Choosing Discomfort: Time to March

hear-our-voice

Recently my husband complained about the weather. “I’m done with winter,” he said, glancing out our kitchen window at the muted gray sky. All the snow had melted leaving behind the messier side of the season.

I agreed. Winter without snow looks, and feels, especially dreary. But I know the monotony of these cold spare months will eventually turn into spring, and the contrast between the two will be a gift.

I’ve always felt this way about seasons, about life. How we need the light and the dark, grief and joy, to feel fully alive. If we want to taste all the flavors, we must drink out of every cup, even the less appetizing ones.

Choosing the cup of discomfort, for example, instead of ignoring it. This has been on the periphery of my mind for years, but it rose swiftly to the surface after my country’s recent presidential election result.

What a wake up call that was, to many people I know, in particular, white people. Getting more particular, white women. Even more so: Myself.

Women of color, people of color, were not surprised. There was a scathing and funny Saturday Night Live sketch about this “phenomenon.” A group of white liberal city dwellers (in a neighborhood that looked suspiciously like my old one in Brooklyn) choked on their glasses of wine watching the election results while their two black friends rolled their eyes and howled in laughter at their ignorance.

It’s uncomfortable being called out as a rube, even more so as a perpetrator, but that’s what you are when you stand by and do nothing. When you’re even a little surprised by the widespread virulent and rampant racism that has been around for decades, centuries, that people of color live with every single day.

A writing friend wrote a short and fiery post entitled, MLK Isn’t A Holiday. “It is a call to action,” she said. But more often than not, for white people especially, it’s a day where many Instagram and Facebook feeds are rife with hopeful images and love filled quotes, mine included. Then, nothing. Until next year, Dr. King.

I squirmed in recognition. I have been that person. I am that person in some ways, but I’m changing. It’s a daily practice. It takes effort, and often, it’s uncomfortable.

This Saturday I’ll be attending the Women’s March on Washington. I signed up in November, a week after the election. Early on there were rumblings of discontent. About leadership, about the proposed name (The Million Woman March, which had been an African American women’s protest in Philadelphia in 1997).

Some white women couldn’t understand why there was a controversy at all. Why they were being asked to “check their privilege” and let women of color lead the way (literally and figuratively).

But the women who sowed the seeds of this march knew why. As momentum gathered, it was clear that after an election where 53% of white women voted for Trump, they alone could absolutely not lead this march.

I was relieved when minority activists took the helm and the march was renamed. The Women’s March on Washington is a respectful nod to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous March on Washington in 1963, and came with a blessing from his daughter, Bernice King.

Racism within feminism has been a sticking point for decades. Transferring the bulk of leadership to minority activists was a chance for this march, and feminism, to go broader and deeper than the core concepts of equal pay and reproductive freedom. Those rights are vital, of course, but they are not the only ones that matter.

This quote from a recent Vogue article explores the layers of meaning behind the march:

“Where past waves of feminism, led principally by white women, have focused predominantly on a few familiar concerns—equal pay, reproductive rights—this movement, led by a majority of women of color, aspires to be truly intersectional. So though the Women’s March has partnered with organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America—and though second-wave feminist icon Gloria Steinem is now an honorary co-chair [along with Harry Belafonte] —the march’s purview is far more sweeping. Women are not a monolith, solely defined by gender; we are diverse, we represent half of this country, and any social justice movement—for the rights of immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, for law enforcement accountability, for gun control, for environmental justice—should count as a “women’s issue.”” 

Women’s rights are human rights, to quote Hillary Clinton, and on Saturday, January 21st 2017, the day after the presidential inauguration, women and men are coming together to raise their voices and their fists in protest.

womens-march
Can’t make it to Washington DC? Check out this incredible list of sister marches across the country – wait, let me amend this – across the globe.

https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters

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24 thoughts on “Choosing Discomfort: Time to March

  1. Thank you, this is powerful, what we need. It’s absolutely amazing and truly wonderful to watch this progress, look at all thos flags! Keep walking! 👣don’t tolerate hate 👣

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  2. I am so proud of you and have been watching your activism on your Instagram feed, too. This is my favorite line: “Choosing the cup of discomfort, for example, instead of ignoring it. ” I have been struggling myself with how to handle my feelings about The World and what to do about it. I feel like as women we are taught that, above all else, we must be liked and not create waves. We must make everyone happy. Yet that isn’t working out for us. So where do we go? I, personally, haven’t felt like the victim of gender bias BUT I don’t know if I know what I am looking for AND I also have had a very privileged set of circumstances with amazing parents and lots of education opportunities. So, yes I am talking a lot for a comment, but all to say I am so proud of you for tackling the issue and not being silenced.

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    • Allison, I’m SO sorry for my delayed response! I really appreciated this comment so much, and wanted to savor and response in kind, but then it dropped out of my brain – several times. Anyway… thank you for this. I’m still figuring out how to be most effective in my activism, and some days it just feels truly overwhelming, but I do believe every bit counts. xo

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  3. Dana, I’m curious to see what you think about an observation that some anti-Women’s March people were saying post-march. Some people were upset that the march wouldn’t allow pro-life groups to march with them. I thought about that a lot. I don’t like abortion and it probably wouldn’t be my choice (although, how do you know until you’re in that position?). But I strongly believe that women should have safe abortions available to them, regardless of their reasons.

    It made me think about whether the pro-life movement is necessarily diametrically opposed to the goals of the Women’s March. I don’t have a clear answer to that question. Part of me thinks, yes, it is completely opposed to the Women’s March in that it elevates the fetus over the woman who carries it, regardless of the circumstances that surround the pregnancy, including whether it’s viable or not.

    Then, another part of me wonders if the pro-life movement is necessarily opposed to the goals of the Women’s March. Maybe it lies in the definition of “pro-life.” If pro-life is simply, “pro-birth” and not pro-education, pro-food-security, pro-family-leave policies, pro-all-the-other-things-that-help-families-thrive, then I can see that these two movements are in opposition to each other.

    But I so want to move out of these terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” I think that are overused, tired, misunderstood, and misrepresentative of the motivations and intentions of those who hold their beliefs.

    Anyway… just some thoughts I had on the march. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the march and more important, for marching for us! Here, I thought I would be having a baby that weekend and now I know I could have gone and come back and still waited around for another week before having the baby. Ah, life.

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    • I have SO much to say about this! In fact, I posed a question among these lines on FB a couple weeks ago. I found a handful of women who don’t believe in abortion in their hearts, but DO believe in choice for all women. This technically makes them “pro-choice” despite their own deeply personal feelings. It’s tough, but ultimately I do understand why a march that is firmly and resolutely for women’s reproductive rights can’t knowingly invite groups of pro-life women who are against choice by law. I think the women I mentioned above are in their own category and currently there is no “label” for their complicated beliefs. More later, maybe offline if you’re interested because I could truly go on and on. I’m fascinated by the nuances of feminism and how (and if) women of conflicting mindsets can work together. xoxo to you and your beautiful new baby!!

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      • Right, it’s the issues of whose rights take precedence. If your “pro-life,” the child’s rights win out. If your “pro-choice,” the women’s rights win out. However, I strongly believe that there is room under the umbrella of “pro-choice” for women who wouldn’t personally have abortions. I think it depends on whether a person sees the world in absolutes. If an action is “immoral” no matter what the circumstances are, it’s easier to demonize those who do it.

        I could go on and on too, but I’ll leave it there 🙂 Thanks, Dana!

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      • I totally agree there is some space between for another word to describe those women, but ultimately they are for choice, even if they themselves would not choose that option. I think that is a very elevated and generous position and appreciate their support for women’s choice immensely.

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  4. Pingback: Only Love Today – writing at the table

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