Across generations, races, genders, ethnicities — thousands marched in Austin against the oppression of the Trump administration
Elizabeth Pax | Contributing Writer
I wasn’t going to go to the Women’s March in Austin. I’d been hearing about it online and through friends and, well, I just didn’t feel compelled.
It’s not that I’m not an activist; I am. I’ve marched and demonstrated in a handful of cities, including Austin, Washington, D.C. and Mexico City. But I just didn’t see the real point of this march.
I didn’t see what we were trying to accomplish. I didn’t see a clear goal and, well, I felt like I had a perfectly good excuse not to go: I’m 27 weeks pregnant. Nobody would question why pregnant me decided to sit this one out.
Then, Sarah called me.
Sarah McCroan and I have been close friends for years. She’s a fierce woman and a liberal, but not really the marching type. She’s not into crowds. She’s introverted. She’s really a rule-follower. In geek terms, I’d say that while I am chaotic good, Sarah is lawful good.
So when Sarah called me and said she wanted to come in from Dallas to Austin to march, and asked me where she could meet me, I was shocked.
She explained to me that she couldn’t just stand by and watch this happen. She told me that she didn’t want to someday tell her two young daughters that, when the fascists came, she had done nothing. She told me she, her mother, her aunt, and her two girls were coming to Austin and they were going to stand up to the bullies.
Three generations of women, standing together against misogyny.
That’s when I realized what this march was really about.
This march wasn’t about a specific policy or raising awareness about one issue. This march wasn’t really for THEM. This march was for US. This was to inspire a new wave of activists to get out there and do something.
This was a promise we were all making, to each other and to the new administration, that we would stand together and hold them accountable going forward.
So I went; 27 weeks pregnant and waddling the whole way, I marched. It was amazing.
I’ve never seen anything like it: Grandmas and Girl Scouts and socialists and soccer moms and beardy feminist dudes and gender nonconforming people and just so many different kinds of people gathered in peace and solidarity.
The mood was generally positive and determined. We marched around the capitol and through downtown. We held our clever feminist signs high. We chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” And “My body, my choice!”
These 40,000 to 50,000 women, men and non-binary people of all ages, together in solidarity, promising each other that we will continue to stand together.
Saturday night after the march, I went over the day on my Facebook, like a good millennial, checking out all the pictures people had posted and reading their statuses and comments.
I came across Sarah’s Facebook page, and I feel she really nailed what it was all about. She wrote:
“At home, in bed, nothing left to do but reflect in the peaceful quiet.
“‘My body, my choice!’ And ‘Her body her choice’ mean so much more to me now. It is a chant that will not die today. It will be a mantra for my family and my daughters.
“Because today wasn’t about women’s right to a medically necessary abortion.
“It was about sexual assault. Her body, her choice if you get to touch it.
“It was about health care. Her body, her choice to use birth control.
“It was about their womb. Her body, her choice if she wants to have children or remain ‘child free.’
“It was about the objectification of girls and women and society’s pressure on them to look Kuyoung, thin, and sexy. Her body, her choice.
“It was about marriage equality and love. Her body, her choice.
“It was about allowing women into traditionally male jobs (such as the military). Her body, her choice.
“It was about religion, and following the teachings of the Bible wearing a gaudy bedaz zled cross or the teachings of the Qur’an wearing an American flag hijab. Her body, her choice.
“It was as much about a woman’s right to not shave her legs, kiss her grandma or wear makeup as it was about a woman’s right to vote, drive, divorce, have sex, get a promotion at work, make equal pay and die cancer-free thanks to the HPV vaccine.
“It was about my daughters’ inheritance of clean air/water, opportunity to receive quality education and clean/humanely raised food, ability to afford college and a chance to make friends with the children of hard-working illegal immigrants.
“My body, my choice.
“My daughters’ bodies, THEIR CHOICE.”
So now what?
Now we have to keep showing up! We can’t just let this be a one time, cathartic experience, a blowing off of steam. This is just the beginning of what will be a long-term effort.
First, keep demonstrating. This brings public awareness to the issues that matter to us. Don’t let them quietly sweep us under the rug.
We have to keep people aware of what the administration is up to and how it negatively impacts our lives. If we give up and just let them walk over us, they will continue to walk all over us.
Make sure your friends, families, and loved ones are aware of how you are being personally hurt by the policies we are demonstrating against. This is no longer about “abstract” ideals, this is about our everyday lives.
Second, call, write, and visit (lobby) your representatives. They work for us and they need to hear from us.
When horrid bills are coming (and they’re coming) it is up to us to make sure they know how you feel about them and how it will personally affect YOUR life. Even if your representative is conservative, if enough of their constituents make a fuss about an issue, you would be surprised how they can be swayed.
Make sure you call their local office. Nothing makes a politician as nervous as an angry constituent. WE are the ones who keep them in office with our votes and they need to know that they have to EARN our votes. And speaking of votes …
Vote! Vote in the general election and the midterms. Vote in the national, state and local elections. Nationally, only 55 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2016 presidential election. In Texas, it was only 46 percent. That is LESS than half.
I know we live in Texas, so it feels hopeless. But if less than half of people are even voting, we only need to have more of us voting than them. Hey, psst! Guess what! The turnout for “midterms” is even lower, and Ted Cruz is up for re-election next year.
Statistically speaking, most people just aren’t going to show up. Even if there are fewer liberals than conservatives in Texas, we just have to SHOW UP and we can take the election.
If we don’t vote, we are giving control of our rights, our country, our planet, and our future to those who do vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.
Maybe I’ve lived in Obama’s “Hope” America too long, but I DO believe that we can still CHANGE things, if we are willing to show up and do the work.
When I became an activist, in 2008 as a response to Prop 8, I didn’t dream that same-sex marriage would be nationally legalized in less than 10 years. I honestly thought I was fighting the fight for the next generation to reap the benefits of. Last year I had the privilege of officiating a wedding for two wonderful lesbian friends of mine. It was one of the absolute best moments of my life.
Yes, things are looking bleak right now. It’s only been a week and we are already under attack on so many fronts. Just remember, in 2008, liberal haven California voted against same-sex marriage and things looked completely hopeless. But in 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized across America!
Yes, we have suffered a big blow with Trump taking office. But if we pull together, do the work, and SHOW UP we CAN take back control of Congress and do some damage control. In 2020, we CAN take back our country completely and get back on track.
Remember, voting is purely a numbers game and only about half of eligible voters show up, we just have to be the ones who SHOW UP.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2017.