Dear Dordt Diamond Editor:
The familiar sense of trepidation that accompanies being told that I, as a woman, am acting and/or speaking out of place filled me as I read Caeden Tinklenberg’s article “Pondering a proactive, pro-choice protest.” Perhaps it was not the intent of the writer, but the culmination of the opinion piece’s lack of research and dogmatic tone reminded me of every man who has ever implied that I should sit down and shut up. We can do better.
My decision to participate in the Women’s March was not flippantly made. In fact, I am highly critical of aspects of the event. My first critique of the event is regarding its original leadership: when the organizing for the March began, its leadership was comprised almost entirely of white women who also lacked organizing experience. Activism that is focused on empowering women and ignores intersectional realities is self-defeating. This criticism was, thankfully, recognized and three professional activists and women of color joined the leadership as co-chairs. My second critique is that the March excluded and alienated the “pro-life” organization “New Wave Feminists.” By taking an unyielding “pro-choice” position, the March missed an opportunity to build and activate a broader coalition.
Despite my criticisms and concerns, I marched. People of all gender and racial identities, from infants to the elderly, in locations across all seven continents, from diverse economic and spiritual backgrounds, joined me. We each stepped into the streets for different reasons and with different issues on our hearts. I marched because I hold the steadfast belief that all people have inherent dignity and worth as image bearers of God. I marched because I am part of a body, and right now there are parts of our body hurting. The underlying anger and frustration that led to the election of the current president is very real, and so is the heightened vulnerability and fear currently being experienced by people who are immigrants, refugees, racial, sexual and spiritual minorities, and those who are experiencing economic and health care insecurity.
And yes, I marched because, as a woman, I weigh the risks of walking home from a friend’s apartment at 9 p.m. I marched because I have sat with too many friends and strangers who have experienced sexual assault and rape. I marched because members of my community brushed off “grab them by the pussy” as “just talk” and “locker room talk.” I marched because, according to a 2015 National Network to End Domestic Violence report, 72,828 women utilized intimate partner violence services in this country, and as a social worker, I know that not everyone who needs those services accesses them. I marched because I want my community to be one of civility, integrity and compassion, but the current leadership of my country has not only failed to embody these values, it has also blatantly dehumanized people who bear the image of my God.
I marched for all those who feel vulnerable and afraid with the acknowledgement that sometimes, so do I. I marched for my parents who, despite raising me to believe that I could do anything, still struggle every day to help me believe it. I marched for my 17-year old brother because I know he is watching.
Each participant of the Women’s March was motivated by his or her own reasons, but it was all to say this: “We are here. We have a voice. We matter too.” I understand why some people would see the diversity of motivations as a flaw of the March, but I hold a different perspective. In a time when division runs so deep, there is an absolute refusal to enter into civil and compassionate conversation with those whom we deem fundamentally different from ourselves, people came together. In spite of individual concerns, beliefs and identities, people came together. On behalf of themselves and their neighbors, people came together to push our government and our civil society to do better, because we can do better. The best a society can do is recognize its brokenness and continuously strive to do better. Make no mistake; the Women’s March was a moment, not a movement. The movement is what comes next, because we can do better.
Maxwell is a 2016 Dordt graduate and a 2017 Masters of Social Work Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.