“I mean, should we do it?” It would be WILD.”
“… Yeah. Let’s do it.”
This was January 20th, the day of Trump’s inauguration, around 4 p.m. The Women’s March on Washington was 10 a.m. the next day, and I, along with my twin sister who goes to college on the other side of the state, had just decided to attend what would be the largest presidential protest in history.
I was too late to get a seat on the Swat bus, and before my pussy-hat-knitting mother offered to pay for Amtrak, I had planned on going to the sister march in Philadelphia. I even picked up my free SEPTA tickets from the Lang Center, and went to a sign-making/Qdoba-eating/women-empowering hangout in Kohlberg to prepare for the big day. (aka #SwatBeloved, check out this article about the heartwarming event: http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/01/26/swatbeloved/).
But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in Washington with my sister (whose bus left Allegheny at 1 a.m.), 300+ Swatties, and close to one million people. So on January 21st, all by myself, I took the 6:42 a.m. SEPTA to 30th street, an 8 a.m. Amtrak to Union Station, and then walked to the National Mall in a street already filled with marchers, emblazoned with signs that were funny, bold, or sentimental, and colored pink with pussy hats.
Ultimately, it was far from a comfortable experience. When people would later ask me what it was like, I could not describe to them just how many people there were. It took me an hour to move about 100 yards, I only found my sister when her phone was on 1% and she was screaming at me to “sprint towards the totem pole!” by the Museum of the American Indian before she lost all means of communication, and I may have held a jacket around a fellow Swattie and teammate while she peed in the middle of the crowd (we were never going to make it to the Porta Potty line). But that’s what the March was about – being uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable with how the Trump administration is treating women, immigrants, people of color, low-income families, religious minorities, and whoever else doesn’t fit within our president’s concept of what America should be like. The March was about being uncomfortable enough with the recent events to actually do something about it.
A few days after the experience, I updated my profile picture on Facebook to the one above, with the caption “smashing the patriarchy since 1997.” However, this is both facetious, as I didn’t actually know what a patriarchy was until I was about 14, and unfair to women like Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem, who actually have been smashing the patriarchy since a lot earlier than 1997. While attending the March on Washington was an incredible experience that I will never forget, I know I can’t just pat myself on the back, label myself a decent feminist, and go back to existing in my undergraduate world as I always have.
I am grateful for all my fellow Swatties who, together, give me a diverse and empowering image of what it means to be a woman, and who inspire me to work harder – half as hard as they do – to make the world a better place for everyone. I appreciate my classmates who reminded me that women of color were largely left out of the organization of the Women’s March, at least in the beginning, and that a majority of white women actually voted for Trump. I have so much respect for the Swatties that run campus groups promoting women in unrepresented areas, such as computer science and political science, or groups that encourage women in general to be themselves, such as WOCKA (Women of Color Kick Ass). And I love the men and women behind NuWave, a group that works to make sure campus spaces that are not traditionally safe for women, specifically parties with alcohol, are mandated consensual and welcoming for all.
So no, I haven’t been smashing the patriarchy since 1997, and I’m still not done learning about all the ways in which I am affected by it. But I am grateful to everyone along the way who has helped be a more supportive, powerful, and inclusive woman, whether that be feminist heroes like Angela Davis or my friends here at Swarthmore. And maybe someday we can all smash the patriarchy together.