I marched in the Women’s March - I had been looking forward to it since the election.
It was a piece of hope I held onto, tightly. You see, I have been passionate about women’s rights, reproductive rights, racial reconciliation, and LGBTQ rights for a long time, since before “it was cool.” I think I was passionate about social justices before I knew what they were or what they actually meant in this country and the world.
I realize as a white woman with oodles of privilege that my fight or beliefs aren’t perfect, and as a feminist, I have to constantly step back and simultaneously recognize my privilege.
As I marched down Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas yesterday memories flooded back to me and reminded me why I was there. These memories, no matter how painful or silly are significant to me. They made me a feminist, they made me an advocate and they made me feel either empowered or hurt.
I have never shared them before, but now more than ever is the perfect time.
My father, who probably does not remember this story, nor realizes that he is one of the biggest reasons I became a feminist, told me from an early age that I could do anything a boy could do. ANYTHING. Once, a boy beat me in a race in elementary school (a silly footrace on the recess field) and the punk that beat me told me a I lost because I was a girl.
I came home and told my dad about my day, “I am the fastest girl in school.”
“Why aren’t you the fastest kid in school?”
“Boys are faster than girls, Dad”
“Mallory, no they’re not.”
I never believed again that boys were faster than girls - and I beat that boy at recess the next day. In elementary school I remember being weirdly obsessed with being just as good as boys at things. ANYTHING. It was important to me that I constantly proved to myself that I could do anything in the world a boy could do. This sounds so basic and silly, but it was not the messaging I received from my peers, teachers or culture. I had to prove it to myself daily.
Although one message crept in and altered my thinking.
A teacher once told me that girls were naturally better at English and boys were naturally better at math.
WHAT THE HECK.
I believed her. I thought I had to study English (I did, thank you Ole Miss for the most magical four years). It made sense to me though - my mom was a teacher (she had an English degree) and my dad was an engineer. My husband TRULY believes that if I had never been told this I would have been good at math or business or whatever. I believe I still would have chosen humanities over math and science, regardless that statement is a load of garbage.
GARBAGE. WOMEN ARE FREAKIN’ AWESOME AT MATH.
In high school we were required to take Life Management - where we basically learned to cook. I was put in a group of all boys. I was as a freshman girl in a group of four sophomore/junior guys. As an ignorant and naive freshman girl who just wanted to be liked, they forced me to cook and clean for all of our meals and I complied. They made fun of me the entire class, joking throughout the hour that women were meant to be in the kitchen and in the bedroom and nowhere else. They would shake the table while we ate the meal I prepared and make sex noises and sigh my name. I sat there, silently.
In college I had a job where I worked with primarily males and they often joked that I should leave my desk and go make them a sandwich, and that women belonged in the kitchen barefoot.
To them, these jokes were innocent. They didn’t REALLY believe that women belonged in the kitchen.
BUT, THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
In that same high school, I was required to read The Handsmaid’s Tale. It gave meaning and context to many of the thoughts I was having. It empowered me and made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It instantly became my favorite book and Margaret Atwood became my favorite author.
High school is damaging, let's be honest. I found myself in a longterm toxic relationship where I was extremely dependent on my boyfriend. I believed I needed his affirmation, permission, assistance to get through my day to day life. I learned a lot of lessons the hard those three years. The ending of the relationship coupled with reading The Handsmaid's Tale revealed the true feminist in me as I ventured off to college.
In college, I was a Young Life leader and spent time every week with high school girls. A lot of the girls in that high school in Mississippi had never been told the things my dad told me, that they could be successful women, they could be professionals and moms, they could just be moms, they could be whoever they wanted to be and a man did not dictate their decision. I shared my story and I heard their stories as they transitioned from high school to college and faced the reality of being a woman in Mississippi.
REAL WOMEN WITH REAL SHIT.
After graduate school I began interviewing and looking for a job. It was tough, while confiding in someone (if you must know, it was a male) about my job search he told me I shouldn’t wear my wedding ring to job interviews. His advice was that employers didn’t want to hire married women because they may be popping out babies soon and were expensive and a liability to their business.
REALLY. IN 2016.
Now, I give you catcalling and butt grabbing.
I can not count how many times my butt has been touched involuntarily in a bar, at a party, or just in public by a man. Once after a football game at a bar a guy reached his hand all the way up my dress and attempted to, for lack of a better way to put it, grabbed my pussy. I chased him down and he ran in the men's bathroom and locked the door. In the last week I have been honked at twice by a car stopped at a pedestrian walk as I cross the street to my job.
THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK.
So this weekend, I marched for women who feel marginalized, who feel violated, who have been violated, and who need love.
This march was so much more than a protest to me, it was a community of people who feel empowered and won't allow that power to be stripped from them, even in the smallest ways. Being a feminist is a more than the stories I told you, it's about believing in equal rights for all women all places.
During the march I cried just as much as I chanted.
I cried when we chanted, “My Body, My Choice” and a group of men marching with us chanted back, “Her Body, Her Choice.”
I cried when I looked around and saw women being kind and respecting one another as we were trapped at a standstill for an hour and a half.
I cried when I saw fathers literally lifting their daughters up onto their shoulders.
I cried when I looked around and saw people of all ages, all races, all sexual orientations, all genders walking together. That is what I truly believe America stands for, all people together.
Yesterday I was proud of America. I was proud of women, specifically.
Go women - go forward, and let’s get shit done.
Let’s get educated. Let’s get talking. Let’s move forward.