Yesterday, millions of women marched in protest against what is happening in the United States. My city organized a sister march in solidarity.
Yeahhhh….I didn’t go.
I watched Netflix. Played with my dog. Did chores. Tweeted. For me, it was any other Saturday. Because the things everyone was protesting about were the things that happen to me on any other day.
You see, when the event was first announced, it was called “The Million Woman March” and everyone got REALLY excited, but me? I had a “but wait” moment.
“But wait…didn’t the Million Woman March happen 20 years ago?”
But I bet y’all didn’t know about that one…do your googles.
The organizers changed the name. Then, I read that the “official” march excluded sex workers, and had partnered with a group who were anti abortion.
“But wait…I’m friends with sex workers and women who have had abortions. Who marches for them?”
When I was about 8 or 9, I proudly announced that I was a FEMINIST. It was the 80’s and “Working Girls” were everywhere. My mom, my Aunts, and my friends’ mothers were all out there, every day, working. I only knew two stay at home moms during my elementary years.
My mother would kind of shrug off my “FEMINIST” declarations. She didn’t discourage them, but she never overtly encouraged them. I foolishly chalked it up to cultural differences and a generational divide. By the time I reached my teens, I was such a “FEMINIST”, that I could’ve been cast as the “progressive teen girl who inserts facts and figures into EVERY conversation (and wears glasses)” on any sitcom or movie. While writing a paper for my politics class, 17 year old me asked my mom if she ever protested; if she had burned any bras.
“I was too busy working to protest and bras are expensive. Who was gonna buy them back for me? Cha.”
(for those who don’t know, “cha” is a disdainful expletive used by West Indian women to express annoyance, my question was highly annoying)
“But those protests were important! Without them you couldn’t go to work!”
“I was ALREADY WORKING. What did you think we were doing?”
When one of my Aunts passed, her obituary read like a shopping list of achievements. There were a lot of “The first…” type sentences in there. In my eyes, she was my Aunt Jenny: a nurse who was the first in her family to come to Canada, and paved the way for her siblings. She worked insanely hard (nurses hours); maintained a household, raised two kids, and still managed to grow beautiful roses and fresh mint in her backyard. She was also very intimidating in a Maxine Waters kind of way. She didn’t come this far for any of us to come half way.
My mother was a divorcee. She had to move back in with the sister mentioned above, and then to get her own place, worked two jobs, raised two kids, attended every parent teacher conference, and cooked every meal. Every single one.* When technology changed in her chosen line of work, she went back to school at the age of 40, and upgraded her skills.
Looking back, I realized that the women in my family didn’t have to fight for the right to work, they were already putting in the work and then some.
By the time I reached adulthood, I realized that I too had put in a LOT of work. Plus, I had endured sexual harassment in the form of fondling by the guy who owned the clothing chain I worked for (he grabbed me by the ass). A boyfriend had assaulted me in broad daylight. I had been rejected from opportunities even though I had worked “twice as hard to be half as good” since I was child. I had put in the work and then some. I was out protesting for a better tomorrow…hell I was protesting for a better today.
But I didn’t see the results.
In fact, instead of results, I’ve had my citizenship and my parentage questioned by so many other women, and therefore my commitment to “the(ir) cause”. I realized that mainstream FEMINISM does not welcome me, just like it didn’t welcome my mother or my aunts.
So I followed her lead. I did the work. When I was invited to protests, or meetings, or groups. I just didn’t respond to the invites just like they didn’t respond to my questions about the(ir) cause.
Don’t ask me to lean in when you haven’t even invited me to a seat at the table.
But I will be here. I’m going to do the work like I have been doing, the way my mother and my aunts did, and I will support every effort simply becuase:
I am a feminist.
I’m just not YOUR feminist.
This photo perfectly captures my feminist experience:
*my mother is embarrassed by my lack of cooking skills and brings it up often.