What I learned after Protesting on Saturday, Jan 21

January 25, 2017



The only other protest I had taken part in was about 15 years ago, when I was in high school and we (the US) were about to go to war in Iraq over alleged weapons of mass destruction. That had been just a handful of people standing at the corner of Main Street and a shopping center when I was in 10th grade. After high school, I went to a very non-political school, and then after a few years in grad school I moved to Germany for three years.

I waffled about going to Philadelphia, the nearest bit city to me to protest. I felt incredibly insignificant, I didn't think I, just one person in a crowd, could make much of a difference. And, if I'm honest, the people I would be traveling with were going up very, very early.

Instead, I joined the smaller protest in the town I live in. I'm extremely glad that I did, and I'm hoping to go to a much bigger one in Philadelphia tomorrow. At the protest Saturday, I heard a lot of people saying how uplifting it was, and even use the word fun. This was incredibly different from the other descriptions of protests I'd read and heard from a couple of my more politically active friends.

The protest, and the discussion of it afterwards opened my eyes to a lot of things, including:

+ There have been a lot of protests recently for causes not centered around white people, most notably Black Lives Matter and The Dakota Pipeline Access movements. And many of us white people have been incredibly silent on these matters. Then when it does involve white women, millions turn out to protest. We need to do a better job of showing up for other people, as they showed up on Saturday for us.

+ The number of arrests at a protest does not correlate to the validity or morality of the cause being protested. You can get arrested at protests for things like crowds spilling into the road if your permit is only for the sidewalk or linking arms with the person next to you. There are many different ways to protest, including civil disobedience, which often results in arrest.

+ The protests Saturday the 21st were notably absent of attack dogs, snipers on rooftops and walls of police officers in riot gear. White women are largely viewed as 'harmless', and we were treated as such. But what about other groups who are stereotyped as disruptive? or even just loud? Women spoke of how uplifting they found the protests and were taking selfies with their friends - can you imaging doing that in the kind of environment described above?

+ Womanhood and girlhood are not defined by genitalia. The pink pussy hats are clever, fun and practical for January, but not everyone is cool with defining themselves with that symbol. (I'm still thinking about knitting one).

+ We live in a world where people's wealth and possessions are often associated with their worth; the more you own and the more resources you have, the more value you have. This is why property is sometime targeted. I personally don't like it, but I can understand the connection between property damage and protesting inequality.

+ Some people are all about compromising and reaching out to the other side, but you are under no obligation to befriend someone who is trying to hurt you. Trying to find common ground is great, but if you feel threatened, you don't owe anything to anyone not to get yourself somewhere safe.

+ I haven't been very active politically because I figure as a straight, cis, able-bodied white woman I'm pretty privileged and the best things I can do is shut up, sit down and listen to other people. But maybe I can listen while actively supporting them as well. 

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