Women’s March 2.0 — I went, I participated, I learned.
Some years back, Mike introduced me to sailing on Lake Geneva. We bought a 26-foot keel-boat took lessons, and practiced faithfully. He captained the Willy J. with a strong hand. He barked orders, and often put the side rail into water. He loved sailing towards the buoy at breakneck speed, turning suddenly into the wind, and stopping the boat dead in the water. He had a determined, aggressive technique. And it worked best with a “One of us is captain, the other first mate” arrangement, the roles of which we traded each time we sailed.
I didn’t do particularly well with either leadership or support role as we raced down the center of Lake Geneva.
Over time, I found my own style and enjoyed sailing with my female friends as much as with my partner. Mike was very encouraging. Our clutch sailed late in the afternoon, sometimes with wine and appetizers. Where we should sail became a group decision — “Ready to come about? Not yet? Ok — in a bit.” Sometimes we sailed hard and fast, but if we only crossed the lake a couple of times and sat in the harbor until the sun set … well that was just fine too.
I participated in the Women’s March last year, because it promised to be all of those latter things. It felt feminine, starting with the free online directions to knit pink pussycat hats.
Last year in Phoenix, Arizona
I spent the first hour at the Women’s March 1.0 wondering “Why am I here?” (with a few hundred individuals wondering the same). Three hours later, thousands of us knew the answer. The initially sleepy event morphed magically into a massive statement of discontent — in a peaceful and kind way.
I wanted to march a second year to lend my voice to an outcry I hoped would energize others — both women and men. I desired to say to those in Washington that ALL people meant more than just a few, even if they were rich and powerful. And, I yearned to say clearly, I do not like Donald Trump.
I don’t care if he’s right or left, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. All of those viewpoints deserve to participate in government and, working together, can achieve more than any one faction.
I dislike that Trump lies.
And I dislike that he hates.
And I am disappointed and saddened that Americans overlook his unscrupulous core and try to explain away the inexplicable. Christians become un-Christian as they re-draw their moral lines in the sand. Governmental leaders latch onto his power and lose their backbones. Conservative friends look downward quietly or smile with a raised eyebrow, embarrassed they have no alternative.
This year in Nashville, Tennessee
This year Mike and I took to the road in January, once again, to find a warmer clime than Wisconsin. We headed on a southward route via Fort Lauderdale to Haiti to see projects and friends with whom we worked from 2007 to 2014. We arrived in Nashville on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. A feminist friend, the college instructor to the 19-year-old woman who penned the poem #NastyWoman read last year by Ashley Judd, lived in that southern city. We would join her as she took to the streets with her thoughts about our government and its leadership.
As we loaded into the car, I wondered if the tenor of last year’s march would change. “Everyone have your ID’s in case we get arrested?” I half-humourously asked.
We drove into Nashville and I noted the city’s footprint, enlarged since the last time we visited four years ago. Building cranes stretched to the top of the southern skyline. Still, the AT&T building, ever-reminiscent of Batman with its iconic roof shape, dominated the skyscape.
The conversation in the car turned to music, Nashville’s link to all. My host’s house had a new/old gramaphone with blue tooth connections and a wall of electric guitars in another. She sang. Her husband played. We picked up another marcher, who sang back-up and whose husband won a gold record.
We joined other women — a software developer, a stay-at-home mother, a free-lance photographer — all of whom met when they attended Mississippi University for Women. They stayed friends, supporting each other through marriages, adoptions of the first dog, birthings of their first child.
Our driver drove us through neighborhoods that reminded me of Portland (cute cottages with big front porches) and Washington DC (three-story houses divided into two-family dwellings). He left us at the Public Square in front of the Nashville court house, already full with protesters.
Both the stage in front and the PA system were underpowered to meet the size of the crowd lead by Congresswoman Brenda Gilmore. it didn’t matter; the vibe was good. We read and photographed signs; we listened to what we could of the warm-up speeches.
2.0: New and improved!
The Women’s March 1.0 differed from its successor. Each individual brought her or his own shared issues — immigration, women’s reproductive rights, health care, and many, many more. This year, 2.0, there was a binder for all who attended — voting and securing candidates who would speak to those issues. That message played well particularly with the Nashville crowd. In 2016, Tennessee ranked 40th in the nation in voter registration and last in voter turnout. In the Volunteer State, some saw that as a crisis in civic duty. Workshops on political and civic activism preceded the march.
Slowly our amorphous thousands left the square. Mothers pushed babies in strollers next to grey-haired matrons wearing last year’s pink- knitted caps holding the hands of their grandsons. Women who wore hijabs walked near others dressed in prints from western Africa, just steps away from turban-wearing men. Men made up a quarter of the marchers (many more than last year). While some marchers carried signs hand printed, others ran their words out of computer printers in eleven-inch lengths, or recruited their kids to scrawl them in felt pen. The sentiments consistently held to subjects of anti-Trump, anti-government, pro-minority, and pro-election, in words that agitated, reflected anger, or offered humor.
Among the hundreds:
“Women’s rights are human rights,”
“Grab ‘em by the mid-term”; and
“Melania, blink twice if you need to be rescued.”
The crowd moved from the square onto the street where an evangelical pastor (or a strong religious believer) co-opted a street corner and yelled his message through a crackling loud speaker. He too held a sign — asking if we wanted to go to heaven or hell. He was disruptive to the relative quiet, but he provided an exclamation point to the realities of free speech.
As we marched past The Country Music Hall of Fame, I listened to the other protesters in my cohort. Their conversations ranged from anger at contemporary politics to asking what brand of lip color another in the group wore. Their discussions did not illustrate conflict or lack of focus, but rather women’s capacity to span a broad spectrum of thought and to support one another. They illustrated their ability for both softness and strength at the same time. It reminded me of my sailing days: Sail the boat hard or be happy to sit in the harbor.
We arrived at Nashville’s Capitol Hill, marchers moving up the massive hill to sit, others gathering closer to the stage to hear poets, speakers, and of course in this city — singers and musicians.
One of the many post-march speakers, who just returned from an international conference of women, set the tone for what I would take away from the day. In her stentorian voice she urged, “We must join together to support the meek, the poor, the uneducated. It is our role to support ALL and to expect support from ALL. We will not go this alone. We will do this together!”
Next Year’s? — 3.0
The sun slipped low in the sky as the last speaker finished. The crowd disappeared — back to families, night work, preparation for the week to come. Nothing physical signified the march’s past presence. Garbage, handouts, signboards were all disposed of properly. Only the memory of 15,000 women and men, who gathered together peacefully, remained.
Our gaggle of ladies walked up the hill towards the square where we began Women’s March 2.0. As we passed the Municipal Auditorium, we overtook a long line of people standing, waiting. Fellow protesters waiting for busses? No. They were 99 percent men. Counter protesters? Wrong again. Dressed in black and white t-shirts that said, “Ring of Honor,” this population waited for admission to the pro-wrestling lineup later that evening.
I don’t know about the individual men who I saw there and how each viewed women or this women’s protest. From their outward appearance, the group of males focused on a subject that differed greatly from the many issues my female friends and I just left. They did not dance to native drum circles nor did they hold peace symbols. While the women’s messages asked for engaging, connecting, and empowering, the men’s subject demanded dominating, demolishing, and destroying. I wondered, would they be part of the “all” who would support me and my thinking or would they demand my assimilation into their one?
Yet here we stood on a Nashville street corner, two disparate groups tolerating one another’s attitudes and viewpoints. We could view the two as different ways to sail from one end of the lake to another.
I looked from one group to the other, and reality set in: I came to Nashville to march, to make my point, and I would leave Nashville knowing it wasn’t enough just to march.
We don’t need a Women’s March 3.0 next year if we can tolerate and vote for ALL fellow human beings.
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Judy O Haselhoef, a social artist who writes, travels, and authored “GIVE & TAKE: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti,” blogs regularly at her website, www.JOHaselhoef.com.
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