On Saturday, January 21st, 2017, women from around the world will unite in solidarity to stand for the protection of women’s rights, safety, health and families.
The Women’s March on Washington has been organized in response to the ugly and divisive election cycle that saw the most qualified woman ever to put her name forward as a candidate for the highest elected office in the world defeated by a repugnant, small-minded, self-proclaimed pussy grabber. Hundreds of rallies world-wide are being held the day after the inauguration of the new president. Edmonton is one of these cities.
I am so proud that Edmonton women were moved to stand with their peers in Washington. While many here in Canada are finding it difficult to connect with why so many Canadian women have been hit so hard by an election in a country that is not our own, the election was a painful reminder to women everywhere that the fight for equality and justice for women is not over. Some of us have become comfortable, complacent even.
As a lead up to the march, I would like to attempt to femme-splain #whyimarch:
1. I MARCH FOR MYSELF
This election hit me HARD. I must admit that the result literally blind-sided me. I suppose there was always a part of me that knew that sexism and racism were alive and well in my immediate environment, but I had built a beautiful and rainbow coloured bubble around myself and my family. On November 8th, at a marijuana legalization election watch party in Las Vegas, Nevada, that bubble burst. That’s right, I was IN ‘Murica the night of the election. I had gone down to bask in the glow of history being made. After all, the first woman would be declared President, easily and embarrassingly (for the other guy).
Gutted is the only word I can conjure to explain how I felt. Young women were openly weeping on the strip as inside the mega-hotels the din of slot machines continued uninterrupted. How could this have happened? I couldn’t process and my bubble wasn’t helping to explain it to me. I needed to understand, but inside me a flood of emotions that are generally foreign to me (ANGER, SADNESS, REVULSION) were clouding my ability to process. I was grasping for air. So I sent a text to my bubble:
"Ladies: as I sit here in my hotel room in Vegas after maybe one of the most devastating nights for women in our lives, I am reminded of you strong and brilliant women in my life. Be vigilant."
The first reply lit a fire in me:
Never underestimate the power of a good crisis. #femmecabal
I MARCH to grieve openly and honestly with my bubble. Almost like a funeral. So I can get closure and move forward, stronger and braver than before.
2. I MARCH FOR MY DAUGHTER
I have an 8 year-old daughter. She is inquisitive, confident and sassy. She doesn’t know that the system is rigged. She believes she can be anything and do anything. And I know that’s not true, YET. We read stories about women working to get the right to vote and she stares incredulously at the pages as though they are a work of fiction. It doesn’t help that she cannot see her face in any of these stories. She is after all a “Woman of Colour”. At least her Canadian citizenry offers up a sunray: When women in Canada were granted the right to vote in 1918, black women were included in the definition of women. Our black cousins to the south weren’t granted the right until the 1960s. But Canada is no angel. First Nations women in Canada also had to wait until the 60s! ( Is this real life???) I’ll let her in on this little-talked about aspect of the modern feminist movement in good time. This march will give her a chance to stand with the women who will support and lift her up throughout her life. It will let her know and feel that even if I’m not around, she is not alone.
3. I MARCH FOR MY SON
I also have a 5 year-old son. He is emotional and loving. He dances with reckless abandon and sings emphatically to Katy Perry’s anthem “Roar”. It apparently speaks to him. As he begins this long journey of becoming a man, I want him to understand that feminism is not anti-man. I want him to see that the struggle is real and we need his help. I want him to understand that when his mother speaks of Femme Cabal, that it is for him as well as for us.
4. I MARCH FOR MY SISTER
I have an older sister. She is smarter than me, kinder than me and taller than me. And I am eternally grateful to have her as a best-friend. I truly believe it is the single-most formative relationship in my life. As a holder of a PhD in Public Health, I have watched as she has grown to be a global voice for women’s reproductive health rights and education. And she has two boys and a husband. She is the very definition of a woman’s woman. And I march to let her know that I SEE her and to tell her that I will work harder.
5. I MARCH FOR MY GIRLFRIENDS
Sometimes I worry that I don’t give enough to my girlfriends. Between kids, work and husbands, girlfriends can easily slip to the back burner. On this day January 21, 2017 I would like to re-affirm my commitment to the ladies that have made me who I am. You are professionals, stay-at-home moms, entrepreneurs, wives, divorcees, mothers, childless. You bring an unbelievable wealth of experience to my life and I am grateful.
6. I MARCH FOR MY HUSBAND
My husband is literally my rock. (I love when people use the word literally but actually mean figuratively, like what’s so bad about saying “My husband is figuratively my rock.”?) My life would LITERALLY be impossible without him. A few years ago, an unfortunate immigration document debacle led to him being stranded indefinitely out of country. That small taste of life without him was all I needed to be sure. He allows me time and space to explore these feelings. I want him at the march to see that I am a part of something powerful.
7. I MARCH FOR MY MOTHER
My mother is 67 years old. She lived through and raised three kids during what I consider some of the most difficult decades for women. And she did it as a new immigrant. Raising kids in the 70s and 80s, women were told they could have it all. Wanna go to university? YOU CAN DO IT. Wanna be a mechanic? SURE! Want to start your own business? GO GET ‘EM TIGER! Just so long as you get married, have kids, do all the housework, cook, clean and stay thin. No wonder this generation had the highest rates of divorce in history. The whole thing sounds awful. I want my mom to know that the work her generation did to make things better for me and my sister is still underway.
8. I MARCH FOR MY ELECTED OFFICIALS
I want my elected officials to know that I am watching. WE are watching. And WE will not stand idly by as the progress that has been made is unwound.