Reflections on the Women’s March

30 Jan 2017

As a resident of Washington DC, I had a “front-row seat” to the Women’s March that took place on Saturday Jan 21, not just here in DC but in hundreds of cities around the country and the world. With humble grassroots origins, it has been billed as the largest one-day protest in U.S. history. It was an awesome display of solidarity and a tribute to the power of peaceful assembly in our democracy.

It is clear that many different concerns compelled women to participate in the March. While there are undoubtedly AWS members on both sides of divisive issues like abortion, immigration reform, gun control, and others, the core message of the march was one every woman should be able to get behind: equality, respect, and dignity for all women. Equal pay for equal work. Equality of opportunity. The right to be safe in own bodies, without the specter of sexual harassment in the workplace. For our daughters to live in a world free of sexual assault. As one woman put it, “things we thought we were done marching for, but apparently are not.”

The AWS tagline is Engage, Empower, Excel. The March certainly engaged an extraordinary number of women of all ages! While not all the protest signs were as polite as this one, my favorite was carried by a girl who looked to be about ten years old: “Girls with dreams become women with vision.” The overriding collective message of the march was: Women Count. We Matter. The visible and notably peaceful gathering of nearly half a million women in DC alone, many in pink knitted hats, cannot be ignored or dismissed. Women’s rights are civil rights. We will be vigilant. And as Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

AJ Copeland, MD, FACS

One Reply to “Reflections on the Women’s March”

  1. Thanks AJ for starting the conversation. I attended the Chicago event & came away feeling more inspired & encouraged than I have felt in decades. 150,000 people showed up on a chilly but sunny January in Grant Park. About one third of the attendees were male & I noted several families around me. Because the crowd was larger than anticipated we could not move so we stayed in place. We listened to faith based speakers of all denominations who echoed the message of the event: Connect, Protect, Activate. Many women shared their personal stories as victims of rape or gave moving accounts of why they left families & friends behind in their home countries in pursuit of a better life in America where they believed women had rights and were treated with respect. The speakers encouraged us to connect with those around us & to share stories. The most common reasons for attending were “I did it for my kids” or “for the next generation”. Some signs proclaimed that “Women’s rights are equal rights” and I saw one or two that were somewhat vulgar. I did not see any signs that supported or protested against a specific political party although several caricatured the new president. However the overwhelming message was one of peaceful concern with an emphasis on respecting differences & getting involved.
    Why did I travel to Chicago to participate? As an immigrant I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities offered to me in the USA. I became a US citizen in 2004 and while there have been other occasions when I experienced disappointment at an election result, I did not feel the need to protest. However this loss was personal & I was particularly motivated by anger at the repeated messages after the election to get over the fact that a man who had boasted about sexually assaulting women “because he was a celebrity and therefore he could do anything he wanted” was now the president. As a woman in a male dominated profession, I am familiar with comments from men that objectify and demean women, or even men boasting of sexual conquest; I know how it feels to be passed over for promotion or leadership in favor of unqualified, less experienced men, & I am accustomed to being treated differently even when I act as men do. Thankfully the more egregious behaviors occur less frequently today. However, for a long time women had to suffer in silence, afraid to speak up, lest we be accused of whining, hysteria, or hormonal dysfunction.
    On my way home from Chicago I was approached on three occasions at O’Hare by men who noted my sweatshirt & wanted to thank me for my participation. All mentioned that their wives or daughters were attending an event back home. Yesterday I met a young man who said his young daughters (aged 10 and 12) begged him to bring them to the march because “you taught us to stand up to a bully”. That one brought tears to my eyes.
    I do have to thank Donald Trump for one thing, he has shocked us out of past complacency & never again will we take our rights for granted. to quote Malala Yousafzi “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back”.

    Hilary Sanfey

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