Kay Siebler, Ph.D. (English, Modern Languages, Journalism)
When I got on a 5 a.m. bus, leaving a church parking lot from Omaha, Nebraska on Friday, January 20, I was not looking forward to a 25 hour bus ride. But the energy of the two buses leaving for the Women’s March was electric. There was immediate sisterhood and solidarity with the 105 women gathered that morning. We were excited to make the trek to Washington D.C. to engage in the time-honored United States tradition of peaceful protest. We had our signs. We had our pussyhats. We had our feminist ideologies and activism spirits. We were 105 women ranging in ages of 16-67. Some of us were first time activists who had never done anything like this before. Others of us had been doing activist work for decades. Together we made a diverse group of people committed to doing something to hold back the tide of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and intolerance that we felt had led to an electoral college vote putting a megalomaniac narcissist in the Whitehouse.
Why did I march? It would have been easier to stay home. It certainly would have been easier to march locally. But I felt such despair after the election, I knew I needed to be in the place of power and herstory. The place where suffragettes went on hunger strikes and chained themselves to the Whitehouse gates to get the right to vote. The place where Fannie Lou Hamer spoke and sang in 1963, face swollen and bruised from police violence. The place where the fierce, the righteous Shirley Chisholm fought for social justice for all. The place where Elizabeth Alexander delivered the inaugural poem for the first African American president. I needed to be there to march.
Why did I march? I marched for everyone who couldn’t march. I marched for my friends who use wheelchairs. I marched for those who did not have the financial privilege of traveling to DC. I marched for Leone, who has brain cancer and is worried she will lose her insurance. I marched for my students, buried in loan debt and trying to make their way out of the cyclical poverty in their family with a university education. I marched for my female students so that they may always, always, always have access to safe, legal, affordable birth control and abortion services whenever they need them. I marched for the ELL children I tutor who are scared for their parents and their families. I marched for the queer individuals and families that they might be safe and valued. I marched for my African American friends, family, and students that they may live in country where their lives are valued and celebrated and they have access to education and success, not just jail cells and morgues. I marched for my son, for all sons, so they might know a world where a penis is not used as a weapon against humanity. I marched to be a part of herstory, to take my place, to raise my hand and say, “NO.” No to racism. No to misogyny. No to homophobia. No to xenophobia. No to fear.
I have heard critics say, “The march had no focus.” Those people are missing the point. There were many focal points. We were a diverse group. But the one connection, the one pink thread of yarn that ran through us all, was the need to speak up, to stand up, to become activists for social justice for all.
My activism didn’t begin and end with the march. My feminist activism is what I carry with me daily. Every day since the election I have called my senators and representatives. Every day I have something I want them to do for this country. Every day I dial their numbers and say to the young person working the phones on the other end of the line, “Hello there, Nick. This is Kay. I’m a voter in Missouri and I want you to tell the senator to vote (insert yes/no; for/against add issue here).” Every. Day. And these two acts, the marching and the calling, are connected. I must speak out. I must make my presence known. The alternative is to let hatred, fear, and ignorance take over this country. And I care too much about this place to let that happen. And so I marched.