PUTTING YOUR BODY WHERE YOUR BELIEFS ARE

By Claire Wilson

I went to the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) because I wanted to put my body where my beliefs were – and I had the privilege to do so. Here’s a recap on how I experienced that day, marching with the Fletcher team.

Fletcher Alum and Students at the March

The Fletcher Ski Trip had certainly charmed me, but there was a very clear gut feeling inside: I just had to show-up to Washington. The week leading up to Trump’s inauguration was somber and like many Fletcher peers, I was unwillingly revisiting the trauma in the election aftermath. When I committed to going to DC, the feelings of fear and helplessness that were brewing inside me had to compete with my buzzing excitement to be a part of my country’s women’s movement for an historic beginning of resistance. The march was not only a platform to voice our beliefs externally, but also to communicate internally to distraught Americans joining the movement. Physically coming together as a part of half million dissenters in DC and 5 million across the world that day conveyed to one another that it’s really going to be okay- a political and sociocultural revolution is underway.

The sense of community was overwhelming powerful. The camaraderie started online the day before plugging into the WMW official app and avidly following the forum, basically a pre-march feminist news feed. Friday’s posts captured the pre-mobilizing festivities, bejeweled sign making, women’s rights memes, and selfies of women on the road, literally filling up buses and airplanes. Here’s our Fletcher women’s pre-departure shot on the WMW forum outside of Blakely at 9AM.

We encountered many pink pussy hats on the 10-hour traffic congested commute from Boston to DC – each rest stop amassing more and more women.  

On the day of, about 25 members of the Fletcher mafia (alumnae and current students) gathered for a pre-rally morning meet-up. Unfortunately, all attempts for a more conventional breakfast were denied with literally hundreds of people wrapped around the bloc for a Starbucks or Au Pain, so I had to settled for some CVS pharmacy sustenance [note: when attending 8-hour historic march, eat proper breakfast].

Digesting the sea of signs was like reading an outdoor anthology of protest proclamations, answering why are you here?

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We posted up about a quarter mile from the stage, becoming sort of comfortably entrapped in the fabric of human assemblage. The stage and television screens were out of sight, but the organizers definitely forked out a mighty fine sound system. As such our intake of the rally’s speakers was purely auditory and corporeal.

Some special moments for me in the six-hour rally:

Collective chanting, “say his name” to honor the lives of Trayvon Martin, Mohamed Bah, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton, and Jordan Davis, led by Janelle Monet.

Bob Alotta self-tokenizing her lesbian presence on stage and defending radical love in the most honest way possible.

Feeling the vibrations of six-year old Sophia Cruz’s voice in body when she called our gathering “chain of love” to protect undocumented families.

Angela Davis refusing to forget Gaza and the Occupation of Palestine. [And errr, personally exchanging smiles with her as she just oh so casually walked by!]

America Ferrera – “we will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.”

Gloria Steinem & Madonna [full stop].

I didn’t, however, appreciate Michael Moore’s mainsplaining: speaking overtime, providing a 6-step program for our action and the patronizing Roe v.s. Wade history lesson comment

Yes, it was the most intersectional feminist alliance we’ve had yet, but it’s never perfect. Particularly, I think it’s important to remember class privilege, and in general, the time and money one had to march in DC that day.

I must take a moment to extend a massive thank you to the Fletcher Women’s Network and alumni for co-organizing and opening up their homes for us. Walking with the Fletcher flag through that crowd served as an initial commitment to making that sure that Fletcher will be a space of active resistance- for those of us who want it to be.

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I still feel the sensations of the march in my body, the way I can still feel the heels clapping the concrete of Pennsylvania avenue and the unification of a thousand voices echoing in my fingertips. The physicality of my body being present on that will continue to fuel my pledge to act.  

On top of the foreignness liberal Americans are feeling with the United State right now, I have lived overseas for the past five years and I am a bit detached from my Americaness. I’ve marched in solidarity for issues in London, Beirut, and Paris, but this was admittedly my first march in my own nation’s capitol. However, my interest in living outside of the US for the majority of my life or my passion for international affairs is not an excuse to not participating in civil resistance while in Boston for the next 18 months.  As part of the new bourgeoning social movement (yet to be fully defined or aligned), I’m choosing one main issue to work on: commitment to gender equality in my community, wherever I locate myself. This means maximizing my feminism in my daily life, particularly when the fight is not so glamorous.

Analysts will ruminate and debate what this march was and why it mattered perhaps perennially, but I believe that this march need’s to be remembered as a pivotal moment of women leading the political sphere in the US. We should not underestimate the fact that: Women led the first day of political resistance to the Trump administration. women created the vision. Women organized effectively. Women used feminist principles for resistance. Women showed up in numbers. Women will continue to act. Men and non-conforming gender identities were side by side in key positions of unprecedented allyship.

Much of the media is asking now, was this march about women rights or was this march anti-trump? The answer is very clear to me: it’s both. Everything that a Trump administration threatens effects women: education, immigration, racial equality, healthcare, Palestine, Syria, queer rights, climate change. The March on Washington must be viewed as an historic pinnacle of the female personal becoming very political.

 

*Photo credit to Claire Wilson

Claire Wilson is humanitarian practitioner working on complex emergencies in the Middle East, previously based in Jordan. As a MALD, she is currently studying Gender Analysis in International Studies and Human Security. Her yoga, feminism, and various forms of outdoor recreation also have her calling. 

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