I had every plan to participate in or contribute to, in some way, our local Women’s March last week.
The reason I didn’t march is not the reason that most people who know me might think.
I am a critic of (white) feminism. I personally don’t identify as a feminist although I do support feminist efforts- more on that here. Ultimately, feminism and I have a complicated relationship. Feminism and my friends who claim feminism as a guiding value (and one that I admire), ask me to show up in solidarity and sisterhood, without reciprocity of that solidarity. Time and time again. I just can’t do #nicewhitelady feminism because it has historically been at the expense of my own.
But, I wasn’t against the march. In fact, I was very excited. Amidst my complicated relationship with feminism, I also believe that we all need to stay in it, and this collective action mattered to me, to our country, to our world. In the weeks leading to the march, my daughter shared with me that she didn’t want to attend the march. She didn’t say more than that- but she was insistent that she didn’t want to go. I listened, and said okay. And, frankly, I didn’t think more of it. At that point, I did commit to respecting her wishes. I asked her if I could go alone, and again she was adamant that I not go.
On Thursday evening last week, my daughter and I had a chance to hear George Takei speak on campus. Through his talk, she learned bits and pieces about the Japanese American internment, systemic homophobia, different methods of patriotism- including resistance, and how to find your voice to make a difference. When we went home that night, we talked more about the internment. When I was in high school, I had a chance to interview all of the remaining survivors of the Japanese American internment in Houston (yay history fair), and I shared with her pieces of those stories too. We talked about Stonewall, and the courage of collective voices of courageous people. It was an emotional night.
That night, she again shared with me that she did not want to go to the Women’s March. I kept reminding her that I already committed to respecting her wishes weeks ago, but I wanted to understand what she was feeling. At first, she didn’t tell me why. She just kept insisting that we not go. She asked if we could watch it on TV. Follow it on Facebook. Just not actually go in person. Finally, she said to me- chillingly, plainly, bluntly, “I don’t want to go to the march because I am afraid we might get shot.”
Let me offer some context.
- A few weeks ago, her school was on lockdown because of a possible armed person in the area.
- She recently watched an American Girl themed movie, Melody (which I highly recommend). Because the setting in this movie is during the civil rights movement, there is reference to the infamous bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church that killed four young Black school girls on Sept. 15, 1963.
- She has been exposed to some dimensions of the election coverage and current political reality, and has asked hard questions for which I have no answers.
I shared with her that I though it was very courageous for her to share her feelings with me. She brought up all of these prior experiences, and then said, “it is not like we have white skin and people will notice when we get hurt. President Trump does not like people like us.’ We talked about how we have to believe in people.
I honored her wish, although to be completely vulnerable, I have been carrying a great deal of guilt around it all.
My activism that night and weekend, was to hug my baby, hold her close, and be in reconciliation around that decision. I had originally planned to have a mom-daughter weekend, and we did, it just wasn’t the one I imagined. While I haven’t reconciled my discomfort, I am thankful about a few things:
- I am thankful that I considered and respected my daughter’s agency. This was a consent conversation. Consent matters. Her consent should and always will come first. As a parent with power, sometimes I still forget that, but I need to continue to remind myself.
- I am thankful I chose radical love. It may not feel radical to others, and I am so at peace with my choice, that I also fully and joyfully accept any critique of my decision.
- I am thankful for the reminder of the work ahead.
As this current administration continues to test the hypothesis of what a democracy can and should be, I ask of myself and of you- what will you do? Will it be intersectional? Where is democracy situated? If your answer is ‘the people,’ then how are you speaking up in whatever form/practice that makes sense to you?
I continue to personally struggle with feeling not ‘activist’ enough, not ‘politically aware’ enough, ‘not intellectual enough.’ Where I am now pursuing liberation, is that these fears are keeping me from doing what I do know I have, something we all have, which is the ability to ‘love’ enough. That is where I will put my energy (along with the phone calls, letters, community gatherings, voting, and beyond).