The American revolution began in Boston—and a feminist revolution began yesterday on the Boston Common where 175,000 people spoke truth to power. So many people showed up for the Boston Women’s March that it was more like a shuffle–a mighty, rejuvenating shuffle.
I’ve taken back the night too many times to count. I’ve monologued about vaginas on stage. I’ve sold ERA t-shirts at rock concerts. But this electrifying movement was balm to the feminist soul.
Early Saturday morning, I do as President Obama admonishes and lace up my shoes to hop a train into the city. My friend Cathy cannot attend due to illness. She texts: “be safe and kind and fierce.” I carry a photo of her and Gloria Steinem in my pocket. Angels. Half an hour later, our train blows by hundreds of poster-toting marchers waiting to climb aboard at designated stops. We are sardined into place—so we wave, empathize, hold tight to our crowded spot on that train.
All of us have one mission: get to the women-led event to insist on our humanity.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBT) charged no one. When I ask if this is a “donation” to the cause, an MBTA agent nods shyly. On board, babies in miniature “pussyhats” squeal. Jesse, a 17-year-old from Groton’s Lawrence Academy, carries posters she inscribed with the words “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA.” Seated next to her is Leslie, 51, a teacher who said she was marching because “we are powerful in our difference.”
She adds: “The White House and Congress must listen to the rest of us.”
Off the train and onto Boston Common, we hoist one woman into a tree for a better view. We thank a gaggle of state troopers for keeping us safe. Clinging to the black iron fence that edges Beacon Street, we position ourselves behind the stage. The Common itself is jam-packed, and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond kicks things off with a cri de coeur: “We are not going back.” We echo. Unified. Clear. Loud.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh felt a “sickness” on Inauguration Day, but as he looks out at all of us on Boston Common, he feels better. “We’re going to be the first state to fight back,” he declares. He reminds the roaring crowd that Massachusetts was the first state to protect marriage equality and to bring universal health care to its citizens.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a perennial hit, lauds the power of women to bring “good ideas like this rally” to the country. She admits that the sight of Donald Trump being inaugurated as president is “burned into my eyes forever.” Her antidote? “We fight harder, we fight tougher, we fight more passionately than ever for all of America. Trump and the Republicans will try to ram through laws that will tilt [America] back. We can whisper, we can whine or we can fight back. We will not play dead.” Before the fervently-applauding crowd, Warren pauses. We quiet.
“Now I am going to say something real controversial in DC.” The crowd waits for it. “We believe in science.” More ardent laughing and fist bumping along Beacon Street and inside the Common. Warren, known for nailing down the truth in succinct nuggets, offers up a call for the America we believe in. “We have a moral responsibility to protect this earth for our children,” she shouts. “Immigration makes us a stronger country. We will not tear families apart. Sexism, racism, homophobia, bigotry have no place in this country. Equal means equal… in the workplace, in marriage, in every place.
Up next, Senator Edward Markey is proud. “This is where the American revolution began.” Massachusetts, he holds, protested the Vietnam war here, supported the ERA here. Freedom fighters left from here. “This is who we are.” Through the rails of the fence, I spot and shout over Congressman “Joe” Kennedy III. From the inside of the Common, he shakes my hand through the fence. “This is pretty awesome,” Kennedy tells us. “On the first day of a Trump presidency, there are over 100,000 people here.” All along the fence, we agree.
“There are more of us here than there yesterday,” begins Attorney General Maura Healey. “And I have a message for the president from the people of Massachusetts: We’ll see you in court!” This, she maintains, is not a one-day march. “This is a sustained march… Be brave. Be fearless.” The band kicks in then, and we sway as much as possible with bodies pressed one against another. We sing along to “This Little Light of Mine,” tiny humans and ancient humans alike.
Heading home, we overflow with enthusiasm and stories.
“I wanted to scream in the streets,” Wendy, 70, tells me, “as I did for the draft into the Vietnam war. I remember. We’ve experienced protests working.” Her friend Rebecca, 67, knows the “power of solidarity. We give each other energy and courage.” Rebecca was arrested twice, once was in protest over the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear plant in 1977 when she spent two weeks in an armory with 500 other protestors.
Allie, 29, laughs. “I felt so inspired and alive from being part of something so big… and to top it off, I realized that I marched the whole day with my fly unzipped—which I took as a sign from my lady parts not to be forgotten!”
“I see this march as a way for women to be heard, be seen, be recognized and be respected,”Joan, 64, tells me. “Nobody can demand respect, but they can demand attention. The women of this country are getting attention today.”
Yordanos Eyoel, 32, one of the co-chairs of the Boston march, has unbridled hope. She believes we can attain the “core American value of human decency” because she has seen the sacrifice of the volunteers who made the Boston march possible. An immigrant from Ethiopia, Eyoel took her oath to become an American citizen in September 2016.
“I march because it is my duty,” she says. This march forms a “space for dialogued, where we can learn from each other; this is the foundation for grass roots energy, for our future work.”
Truth be told, I did not bear in mind Margaret Atwood’s warning in The Handmaid’s Tale: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Rather, I “let the bastards grind me down” on November 8, heading to bed even before Florida and Ohio were called with my “I’m With Her” button clasped in my palm. Sometimes the writing on the wall wields what feminist poet Adrienne Rich called “the knife edge of mere fact.”
The Boston Women’s March catapulted me into fresh awareness and commitment. It was the most peaceful, electric, powerful antidote to the world change we saw in November.
We are on the move, out of the darkness and into the light. Safe, kind and fierce.