Saturday, January 14, 2017

Action: Show Up

This is Essay #3 of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new essay each week during 2017.

The other day, while having drinks with a friend, I leaned over the bar and whispered, half-jokingly, to my bartender-friend, Matt: "We're all dead after January 20th". He laughed, but with that knowing look of agreement.

This opened up a conversation about the Women's March on January 21st. He asked if I was going. I told him that I wasn't. I've been ambivalent about the march since it was first conceived in the early post-election days. First, it was about my own personal safety. On November 9th, I couldn’t even leave my house. I was that scared. But I forced myself to at least go to therapeutic yoga; if anything, to find a moment to connect with myself and others in a spiritually supportive space. On my way, I saw a pick-up truck with a DT bumper sticker in front of me at a red light. Another car pulled up to its right. The driver rolled down his window and pumped his fist, shouting “We did it”, to the driver in front of me. I couldn’t breathe. He then drove up to the next car up, which apparently had a similar bumper sticker, because he did the same thing to that driver. I felt my body freeze in tension.

If I couldn’t even feel safe driving to my local yoga studio, how could I possibly feel safe among hundreds of thousands of people in a demonstration in the capital of this nation that has chosen a demagogue to lead us? (“Lead” is definitely not the right word here. “Rule over us” might be better.) I’ve always been a political activist and eager to participate in various protests, but this was different. This was bigger. I knew it was important for me to be part of this, but I also had to think about self-preservation. I am now a mother and have to consider how my activist actions might affect my family.

There was also a lot of drama wrapped up in the march itself: from the change-up in organizers to the co-opting of the Black women's march in 1997 (and even the historic MLK march) to women of color, generally, being unheard. (Read more here.) But this was the main thing for me: there was no clear message. What were we marching for? Was there a specific agenda? Who was going to speak, if anyone? What would they speak about? If we were marching for general women's rights (equal pay, the right to choose, etc.), then why did I, a woman of color, not feel included in this conversation?

Over the past year, I’ve had a problem with white feminism and the ways in which they are short-sighted and, often times, oblivious to their privilege. How they haven’t seen the ways in which they’ve excluded women of color from the discussion. There are better-versed people to articulate this. You've got Google -- go check it out.

Then the election happened. And white women gave the president-elect their votes. Even *after* the pussy tapes came out.

What. The. Fuck.

In an instant, everyone’s true selves were exposed to the world. The curtain wasn’t just drawn back – it was torn down, ripped right off the rod. The racists came out of hiding and terrorized anyone with brown skin. The misogynists came out and tried grabbing women and girls between their legs. People started breaking off long-time friendships; families weren’t talking to each other. It was a stark white (pun? you decide!) wake-up call.

I found myself angry at a lot of people, but not bold enough to face them. I simply withdrew from them. It sounds like the coward’s way, but, not only did it feel like too much work that would likely fall on deaf ears, I really felt outnumbered and unsafe. Where I live, DT lawn signs were rampant en route to driving my kids to school everyday. It gave me anxiety. I live in a Red county in the middle of a Blue state. Go figure.

Essentially, I’ve spent the past two months in hiding. Only talking to like-minded folks. Usually online (Facebook, email, blogs). (I realize that change can only come by reaching outside of our circles, but again, I wasn’t feeling ready for that just yet.) I engaged at minimal levels with those I must. Keeping conversations brief and only about the matter at hand. Politics was tucked away in a small box, in a dark corner.

Of course, I kept myself informed and signed various petitions and did what I could from the safety of my laptop. But overall? I’ve just been trying to keep myself together. (It doesn’t help that yoga teacher training is working to pull me apart and dismantle me. But that’s another conversation.)

And now, here we are, a week out from The Apocalypse. (I know, the language is dramatic –possibly inflated-- but it feels necessary in this moment.) I am feeling anxious. Not in a “I am unsafe” kind of way. But in a “I need to DO something” kind of way. The digital signing of petitions feels empty. The online conversations are great, but I now feel a need to be physically engaged. To take physical action. And I feel ready to do that now.

So, when Matt started that conversation about the Women’s March, I was reminded of the march against the war on Iraq after September 11th. I told him I was there, freezing my ass off in the streets of Manhattan with friends, protesting and standing up for what I thought was right. The look on his face –one of inspiration perhaps?—reminded me of how important it was to take action. Real action. This is what it takes to inspire people to take actions of their own. And before you know it, it gets contagious, it builds, and then whammo! We’ve got a movement.

Over the past two months, I’ve been working on cultivating my personal force field. I think it’s strong enough where I can go out into the world and march. To demonstrate. To show that I AM HERE: I am living and breathing and I give a shit about the world I live in. Sure, the actual march might not change legislation in the instant ways that we are used to in this social media era, but it’s important to DO SOMETHING. Even if it’s only symbolic. Even if it's complicated, as politics often are (I still have issue with white feminism.). Even if the shitheads in office disregard us (though they need to be reminded that we put them there). We, the people, need to speak up. But you can’t expect to be heard if you don’t even show up.

So I’m going out and I’m going to show up. I’m ready to fight. To march. To shout. Make my fucking voice heard.


  1. My sister, I FEEL YOU. I hope I don't come off all White Feminist (I identify as Hispanic) but your pain really resonated with bits of what has been swirling in my mind, and what I have been feeling from friends.

    As to writing, love the piece.

    As to the message: 1. check out the March's platform. It's so radical, a lot of white feminists peace'd out, and good riddance! I was just reading this before I opened your work, and I'm glad I can cross post:

    Also, we do what we are able. Our activism is like a muscle. The more we do, the stronger we get, the more we will be able to do. Do what you can now. Later, you'll feel able to do more. Check this site out, it has stuff about ways to get engaged in ways that will help you feel safe, and things about keeping yourself sane:

    Good luck!!!! :)

  2. Thank you so much for these resources, Ariel! Also this: "a lot of white feminists peace'd out and good riddance!" -- hahaha! I LOVE it! And thank you for, not only reading, but taking the time to comment and show support. I am ever grateful. xo--