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Op-Ed: This is why the Women’s March matters

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Photo Credit: Isabella Mahal

The purpose of the Women's March extended far beyond gender equality, stretching to protests against climate change, sexual assault, immigration restrictions, and more. Photo Credit: Isabella Mahal

by Karen Manley

On Saturday, January 20,  I marched alongside 150,000 empowered individuals in Denver, Colorado, for the 2018 Women’s March. I then posted about it on social media to share my experience and immediately received pushback from parties who disagreed. I began to understand the Women’s March is misrepresented among certain groups of people, leading to assumptions of untrue motives for marching and a general misconception about its purpose.

The Women’s March is a global protest against of all forms of oppression. This includes targeted persecution of women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and many other groups throughout the world. The intention is to bring light to issues that have been disregarded in recent years and to empower women to change the world.

Among many, feminism has become a dirty word, as if it isn’t about equality anymore. The new connotation is a bunch of man-hating women who don’t shave and want to smash the patriarchy. This isn’t at all the case. Feminism is about equality for all, not the superiority of women. People tend to assume oppression does not exist, simply because they haven’t experienced it firsthand. It was more obvious when women couldn’t vote, or were required to wear dresses in  public. In the last 100 years, women have made enormous strides in terms of equality. But the one in six women that are victims of an attempted or completed rape, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and those scared they could be a part of the statistic know there is still progress to be made.

The march itself was the most empowering thing I’ve ever experienced. It is crucial to the wellbeing of the human race that people are given equal opportunity internationally, and that each and every person feels safe in who they are.

Karen Manley

by Isabella Mahal

I was raised to remember that I am privileged. My dad was born in India, and on family trips to visit New Delhi, my parents would always take us the city’s School for the Blind. My mom would pack several bags of lollipops, and we wouldn’t be allowed to have any, even when we asked politely. My brother and I would hand them to young boys, not much older than ourselves. Their faces, as they tasted something small and sweet, the type of candy I received every time I rode with my mom to the bank, stick with me now.

Since I was young, I’ve considered myself an activist. When I was seven, that meant reading and re-reading American Girl books about Addy, a slave girl. By age ten, it meant that I wrote my school essays on Claudette Colvin. She, at the age of 16, refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1950s Montgomery, Alabama. I found the omission of her story from what we learned in school about the Civil Rights movement to be a great injustice. To me, Colvin was my closest role model. She wasn’t famous, nor was she already an adult. She was purely fed up with being treated as a second-class citizen, or worse.

In a journal that I kept “secret” by wrapping in a homemade book cover labeled, “secound [sic] grade insect facts”, I wrote a song that summed up my elementary school experience with advocacy. It went:

“Why do people think pink is girls?

Why?, Why?

Why do boys think girls have know [sic] power?

What’s wrong with H. Tubman, H. Keller, E. Rosavelt [sic], and Rosa Parks?

I don’t know. I don’t know.”

I filled my time reading about Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. I ranked my heroes from a list of groundbreakers who devoted their lives for those of all women.

In November 2016, I became one. My first protest was the first Women’s March on Denver, which when taken with the other Women’s Marches across the globe, became the United States’ largest single day protests in history. One side of my sign read, “Girls just wanna have funDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS.” The other read, “Darling, you better start making noise.” Directly after the election, I was enraged. I felt failed by my country, felt scared of what my future might hold. As someone who is mixed race, as one of the leaders of my school Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and as a woman, I felt ill-represented and powerless to have a political say.

That Women’s March was, for me, eye-opening to all the things I didn’t know. I saw signs that referred to climate change and conflicts of interests and Comey and I couldn’t give more than a stumbling, sentence-long explanation of what they meant. I realized that anger was not cathartic, nor was it helpful when your goal is to change a long-standing institution.

So I started to change. I started to read the news daily, picking the British Broadcasting Service so that some of the partisan-heavy stories would be filtered out. I attended an open forum in Fort Collins and was the only teenager in the room as educators, parents, and retirees discussed how they would protect Poudre School District from losing curriculum to Betsy deVos’ Department of Education. I rallied for Planned Parenthood protection in Old Town square, wearing a sign around my neck that read “Mind your own uterus” and photographing the hundreds of citizens who turned out to demonstrate solidarity for the life-saving organization.

I let my anger transition to reason, but I didn’t lose my fire. I educated myself, coming to understand how Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals affects nearly 800,000 youth around the country. I joined the National Organization of Women’s teenage branch, NOW CAN, and I participated in discussions surrounding reproductive rights, sexual harassment, and how to find the line between instigating a fight and defending what’s right. And I wrote, throughout it all, wrote to remind myself that my opinions mattered, that I did have a say, that at age sixteen I was more involved with the political climate than some will ever be.

At age seventeen, I marched in my second Women’s March. I had grown, and with me, so had the signs, now reading, “The nation that survives is the one most responsive to change”, in Darwin’s words, and “Determination, Imagination, Insubordination”. While marching alongside what may have been 150,000 fellow human beings, I felt pride on an unprecedented scale. I saw little girls with handmade signs about being Hermione, young queer children with signs that read, “I belong”.

I saw myself represented in every one of those women. I saw myself being carried by my mother, being raised to use my voice for good. I saw myself as a young girl, reading about the Civil Rights movement and wishing I’d been able to participate in a lunch counter sit-in. I saw myself as I am today, balancing high school and a social life with a need to shift the world towards more positivity and inclusivity.

And I saw myself in my twenties, writing on whatever I could find to remind the world that I am no less a human being than anyone else. I saw myself carrying my child in one arm and a poster in the other, keeping quiet so as not to wake them but not shielding their ears to the rest of the world. I saw myself at age sixty, seventy, eighty, carrying the same sign I had been for thirty years and fighting for the same issues because they just keep being targeted.

I hope against hope that those realities will never become true. I hope that society gets the message that we cannot continue on a path of environmental destruction, of telling women what to do with their bodies, and of disregarding the voices of many for the pride of a few.

But if it doesn’t, we won’t be quiet. It is easy to believe that women and men will simply fade back into the shadows and become complacent with the changes that target them every day. It is also cowardly to believe that. Those who will fight passionately for what matters to them are not going away. They are tired of standing in the shadows. They will not return to the darkness. A new era of activism is beginning, and I intend to make sure it remains.

About the Writers
Isabella Mahal, Copy Editor
Isabella Mahal: journalist, academic beat leader, activist for what she believes in. Whether it’s defending women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, or freedom of speech, Mahal isn’t afraid to fight for what she finds just. She has been involved in journalism since her freshman year, but she didn’t know until a couple months into the class that...
Karen Manley, New Director
Karen Manley, a junior, has been in the journalism program for two years. She is most in her comfort zone when she is writing about academics throughout Fossil Ridge High School. This year, as the News Director, Karen is in charge of making sure Etched in Stone is covering all of the important aspects of the...
1 Comment

One Response to “Op-Ed: This is why the Women’s March matters”

  1. Payton Lee on February 23rd, 2018 11:57 am

    This is a bit histrionic, but I still agree with it. I wish I could have been at the Women’s March! <3

    Love,
    Payton

    (See moderator? I can leave positive feedback too.)

    [Reply]

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Op-Ed: This is why the Women’s March matters