“I cannot put into words how heartbreaking it is to see grown adults that I know and love decide only now to take to the streets. I’m glad you’re doing something. But…weren’t we worth it before? Why weren’t we reason enough? Where have you been? And where will you be once this doesn’t impact you directly anymore?”
On Saturday, Olive and I joined millions of other women around the world at the Women’s March.
First of all, I had to walk the talk.
One of the biggest issues I see with the last decade is how dissent has moved from the streets to online forums. It’s too easy to ignore and block anyone who has different opinions and converse exclusively with people who agree with me. It’s too easy to change my Facebook profile picture or share things that other people have said and done and feel like I’ve done something myself.
I’ve been a vocal supporter of women’s rights and intersectional feminism since I learned what they were. I’ve loathed Donald Trump and basically everything he stands for ever since his presidential run brought his words to my doorstep.
It was time to act.
Second, I felt a great deal of responsibility to stand with American women. There are greater global threats to women’s rights and sexual health than what is going on in the US right now. But I will readily admit that I really struggle with how to make a difference to issues half a world away. I sign petitions, I try to vote for political parties that have progressive views and will lead foreign policy accordingly, but damn. It feels futile, you know?
But the states is so much closer. If I drove south for just a few hours, I’d be crossing the border. And it’s not just a matter of caring more about something because it’s closer in proximity (although I have no doubt that this mindset comes into play), it matters because Canada’s political climate often reflects that of the US. We can’t ignore what’s happening south of the border and just cross our fingers that the same clawing back of women’s rights, equal rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental policies etc. won’t come here, too. I think it’s crucial to send a message to our government that Canadian’s aren’t here for this shit.
The third reason is because of Olive.
She probably won’t remember this. And although I explained to her in simple terms why we were going, and what we were protesting, she likely didn’t grasp the scope of what we were doing.
But here’s the thing, she’ll remember the feeling. She’ll know the energy of thousands of people gathering together in one place to stand up, support each other, and make our voices heard. To say no.
I am Olive’s sole caregiver around 80% of the time. I spend a great deal of time telling her to lower her voice, behave, be polite, consider the feelings of others. I consider it one of my greatest responsibilities as a parent to raise a human being who is kind, empathetic, and respectful. But what I don’t want to be teaching is mindless compliance. I do not want blind obedience, especially for my daughter.
This was a chance to show her what this balance looks like. How, although being polite is important, it’s equally important to gather together when your rights or the rights of others are at risk and shout loudly for what you believe in.
It’s important to know that sometimes it becomes essential to demand worthwhile change, instead of asking nicely and waiting patiently -it’s especially vital for a young girl to know this. It’s important to know how to stand up for what you believe in and what you need to make your world safe. It’s important to know that it’s okay to yell.
Sometimes situations demand that you yell. Sometimes you need to make a mess and become a part of something bigger, something imperfect. Sometimes you need to shout and march and block traffic. Say no.
This, more than anything, is why I feel so strongly about spending most of my days with her. Teachers can show her how to read, write, do math, and run experiments better than I ever could. I’m not great at teaching academic subjects, I lack the patience and the expertise. Her preschool does a far better job of facilitating play, creating themes, and engaging in crafts and art than I do at home – it’s why I enrolled her.
But I’ve never been worried about Olive learning to read and write and figure out complex equations. This girl is smart as hell, she’ll pick it up. I have no doubt about that. And I’ve seen her interact with friends since she was a baby, she’s cooperative but definitely no pushover. She engages, plays, and communicates well. She’s not going to learn friendship from me, she’ll learn that through making friends and losing friends and getting hurt and hurting others. That lesson is hers to learn.
But what I can teach her, and what I feel it’s important that I teach her more than anyone else, is how to be a good human being, a strong woman, and an ethical citizen of this world. I teach her with my actions; the way I’ve lived my life, the choices I’ve made, how I treat others and the way I speak to people – from my family and the elderly, to her, her friends and the homeless man who once cornered us drunk and begging for change.
Every day I teach her how to name her feelings, how important it is to put words to them and speak them instead of letting them drown you. How to express the overwhelming strength of them through words and art and actions.
I teach her that adults can be wrong and they can do wrong, and what a sincere apology looks like and feels like.
I teach her about her body, the hundreds of parts that make her her. We talk about who owns that body, who decides who touches it. I teach her that she always has the right to say no to a hug, a kiss, being picked up, being tickled.
I make sure she knows our privilege. The incredible amount of invisible privilege this world has bestowed on us due to accidents of birth, race, nationality. Our light skin, safe country, clean water and middle-class upbringing. I remind her how lucky she is to be warm, clothed, safe, loved. Loved by so many people, so deeply.
These are lessons about how to live a good life, a true life. And that’s something I have spent the past thirty-three years learning.
I’m not perfect, and neither is the women’s march (please click that link and absorb what it’s saying. Feel the guilt and let it change you). I teach her that, too. We’re not perfect but we’re something. We have to start somewhere and the easiest thing to change is your own self.
It’s better to lean in, get in there, be imperfect but try anyway, acknowledge your flaws and try to be better, rather than just sitting back and criticizing. It’s better to admit that you’re imperfect and work on improving that instead of going through life with a white-knuckled obsession with convincing people otherwise.
I let her see me upset and sad and frustrated. Most of all, I let her see me learning. Every single day she sees me learning something I didn’t know the day before. Admitting my ignorance, using education to beat it back. Seeking out the voices and experiences of others who know better and know more.
So that’s why we marched.We showed up and we were loud and we stood for those who are losing their rights even as ours remained safe. We used our privilege to amplify an issue, to become allies, to make our voices heard.
We’ve done it before and we will continue to do so. We’re not perfect, we can always do better and we’ll continue to devote our days to trying.
It’s all we can do. It’s the only way this world works.
Here’s to strong women.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.