It’s International Women’s Day, and the “Day Without a Woman” strike in the United States, where women are encouraged to wear red, (temporarily) strike from work, and refrain from shopping unless it’s at women- or minority-owned small franchises.

The following three pieces reflect on the marches that gave today its momentum, because feminism is not a catchphrase or a one-day, one-off marketing ploy; it’s a call-to-arms for women everywhere to consistently and continually demand equality, and for men to respect that.

Click titles to jump:

“A Wave of Pink, A Sea of Red”
by Corinne Osnos

“Blurry, Stirring Days in Washington” by Lindsay Hogan

“Why Did You March?” by Whitney Hayes

***

A Wave of Pink, A Sea of Red

by Corinne Osnos (@Osnosis)

Madness. Beautiful madness,” the Uber driver, a middle-aged black man, remarked as he combed crowded streets from Columbia Heights to Old Ebbitt Grill, the historic, high-class haunt residing just blocks from the shadow of the White House, known as much for its politically powerful clientele as for its freshly shucked oysters.

Were you there?” he asked us excitedly.

But with my hair still greasy from the lavender beanie that became a beacon for my companions as we marched alongside an endless sea of pink cat ears; my voice still raspy from chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “We want a leader, not a creepy Tweeter!; my dirty toes shoved into my sole pair of Jeffrey Campbells, I didn’t know quite how to reply.

That evening, I was attending the “Best of the West” Inaugural Ball: one of the lesser-known official balls held in Washington D.C. to celebrate the ascendance of Donald J. Trump. I’d borrowed a blood red shawl from my mother’s closet, perhaps in an unconscious attempt to fit in with my Republican Congressional staffer date’s colleagues, and while I’d struggled with the decision the week before — asking my mom, “Can I do this?” — ultimately, curiosity won out.

Plus, I love a good party.

Nevertheless, I didn’t want this Uber driver thinking I, in my nice clothes on the way to the fancy restaurant and the fancier ball, was there there.

Especially when, in reality, I was there…

Inside Old Ebbitt, the mood was jovial.

Women in ball gowns with curls down their back chatted with men in suits and cowboy boots. When the drink lines were too long — which was the case most of the night — guests headed to an old-style photo booth to take pictures with furry boas, funky glasses, and flashy hats. A trio of black women sang ballads all night long, though no one was really dancing.

One girl, who looked about my age, paired a navy dress with a “Make America Great Again” baseball hat.

Red, white, and blue.

Some of the women I spoke with had also attended the march that morning — whether at the requests of visiting friends (everyone seemed to know someone who was in town for it) or their own prerogative, I’m not sure. Regardless, our conversations remained cordial yet cursory.

Even the woman who, at a previous campaign event, had (while intoxicated) expressed her frustration to me about how women don’t get the same recognition as the men in their congressional office seemed content to focus on compliments and cocktails.

Feminism, it turns out, is frivolous in the presence of privilege and power.

But just because you ignore something doesn’t mean it’s not there…

That morning, the streets had been pure chaos, as people of all ages, sexes, and nationalities — most wearing at least one fluorescent pink item on their body — weaved in and out of gridlock. Every step was a photo opportunity, bringing a different person or sign into focus.

At one point, while crossing Independence Avenue, I stopped to snag a picture of an older white woman with a jagged tooth who was using her walker to guide her through the mob. She carried a plain white sign with “Peace, Love & Rock n’ Roll” written in pink marker.

Later, I would notice that in the same photo, there’s a younger girl in the background holding a sign partially obscured from view.

It read:

“Ages I’ve been grabbed: 17, 18, 19, 20,…23, 24, 25, 26…I object.”

22: a shirtless gentleman approaches, sticking his fingers in my vagina at the MGM pool in Vegas.

And that was before the reveal of President Trump’s tactic.

Towards the end of the night, two older men, state representatives from Alaska, approached me as I waited for my date to finish his goodbyes. They had pale blue eyes and paler skin, their tipsiness belying their excitement about Trump’s win. In those eyes was the unmistakable glimmer of hope; the same hope that mobilized millions to the polls to vote for the only candidate they believed cared about the constituents who’d been left behind. A hope for a return to an America they recognized, coupled with disbelief: their guy had actually won.

So, apparently, had mine.

You should be very proud of your man,” they told me when they learned who my date was. “An impressive feat for someone so young.

I, meanwhile, was told I was beautiful. And that, to them, was enough.

Before turning to leave, they asked me for a recommendation for a dessert place nearby: it had been the perfect ending to a perfect day, and their wives wanted something sweet. “Take them to Co Co Sala on F St, and order the Chef’s plate of artisanal chocolate” I said.

Bittersweet.

That morning, I had marched alongside my mother, who stressed the importance of experiencing the day together. At first, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just go with friends — Laura’s only in town for the weekend, Mom — though as I watched little girls and boys board trains with their mothers and fathers, I was happy my mom was by my side.

Together, with decades between us, we savored the chance to remark on all the young children who attended, the next generation of pussadvocates and pioneers; to walk alongside the men who find it absurd they make 14% more than the women they know and love; to be humbled by the question “See you at the next Black Lives Matter march?” that one sign unflinchingly asked.

 

? #BLM #blacklivesmatter

A photo posted by Rudy Espinoza (@rudyespi) on


Outside of Old Ebbitt Grill, silver-haired politicians mixed with smashed patrons searching for lost dates among the hoards of comfortably-dressed citizens bundled in coats, their pussy hats hidden by hoods, scurrying back from the White House; everyone trying to catch an Uber.

Everyone trying to get back where they belonged.

Madness. Beautiful madness.

 

***

Blurry, Stirring Days in Washington

by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)

Over the course of a handful of blurry, stirring days in late January, I saw Donald Trump inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, I watched hundreds of thousands of women (and pink-capped allies) invade the National Mall, and I bore sweat-drenched witness to “A Night of Anti-Fascist Sound Resistance in the Capital of the USA.”

This is what it looked like…

 

***

Why Did You March?

by Whitney Hayes (@Hashtag_Whitney)

The sky over D.C. was a hazy gray when my three comrades and I emerged from the Metro station that Saturday. Though we had intentionally gotten off the train five stops away from our destination, the streets were already bustling with men and women wearing pink hats and carrying signs.

We’d arrived at the Women’s March on Washington.

The day itself is now a blur of posters, chants, pussy hats, and solidarity. By the time we caught a train out of the city, we were exhausted, chilled, yet satisfied.

We had done what we went to do.

Only now what?

Here at home, I reflect on the march with a pang of loss. For me, that Sunday had embodied a beacon of hope — something to channel my energy towards in order to counter my grief and anger. But as soon as we began the drive back to Pittsburgh on that gray stretch of highway away from the nation’s capital, I immediately sensed an emptiness that I now must contend with.

To help soothe that vacancy, I’ve found myself watching clips of the day’s speeches. And though I’ve now watched it countless times, I continue to be moved by Hina Naveed, a Pakistani-American woman who opens her talk by saying:

Let’s begin by taking a moment…
 
Think of the reasons why you’re here today to march, take a deep breath, and let’s make some noise.

 

In every reliable replay, the massive crowd in the video erupts immediately. But before that explosion of applause — before the rest of Naveed’s fervent words washed over the National Mall — there was actually a pause. When I think now about that brief moment, I feel humbled by the fact that there must have been thousands of reasons why those marchers showed up that day. Whether they were all different or shockingly similar, the curiosity lodged itself in my mind.

This curiosity led me to start reaching out to friends and acquaintances who attended the many marches across the country—from Pittsburgh to New York, from Cleveland to St. Petersburg.

Why did you march? I asked them. And did you get what you need?
 

I marched, not for myself, but for those whose voices are not heard or not heard loudly enough. In particular, I marched for: (1) my unborn grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. whom I want to enjoy a planet that has safe water and a temperate climate; (2) immigrants, including my loyal and hard-working employee who is the backbone of my flower business; and (3) impoverished and disadvantaged women who rely on Planned Parenthood for reproductive health care. I could easily live in a bubble, as do many other financially-comfortable white people, and ignore these other people. But I believe God gave me a voice, talent and good fortune to help those who are not as blessed as I am. The new administration seems to have zero moral compass and I am deeply distraught about that. Every day since the election, I was losing all hope in a country that was founded on hope and respect. On Saturday, I witnessed an overwhelming love and respect from the 500K+ beautiful Americans surrounding me. We were all there because of love, hope and respect for ALL people in this country, born and unborn.

 

I decided last minute to go [to the march in St. Petersburg]. But I marched to be a part of something bigger than myself and to demonstrate that these issues are something that a huge portion of Americans care about. We won’t stand idly by and allow our rights to be trampled on. I definitely got more than I needed. I wasn’t expecting the emotional aspect of the march that I experienced and I really enjoyed being together with a large group of people to demonstrate beliefs in a peaceful manner.

 

I’m at protests to listen and in this case support women (all shapes, sizes, and genders). The computer social life creates a cognitive dissonance in a person; people create delusional (often much meaner/laudacious) versions of themselves. Sometimes your body is just needed and it has to be present.

 

I marched because I felt it was important to show Trump exactly how many in his population are unhappy. It feels like the spirit of the revolution is only used in reference to movements of the past, and I think it’s important for us to reclaim that as our own in the present. I marched for both myself and for other people, those that I love and those that I don’t know. I found myself wishing the speakers were better at the East Liberty [Pittsburgh] march, but in retrospect, what felt most important was that we were there to show each other our support and solidarity.

 

Trump is a dick. And as an immigrant I feel like he isn’t representing me.

 

We must engage with and support intersectional feminism. Traditional/white feminism leaves a lot of people out. Women with different circumstances have different needs, and we cannot continue to let people fall through the cracks. It was great to be in the environment of community and solidarity, but I wouldn’t say that 2ish hours of protest could be the end all to fulfilling a need. It’s more about making room for continued conversation and further action.

 
In her speech, Hina Naveed asks the crowd: “Are we committed to fighting injustice? Are we committed to fighting inequality? Are we committed to staying involved?” And after each question, the National Mall surges with shouts of agreement: We are committed! We will fight! We will stay involved!

But now comes the time in which those who marched must prove this commitment to ourselves, and to each other.

I personally marched that weekend because I needed to feel heard. I traveled from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. because I needed to commit to fighting — to take on a personal responsibility over the next four years to work for change.

When I ask myself whether I got what I needed from the march though, the answer is a contradiction. Yes I did because I was joined in my quest by millions more across the globe. I was met with a community who was as fired up as I was and dedicated to combatting the current presidency. But I was also forced to leave that community—to drive home like the rest of us and try to resume a sense of normalcy.

What I need now is to feel that solidarity again, and to know that we’re all asking ourselves the same questions: How do we make women safe? How do we make people of color, trans folks, and anyone in the LGBTQ community safe? How do we make immigrants and refugees safe? How do we teach the next generation the importance of empathy and respect?

I want more marches, more pussy hats, more inclusion. I want to continue to feel like we’re all fighting the same fight.

Because in the end, we really are.