!” They also chanted the names of Sandra Bland and Maya Young, who was a murdered transwoman of color with “Say her name!”
You can watch the whole “performance” (though I hesitate to call it that, because it wasn’t about her music. It was about the mothers and their murdered children and their memories) in the full livestream link above around the 4 hour mark.
I was openly weeping through the whole thing.
Then there was six year old immigration activist Sophie Cruz, who gave a speech:
“My name is Sophie Cruz. We are here together, making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love and tenderness to snuggle in this path of life. Let’s keep together and fight for the rights. God is with us!” She then gave her speech in Spanish, and led the crowd in a chanting of “Si se puede!” (Yes, we can!”)
Did you just hear the sound of a million hearts melting? Puddles of hearts, all over the world.
Scarlett Johannson gave a speech about the importance of Planned Parenthood in her own life, and the lives of her friends and families. (If you’re not sure what your birth control plans are for the foreseeable future, you should check out my post on my experience with the non-hormonal copper Paraguard IUD here)
Madonna gave a “controversial and powerful” speech that, quite honestly, I zoned out a bit for. It’s making all the headlines and…I don’t really care. It’s more proof that White Feminism overshadows all. “It took this horrific moment of darkness for us to wake the fuck up,” she said. “It seems as though we had all slipped into a false sense of comfort.”
Never mind that, for large swaths of people, we have never felt this sense of comfort that she claims that “we all” had. But, I mean, watch and decide for yourself.
There were so many beautiful, brilliant speeches by dozens of women who deserve recognition. I’d really recommend watching the livestream yourself. (I still need to go back and watch the first two hours and see what Gloria Steinem and Michael Moore had to say, for instance.)
Now Ashley Judd’s speech was what intersectional feminism is all about! YESSSSS girl! And I’m so glad that her discussion about wage inequality noted that black and hispanic women make significantly less than white women. That’s a fact that is often overlooked.
“Maybe the South actually is going to rise again. Maybe for some it never really fell. Blacks are still in shackles and graves, just for being black. Slavery has been reinterpreted as the prison system in front of people who see melanin as animal skin. I am not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag, and I didn’t know devils could be resurrected but I feel Hitler in these streets. A mustache traded for a toupee. Nazis renamed the Cabinet Electoral Conversion Therapy, the new gas chambers shaming the gay out of America, turning rainbows into suicide. I am not as nasty as racism, fraud, conflict of interest, homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, misogyny, ignorance, white privilege … your daughter being your favorite sex symbol, like your wet dreams infused with your own genes. Yeah, I’m a nasty woman — a loud, vulgar, proud woman.” — Ashley Judd, Women’s March in DC
The full transcript is here (yeah, I know that I just linked you to Cosmo’s website…sorry about that…) and it’s glorious.
I may have not been able to make it out to be with the millions of people around the world, on all seven continents… (seriously! Antarctica!)
But my heart was with them. The huge display of unity, of intersectionality, of love and power was a balm to my anxiety and horror that I felt the previous day after the inauguration of our new president.
No, not “our” president. “The” president. He will never be mine.
I’ll just stick with the millions of people that I now know have my back, no matter what.