When a protest is like a funeral

A This I Believe episode that’s always stuck with me is “Always go to the funeral.” Going to a funeral is a life event you go to not for yourself, but for others. Especially if you’re close to the deceased. It’s an act of generosity for you to attend something that might be sad, painful, and uncomfortable. But you’re doing it to celebrate life of someone else and to support those left behind. I think about this maxim a lot when I have to go somewhere I don’t want to. A friend has invited me to something far away or it’s raining or I’m tired or a million other little excuses. I don’t want to go, but I muster my introverted body onto a bus and shuttle myself over because I know it would mean a lot to them. It’s a small effort on my part—a negligible sacrifice of the quiet evening at home I pine for—that is impactful to my friend. It’s this lost art of being reliable and the maturity to do things that you might not be over-the-moon excited for.

I hope you, especially my male friends, will consider attending the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, wherever your call home. To be honest, it’s not something that I thought I would participate in even a few weeks ago. I don’t really want to go, but I would regret not doing it. I would regret not taking showing my support and taking a stand on women’s issues. It’s like…I don’t want be a feminist. I really don’t want to be a feminist. Until the passed couple of years I’ve resisted all things feminine. But feminism was forced upon me. The older I got, it wasn’t just being aware of bad things that happen to other women or unwittingly to me (unrealistic standards of beauty, unequal pay, or violence), it was confronting it myself over and over again. Listening to my co-workers undermine my authority in front of clients, listening to them sexualize women in front of me (I had to look up what motor boating meant), and once, when he was drunk, my manager mentioned my weight gain like he was trying to warn me I shouldn’t be so confident.  There was getting harassed and cat called on the street over and over again. I remember one week in Pittsburgh something uncomfortable happened nearly every time I left campus. Someone slowed their car down to shout acts of sexual violence at me. I felt so angry and powerless.

And then there’s the literal cost of being a woman, the clothes, the makeup, the time we are expected to put into looking nice otherwise we’ll get asked “Are you sick? You look tired.” My beautiful friends with self-esteems that are torn apart not just by the the images of beauty in magazines and movies, but by their own friends who are fret about diets, weight, hair, and skin care until it becomes a just normal culture to feel bad about yourself. Which I do, still, all the time.

It all really wore on me.

I can’t be aware of what’s happening and do nothing. I can’t say nothing. Because we live in a country where a man can get caught in the act or raping a woman and get a boys-will-be-boys slap on the wrist. Where being a famous woman means also getting tweets, messages, and comments about your looks, your voice, or just flat out threats and sexual harassment. And now more than ever I have fear of this anti-feminist culture where our president-elect boasts about sexual assault, demeans women beyond their looks, and represents a movement that is taking aware our access to healthcare. I wish we didn’t need feminism, but we do.

Yes, it’s just a march. By participating, things won’t magically change the next day. Unfortunately it’s not that easy. You show up because you care. You show up because it matters. You show up because you want to teach others that you think it matters. It one day and one distance in your life, but it means a lot to others.

I hope you’ll give it some serious thought.

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