Saturday, January 21, 2017

On Missing the March

Today was a big day for women across America. For men, too, but today was about women. I watched as loads of my friends trucked to Washington, D.C. - some in pink hats, others with homemade signs, still others with the names of women sharpied on their palm who were not able to make the journey. I constantly refreshed my Facebook feed to see rivers of women jamming the subway to join the sea of women already marching. And that's all I got to do. Watch.

I watched with a little bit of envy and a whole heap of sadness because I also wasn't marching.

Eventually, I was so overcome with what I can only describe as grief that, instead of working on my novel (which is my standard Saturday morning appointment), I turned on a Will and Grace marathon and tried to laugh myself into forgetting. But here I am at 7 PM, still unable to rid myself of the knot in my stomach, and feeling I must put this grief into words. Words that won't, most likely, be received with much enthusiasm. And will, even more likely, be just another voice in the cacophony of voices already sounding. But here I am. And here it goes.

Today I was watching, not because I was unable to attend. I didn't have a previous engagement (apart from my novel - who would have been enormously understanding if I cancelled). I could have easily made the 2 hour drive to get to our great nation's capital.

I watched today because I was not welcome.

When first I heard about the Women's March, I was pumped. I wanted to see what it was all about. I went onto the website and read through their Unity Principles. Human Rights. Check. Ending Violence. Check. Reproductive Rights. Che—wait. What? I read further. "We believe in Reproductive Freedom . . . This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion. . ." Evidently if you have any qualms about abortion, you aren't invited to the party. 

Because of my faith and my belief that every single human life matters - even the unborn - I don't get to participate in a movement that I care deeply about. Abortion, I believe, is a human rights violation that stems from women's rights violations.

Okay, maybe I could overlook this. Maybe I could still participate. Then I read this:

So if anyone who does not support abortion wants to be involved, it causes harm and prompts horror? It seems this march isn't for all women. Inclusivity is actually exclusive. As reported by Emma Green in The Atlantic, the Women's March organization stated, "The Women's March platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one." So today's march is evidently only for women that agree on certain points. 

Quite honestly, I'm not interested in arguing the points of pro-choice vs. pro-life. Mostly I'm not interested in arguing because arguing has never changed a mind or built a bridge. (Though it's destroyed a bunch.) I'm interested in the fact that a march promoting tolerance and unity and peace and equality has categorically alienated millions of women in this country. 

What a collosal missed opportunity.

A few years ago I spent time with a friend who had chosen to have an abortion. She told me, "I felt trapped. Like I had no other choice." I believe that's how most women feel when they choose abortion, trapped. 

But what if their job allowed for paid maternity leave.

What if there was a safe place for a woman in an unsafe situation to go so that she could actually raise her child.

What if a woman was paid the same wages as her male-counterparts so that she could provide for a growing family.

What if a woman had access to decent, affordable healthcare. (I realize this opens the contraception can of worms. I also am not interested in going there and arguing either. Because it's beside the point.)

The point is: if we could address the other Unity Principals stated on the Women's March page, abortion could potentially become a non-issue. These other women's rights violations (in the workplace, in government, in immigration, in the breakdown of civil rights) create a human rights violation (abortion). Call me optimistic (I've never pretended to be otherwise), but I'm convinced that together we can affect change that surpasses what those who marched today and those who watched could even imagine.

Would it be easy? Absolutely not. The road to anything worth having is never easy, simple, clear-cut, or even distinguishable at first. But it's a road from which we need to cut back the overgrowth blocking the entrance and start to travel. 

Because we are women. We know how to play together without bullying someone out of the sandbox. We are all of us strong. powerful. passionate. worthy. And we are capable of greatness together.

Just imagine for a minute the force we women would be if we joined together. Imagine the inundation of women our capital and our new President would have seen if this hadn't been an exclusive march. 

So now, instead of grief, I'm actually feeling angry. Because our fight for women's rights could have been so much bigger. Millions of women sitting at home and watching could have been marching alongside our sisters. Because, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, or political persuasion, we all want the same thing. We are all looking for better. 

Right now I'm sitting at my kitchen counter writing this. Next to me are my 2 youngest daughters playing with paper dolls. And the only thought in my head is that I want more for them. I want better for them than a country full of women that tells them they have to fit a mold for their convictions to matter. That they have to agree to the enclosed checklist to be allowed to participate. 

All of us want to raise our daughters in a country that values them as much as their brothers, offers them the same opportunity, grants them the same freedoms and privileges, and recognizes their contributions, thoughts, words, dreams, and, yes, even their bodies as valid, worthy, and beautiful.

We want to live in a country where inclusivity is, in fact, just that. 

You may not agree with me. That is completely okay. That's the beauty of it all. We can still be friends even if we disagree. And I have many friends marching today who don't agree with me. And I love them fiercely, just as they love me (or so they tell me). And I am hopeful that one day I too will get to march alongside them.

(I should add that if your disagreement turns to mean or disrespectful comments on my blog page, they're going to disappear. Because I believe I made it clear that I have no interest in arguing. And we are bigger than insults. Thank you, friends.)


  1. These have been my own thoughts and feelings all weekend. Thank you for having the courage to write them! I agree, it was a TREMENDOUS missed opportunity.

    1. I'm sorry you felt this way, too. Though I am hopeful for more opportunities to unite, despite differences. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Hi Anna, it's good to see you on the blog. As you are aware I am a woman and I'm also unapologetically pro-life. I feel like my opinions are constantly attacked and minimized in today's world, but I've got nothing to prove at my age, so I seldom care what anyone thinks. The Pro-life March in Washington is this coming weekend, I believe. It will be massive but almost ignored by mainstream media.
    I hope you and yours are well and happy. I'm glad you're writing 😊

    1. As always, Danni, I appreciate your visit and your thoughts. I am highly curious to see if this Saturday's March for Life turnout is affected by the lack of inclusion in last weekend's march. I'm not sure, as you stated, we'll get a full accounting of the upcoming March for Life by the media (as history has proved), but as always I love to see We the People exercising our democratic rights of peaceful protest. Hope you are well, Danni. Wonderful to see you.

  3. When did our entire society get the memo that unity means making sure everyone else believes in my values? It is scary how fractured our society has become. It seems most are so concerned that no one tramples their rights that they have a right to trample anyone and anything that gets in their way.
    Is it any wonder some of us refuse to so much as put one toe into the arena? Who wants to be trampled?

    1. You're right, Lisa. Our society is indeed fractured, and it seems that the only way to start repairing some of those cracks is by listening and responding with grace. Grace and empathy. And it has to start somewhere, even if it is just by dipping a toe in the arena. Scary business, indeed, because you're right. No one wants to be trampled.

  4. I believe that the annual March For Life in Washington, DC is this coming Friday, 1/27/2017....not Saturday. I wouldn't want any of you to miss it by going a day late.

  5. So so good. I appreciate your ability to write in such an encouraging way. You are brave and sweet and such a good example.

    1. Thank you, Lauren. Be well, be strong, dear one. xo

  6. Anna, I am always eager to read your thoughtful words, and this blog post is no exception. I am listening to your anger and frustration, and I want to tell you I stand in agreement with your calls for fighting for safe places for women to go, for equal pay, and for access to decent, affordable healthcare. These are all essential platforms we should be working for. I love you, and I cherish our friendship so dearly exactly because of our sometimes wildly differing perspectives; because they always rest on a bed of trust, openness and honesty. I value your opinions and points of view because while I don’t always agree with you, you always give me opportunity to think and reflect and grow as a person. I agree that Jessica Valenti’s “horrified” tweet is off-putting, insulting, and alienating, and I am sorry. Because while I agree that minds about this topic in particular are rarely changed, language is important and we on both sides would do well to recognize that the “other” side has a right to respectful discourse.

    With that said, I will respectfully stand in defense of the Woman’s March platform calling for the right to reproductive freedom, and disagree that it should be (or even could be) separated from the other Unity Principles and this is why: A progressive agenda (and just to be clear, this is what the organizers of the Women’s March unapologetically claimed their Unity Principles to be) recognizes that reproductive freedom is inextricably bound to and cannot be separated from other issues that affect women, including the ones you brought up and I mentioned above. This is because reproductive freedom is essential to a woman’s right to self-determination, and the right to self-determination is essential to full equality. In other words, reproductive freedom IS economic freedom, and economic freedom ensures a woman her right to life, liberty and security of person. Having qualms about abortion doesn’t stand in conflict with a platform of reproductive freedom. Championing policies that restrict or eliminate or deny a woman’s right to choose what is best for herself and her family, however, does. I am truly sorry for your friend who, opting for one herself, said she felt stuck. But abortion isn’t what made your friend feel stuck. Abortion is what gave your friend a choice. Millions of women have been able to fulfill their dreams of self-actualization and full personhood because of reproductive freedoms, including access to legal and safe abortion. Champions of reproductive freedom also recognize that banning abortion doesn’t end abortions, it only ends safe abortions, and unsafe (and also unregulated) abortions are demonstrably harmful to women. So until empirical evidence mounts overwhelmingly to show that women are MORE harmed by freedom of choice than by restrictive reproductive policies that subjugate a woman’s autonomy and adversely affect her health, a progressive feminist agenda will never include a platform of restrictive reproductive policies, and it can never exclude a platform championing a woman’s inalienable right to full reproductive freedom.

    That, dear friend, is my best attempt at explaining where I (and the progressively influenced Unity Principles Platform) come from and why, and I am offering it as an explanation, not an argument. Because I do not doubt that we on all sides of the political spectrum share a sincere desire to raise our daughters (real and metaphorical) in a country that will recognize them as equal citizens and value them for all the qualities you mentioned, even as that shared hope is shaped by a diametrically opposed worldview, one which is inseparable from the core values we hold.

    1. I agree, dear Liza, that our wildly differing views are precisely why I love and value our friendship. And I appreciate your articulate and insightful explanation. There is more I could say in response to it, but I think our time would be better served by me emphasizing that our discussion here is exactly the kind of open and respectful discourse I wish could happen more often. Even leading up to the march, this reasonable rhetoric would have been helpful to me (and I'm sure others) to quell some of our frustration, though not all. I still believe an opportunity was lost. That the 7% that we don't agree on became the dividing line for inclusivity. (Is that a real word? Spell-check says no.) That said, I loved watching the hoards of women, the sea of pink, filling DC (and so many other cities) and loved seeing your posts and pictures and was rooting for you - especially since seeing that ocean of women overwhelmed my introverted self (and I know you feel me on that count). So the fact that you pressed on makes me so proud. Heaps of love to you, Liza.


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