What I remember most about The Women’s March of 2017 was a feeling of sustained astonishment. The feeling that something big was happening and I was there to witness it, yet it was nearly incomprehensible. Leading up to the march, we’d been given a rough estimate of how many people to expect: 250,000. By the time our buses arrived in D.C., the streets overflowed. The people we passed as we walked from the bus parking lots toward the march waved and cheered us on. At that point we were all sort of straggling in. But before long, we bumped right up against a wall of people, a sea of the infamous pink hats and signs and peaceful, yet fired up, protesters.
The numbers were unfathomable. Everywhere we looked, there were more people. It blew my mind. Now, I’m terribly directionally impaired, so I can’t tell you from what vantage point I give you my observations, just know that in every direction, there were people. No matter how far away I could see, there were people. And the air vibrated with the energy of astonishment, awe, strength, and gratitude. Truly one of the most important days of my life.
Just little over a month before, I’d ordered my tickets to travel to D.C. with two of my friends. We’d done all sorts of preparation, packed our supplies for any kind of weather, geared up. Before I left my house that morning, I wrote a note to my daughters, a note of love and explanation of why I marched. Perhaps it was a tad melodramatic, but there existed in me just a little bit of angst over the possibility that the day might turn scary, that we might meet up with some of the not so peaceful fellow citizens who’d made their voices heard (quite loudly) over the past 18 months. So I left a note, just in case and to make sure they understood the significance of the day as it pertained to them and their futures.
We boarded our Emmaus Rally Bus pre-dawn. The frenetic energy, even in the dark early morning, might have fueled that bus alone. These participants weren’t beaten down by one of the ugliest presidential campaigns in history. To the contrary: we were (and still are) very much fired up! Not sure what lay ahead, but determined to be part of it.
It wasn’t until we needed to stop for gas that every expectation I had about the size of this march changed. Every single rest stop for miles was full. Nowhere to park. Lines ridiculously long. I remember as we’d pass each rest stop, the anticipation and exuberance on the bus escalated. So did the fear that we’d maybe run out of gas! All those buses, so many buses! So much bigger than we’d imagined. Awesome.
When we arrived in D.C., our fearless bus leader gave us each a fabulous sash to wear, we grabbed our signs, and set out. I carried Carrie Fisher, my childhood friend and lifelong heroine: my rebel princess who ultimately became a symbol of the resistance. She was everywhere that day, not only on signs but because of everything she stood for both in and out of character: independence, smarts, strength, fiery wit, female power. The energy of princess warriors took to the streets and it was a beautiful thing.
The entire day was beautiful and awe-inspiring. A long day of walking in unity with a fervor of pride and a feeling that this was really something, that it would make a difference.
Cell service was spotty at best. We wanted to know: just how many people were here? We couldn’t tell on the ground. All we saw were people on all sides of us and for blocks long. A giant traffic jam of protesters in pink hats. After the speakers and the rally, we started the actual march. Slow at first, packed in like sardines moving en masse, but eventually to the White House. One of the most inspiring events of my life. To us, the size of the crowd, the energy of the purpose seemed monumental and history-making.
Dishearteningly, the numbers of people at the inauguration of D.T. (just one day prior to the march) and how inaccurate they were seemed to be the news of the day. Not the numbers of women in pink hats marching right outside the president’s window and in every state in the country and across the globe, on every single continent, even Antarctica! Millions marched. And even though it meant something. For women. For humanity. For the entire world. For its past and its future. It meant something then and it means something now.
The culture is being turned on its head. For women, by women. And it started with the march. The political makeup of our country, for the first time ever, is being challenged by thousands of women now running for office. The “good old boys” club is being dismantled. Prick by prick. By truth. By courage. By WOMEN. By the unstoppable force that rose up and revealed itself to the world on this day one year ago. And it started with the march.
I give gratitude every day that we are where we are right now. And I dare say, had the election turned out any differently, there’s a good chance this movement might not have evolved so adamantly and with such force. As the saying goes, “we got woke”. For me, the marched ignited a fire and quelled the despair I’d been feeling since the election. It changed my energy balance. It fueled me forward. I feel the progress this movement is making for women and girls all over the world and for futures to come. As a mother of two daughters, the cultural tide that’s turning now gives me great hope that they will experience a very different and more equal future than even my generation has experienced when it comes to equal pay, sexual discrimination, and harassment. There is a force in this movement. A force of resistance. A force that persists. A force of positive energy and collective female power. A Princess Leia kind of force. A force of change. A force of hope.
March on. Move forward. May the force be with you. And HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!
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Gretchen Klinedinst Furst is a teacher, writer, actress, and mom. She’s the co-author of Made from Scratch: Tales of Women Who Take the Cake and the owner of Studio G. Allentown, LLC. Check out the website at www.studiogallentown.com , follow her: Instagram @studiogallentown, Facebook at www.facebook.com/StudioGallentown. To comment in the comment section, try the new comments box below. I am trying to make it so readers don't need to log-in. Experimenting. Please do so! I’d love feedback. Copyright 2018.