The Chicago Women’s March

This community blog post reflects the views of members of the Indianapolis community and does not speak for the views of the Desmond Tutu Center.

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“I can’t believe I still have to protest this.”

This was a common sentiment of those attending the Women’s March on Chicago. But it was not only veteran feminists at this march of a quarter million people. I attended the march with my cousin’s son and 4-year-old daughter (her sign read, “the future is female”), who are just reaching awareness of the present assault on human rights; I attended with my mother, who had “never done anything like this” and identified as a member of the Republican Party for most of her life; I attended with my aunt and uncle, who stood in the crowds in spite of aching legs.

The sheer amount of people gathering on the streets and around Grant Park was astonishing. We wiggled our way through the crowds, admiring the myriad  signs and messages: it seemed that everyone was there for a slightly different reason. Nevertheless, it was clear that the protesters were united in their compulsion to act in the face of discrimination and injustice.

Having returned from 8 months living abroad just 2 days prior, I was hopeful to see a diverse representation of people at the march, but half expected to see solely white women in their pink hats. Instead, I was delighted to see people of all ages, genders, ethnicity, and backgrounds crowd the streets of Chicago. Rather than a primarily white feminist focus, the overall tone of the protest was that of intersectionality.

Clamoring to get close enough to the stage to hear some of the speakers, I finally managed to catch the jubilant voice of the emcee, Fawzia Mirza. My mom, stepdad, and I worked our way to a jumbotron, where the speakers’ messages ranged in tone from “supporting our sisters” to calling out complacency in the face of human rights violations to firm calls for action. These messages were of paramount importance for us to hear, many of whom are just now becoming aware of the plethora of injustices faced by women – and by minority women especially.

In a hyper-partisan political and cultural climate, I often hear opposition to and a misunderstanding of the issues at hand. Too often, I hear from women, “but we’re already equal.” Too often I hear assertions that “protesting is un-American.” Too often I hear, “I understand they’re upset, but I hate that they clog the streets.” And too often, I hear concern over youth being “too political nowadays.”

The reality is this…

Women are not guaranteed equal pay for equal work, especially women of color. Our president has bragged about groping women, which has been excused as “locker room talk,” and yet political figureheads insist that rape culture is a myth. Trump has pledged to cut funding for domestic violence programs across the nation. Women’s access to healthcare is being attacked at an unprecedented state, federal, and global level. In every workplace and school across the nation, women and girls are intimidated, silenced, or harassed on a daily basis. Every woman has experienced the same creeping fear when she walks alone. Survivors of sexual assault are intimidated into silence and forced to relive their experiences in a culture that glorifies the objectification of the female body. The LGBTQA+ community is written off the Whitehouse website and are told their concerns are less legitimate than anyone of a “typical” sexuality. As environmental regulations are abolished, women and children in low-income communities disproportionately suffer.

I don’t want this to be normal.

The crowd turned out to be so large that organizers called off the march in preference for a “stationary protest.” Undeterred, thousands of people marched the route anyway. We were met with smiling faces peering out of the windows of skyscrapers and residents holding their own signs in support. Chicago is quite different than the picture Trump paints of it; it is not a city crippled by fear, where thousands die on the streets. Rather, as in this amazing display of unity, it is a city of people determined to overcome any obstacle put in their way.

The Women’s March on Chicago – and those across the world – is only a first step. An easy step in the long fight ahead, and as many of the speakers reminded us, we must remain more vigilant than ever in our efforts to keep fighting the good fight. I am thankful that we live in a nation that guarantees our freedom of speech, including the freedom to protest. A nation whose very foundation is based on political dissent. We must continue to exercise our civil rights for as long as those in power continue to threaten them.

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About the Blogger:

Julia Wilson is an activist for environmental and human rights, and an aspiring biologist. She is a recent graduate of Butler University, who flew to Panama the day after graduating to study tropical bats. She enjoys blogging, making collages, traveling the world, and dismantling the patriarchy.

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