Marching around the globe

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

On Saturday, January 21, the day after inauguration, millions of people in America and across the globe marched for women’s rights. They marched in Australia and New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Antarctica, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Scotland, Mexico, but not, as far as I could find out, in Russia or China. “Russia Beyond the Headlines” was the only source I could find stating that in 673 cities around the planet women marched.

The mother of all marches in Washington, DC, was estimated at half a million women, men and children. They covered the National Mall where only the day before it was half full, and they spread down the streets of DC like water from an overflowing reflecting pool. In Des Moines the estimated number of marchers was 26,000. I attended a march in the little town of Naples, FL, (population about 20,000), where the number of marchers was estimated at about 2,500.

The purpose of the march was to voice a demand for solving issues important to women, to let the world know that women know not only what they want and need but what they lack – equal health care, equal reproductive freedom, equal pay for equal work, equal representation. (Notice a theme here?) Under the slogan on thousands of signs that read “Women’s rights are human rights” came issues such as climate change, nuclear weapons, child care, education, jobs, bullying, racism, fascism, Nazism, sexism.

There are many subjugated people in this world – we read about them every day, see them in our streets and lives – but the most subjugated entity covers the globe just as the Women’s March did: this group is a little over half the world – women.

Women of every race, age and sexual proclivity are treated the worst the world over. Although boys and men ill treat one another, traffick and kill each other at will, more women are raped, trafficked, slapped around, and on a regular and world-wide basis in both rich countries and poor, paid less than men.

So, in cities big and little, in frigid winter cold and balmy southern breezes, off the femmes marched on a very significant day carrying signs and babies, holding hands with each other and with husbands and lovers, daughters and sons. They pushed kids in strollers and old ladies in wheelchairs. They walked with canes and walkers, with sore old feet in orthopedic tennis shoes and young feet in high-heeled boots. They were dressed up and down and there was lots of pink, even on the men who support strong women as they support the strong girls and boys they raise.

The feelings were high and light – laughter, singing, chanting. The air vibrated with the power of purpose, determination and resolve; with happiness at being together; with a kind of pure joy at that solidarity – all this mix of people and feelings making for a day that was only the beginning. An interesting observation: plenty of cops not in riot gear hanging out at intersections having their photos taken with marchers.

Now, after the fact of the march, organizers have distributed a plan of constant awareness within the groups of women to educate those in power who can help to right the wrongs that have been a part of women’s lives forever. Many of these tasks have to do with being in constant contact with the people whose salaries we pay throughout government at all levels. It is equality we’re after . . . equality, that heady thing, as every American should be aware of, what with the Constitution we have. When “equality and justice for all” actually hits the streets and all people on them, maybe things really will change, from police brutality, from war, to the same education across the board, to hiring and paying honestly rather than from gender and privilege.

It sounds so Pollyanna, doesn’t it? But, so what. The Enlightenment spawned a dream that a couple of hundred years later created the U.S. and its remarkable if not always honored idea of a more perfect union. The men haven’t been able to secure this; in fact, they keep coming close to ruining it entirely. Perhaps a bunch of marching women across the globe can make it happen.

As I read signs like these below, I began to hope that there is hope:

“No Violence”

“Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing”

“Don’t Defund Women’s Clinics”

A 10-year-old girl in pink carrying a pink sign taller than her that read:        LOVE

                                                                                                                        LOVE

                                                                                                                        LOVE

                                                                                                                        LOVE

                                                                                                                        LOVE

My very favorite political sign: “Super Callous Fascist Extra Braggadocious”

And an old favorite from 1890: “Organize Agitate Educate.” Susan B. Anthony wrote this about 125 years ago; a sign now both literal and figurative of how long women have been marching for equality. She added this: Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”

 In the strongly stated ideals of one of the founders of the long and drawn-out march for women’s suffrage and in the strongly stated mission statement of the Women’s March for equality is hope for a future that includes each of us as important to the whole:

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.

“The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential.

“We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”*

*For the entire manifesto, look for Women’s March Mission Statement.

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