On April 4, 1949, diplomats from 12 nations gathered in Washington, D.C., to sign the treaty that would form NATO. Created in response to the aggressive expansion of Soviet communism into Eastern Europe after WWII, the organization was described by President Truman as “a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression—a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of government and society, the business of achieving a fuller and happier life for all our citizens.”
At the heart of NATO is the idea of collective defense—that an attack on one is an attack on all. This was the concept I kept returning to in the brain-fogging days following the 2016 election when I, like many, grasped for meaning. I devoured informed opinions from both liberal and conservative news outlets until my eyes ached.
I patrolled social media like a guard dog, ready to counter-attack the racist, sexist, and homophobic posts I felt sure would surface. (And they did.) I gave momentary consideration to political sites rife with Dan Brown-level conspiracy theories. I waited restlessly every night, like an addict waiting for a fix, for the comedic commiserations of Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. I missed Jon Stewart, deeply. I was exhausted, but energized and ready to take action. But how? I had no idea.
I have spent my career in publishing. I’ve told myself that my work has been important, especially in my most recent role as the managing editor of the Advocate. I am proud of the work I did there, but it hasn’t been enough. Not nearly enough—a fact that was made manifest in a Facebook status I posted a week after the election: “Did you know that in 28 states, you can be fired just for being gay? You can get married, but you better not show your boss the wedding photos!”
I’ve lived in two worlds since I had children and moved out of the city and into the exurbs. There’s no echo chamber here, at least not for my views. Roughly half of my friends and almost all of my family members voted for Trump. But those same people didn’t know there are no federal protections for LGBT people. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act could extend those protections, but it’s failed to pass in the House, despite the fact that 70% of Americans support it. Mike Pence voted against it.
One nice dad I know responded, “Ugh, if you spend time looking at old state laws that have been ignored for almost 100 years you will drive yourself crazy. Some of these are so ridiculous I can’t believe they were ever actually written, that’s how bad they are.” He, and many in my circle, had no idea that the lack of federal protections results in people being fired or losing their housing, and that our new Vice-President Elect would like to keep it that way.
I am not LGB or T. I am a white, hetero, cisgender, married mom from a comfortable, middle-class household. I am, by all measures, privileged. And there are people who hate me for that, who think that I am not sufficiently intersectional. People who argue that the Women’s March on Washington is a “feel-good exercise in search of a cause.”
Perhaps, setting aside the cynicism, they are not entirely wrong.
Women like me, who have always been politically engaged, are attempting to bridge the divide to becoming politically active. For some, the march could mark the first step on the path to fighting racial injustice, supporting environmental organizations, advocating for civil rights or even running for office. There is no one cause we are marching for, because women represent every cause. And, yes, it feels damn good to get together with like-minded women. But more than that, something powerful is happening.
White women are being judged by our skin color in unflattering ways, and while it feels awful, it is also an opportunity to glimpse—however infinitesimally—what women of color have been dealing with for centuries. It’s like childbirth in a way: no matter how much you have read, listened, or seen, you can’t really understand what it feels like until you’ve experienced it. But I’m still going to keep reading, keep listening, and keep watching. I may not ever totally understand what it is like to be someone else, but I will do my best to try and to take action however and wherever I can.
Women represent every religion, race, ethnicity, class, and orientation—with this march we have the opportunity to publicly, emphatically, embrace our diversity and our common sisterhood by standing together in the face of an administration that would seek to divide us. So I am going to Washington to show this new administration that I will stand against injustice wherever I encounter it, whether or not it is part of my personal experience.
Because an attack on one woman is an attack on all.
Click here for information on the Women’s March in DC, or to find a sister march.