For Washington, D.C. locals, the week of inauguration is always — to say the least — busy. This year, however, Inauguration Day is not the only hot ticket in town. While hundreds of thousands of people will descend upon the nation’s capital to see the new president be sworn in on Friday, January 20, some 200,000 others are expected to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. According to the march's mission statement, the event — the largest political protest in recent history — "will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us."
Those who plan to march have unique stories and motivations, yet they are united by a shared belief that women’s rights are human rights. As D.C. readies itself for the spotlight, I spoke to eight local women about why they’re marching, who they’re marching with, and how they’re preparing to make history.
Catherine Chandler, 40, research analyst
Chandler, a D.C. resident of 13 years, is attending the march with her wife and two young sons.
“We want to be a part of the headcount and show our kids some of the best of this country. I want to be a part of the momentum. I need the energy to propel me into action again and again and again as I prepare for the worst over the next few years. As the parent of two boys, I particularly need a lot of strength and patience to ensure that they won't be harmed by the increasingly toxic masculinity in American public life. I will have failed them if I can't teach them to be allies.
As a white, middle class, lesbian feminist, I have a lot of privilege to unpack and put to good use in the struggle against systems of oppression. This march should just be the beginning for all of us to learn from and commit to each other.”
Lacey Dunham, 34, arts and literacy educator
Dunham has lived in D.C. for 11 years. She identifies as queer and is attending the march with friends.
“I work with D.C. public school youth, and the day after the election I was in a classroom with fifth graders who were mostly Hispanic — some of whom are immigrants or have parents who are immigrants — and the theme that kept emerging that day was their keen sense of [being] powerless to influence the election, and their deep and realistic fears about what will happen to them and the people they love.
I think often of the conversations from that day, and I'll take that into the march. I have the privilege of American citizenship. My citizenship and my age grant me the right to vote, and I see the march as another tool of amplifying voices for those who will be affected by policy changes with the new administration and Congress but who may not be able to speak publicly.”
Kayla Herpers, 21, student
A women’s, gender, and sexuality studies major at American University, Herpers is attending the march with members of the Survivors Justice Movement (SJM), a group that connects survivors and supporters and encourages them to organize politically.
“Hundreds of thousands are expected to march, and women will be coming from all over to march in D.C. That is quite incredible. I hope to leave the march feeling empowered and heard. Oppressed groups often are not listened to or understood by the groups in power and resultantly experience a lot of pain, anger, and fear.
When we have been continually dismissed, ignored, and blamed, that hurts. In a march where you are standing in solidarity with people who have felt a similar pain or see things from your view, there is a special intimacy and energy there.”
Edurné Lopez, 33, research analyst
Lopez, who’s lived in northwest D.C. for five years, is also attending with the Survivors Justice Movement. Although she was initially excited about the march and said it “represents hope,” she also said that certain organizers have been unresponsive about providing a platform for rape survivors to speak.
“This made me feel despair after feeling so much hope. This is not acceptable. I bring this up because we have to hold each other accountable. I have also seen posts from women of color who have walked away from the march because they were not accepted or have seen this happen, so [they] chose not to participate. I had decided not to go, but since the members of my group wanted to go, I changed my mind and have decided to put it aside and use this day to try to find survivors who need our help.
I hope to meet more survivors in order to form a critical mass. Survivors of rape and domestic violence have to fight for their own rights to break free from rape culture, victim blaming, and rape myth and finally get some damn justice.”
Caroline Griswold Short, 29, nonprofit professional
Short, who works with teen parents in the D.C. area, is attending the march with her husband, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friends. Her 90-year-old grandmother is marching in Fernandina Beach, Florida.
“I was so devastated by the results of the election, and it was good to see an opportunity for all of us to come together and protest this administration and the despicable things they have promised to do. This march is less about making specific demands — although I love the platform they have advanced — and more about letting the new administration know that we are not going to roll over and die. We will fight not only for our own rights but for the rights of one another. We are a force to be reckoned with.
I hope to feel a sense of power in a community of individuals who may not agree on everything but who are committed to meaningful resistance over the next four years. I think the more attendance the better, and hopefully it will make Republican legislators think twice about some of the things they're trying to do immediately, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act.”
Julia Tagliere, 47, writer
Tagliere lives in nearby Maryland and is attending the march with her 18-year-old daughter, who voted for the first time in 2016.
“I'm doing a lot of reading. I don't think any woman marching is marching only for herself, so I feel it's important to try to understand as many of the different perspectives that will be represented that day as possible. We need to present a unified presence.
I hope that [the march] is enough to effect meaningful, pragmatic changes to improve daily life for everyone — not just at the level of the policymakers in Washington, who have seen enough protests by now as to seem all but immune to them, but rather to inspire and effect change on an individual, neighborhood, and community level. We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and wring our hands. Clearly, even our vote is no longer enough; we must become engaged in the world around us, and I hope that this march will galvanize that type of active participation.”
Daniella Thompson, 40, event manager
Thompson, a biracial mother of three who’s lived in the area for 11 years, is attending the march with her oldest daughter, colleagues, sister, nieces, and friends.
“This is my first time ever participating in something like this — that's how much this election and our future has affected me. Fear is an incredible motivator. It's made me sit up, listen, read the newspaper, research, and take note of what's happening outside my little bubble. This march has already given me a sense of purpose, a sense of renewed pride in women and what we can accomplish. Some really badass ladies pulled off this amazing event. I plan events in D.C. — I know the permitting hurdles they had to jump!
I'm doing a lot of online research about the march, the speakers, the topics of top concern for women because, let's be honest, most of us don't know what all of them are. [I’m] trying to educate my 15-year-old daughter as much as possible on the importance of this event. I'm pumped to share this experience with [her] and set the example that we can't always wait for others to fight our battles. You have a brain, a voice, ideas — use them all to make a difference for more than just yourself.”
Valerie Young, 54, public policy analyst
Young has lived in the D.C. suburbs most of her life. She’s attending the march with two friends from New Jersey, both of whom are mothers of young children.
“The march to me is an expression of frustration with governmental action to date regarding the issues of gender equity, women's bodily autonomy, political empowerment, leadership, and the institutional and systemic diminishment and devaluation of care and punitive policies against family caregivers, male or female.
Sexual harassment and assault are blights on society and adversely affect both men and women. Rape culture is real. Gender discrimination is real. These are economic and social issues of the highest priority, with implications for our well-being as a nation, as a global competitor, and for our national security. Women are now better educated than men, but still channeled out of the labor market. I am incensed that these issues continue to be neglected by policymakers. [I look forward to] participating in a women's political exercise [that] shows ourselves as a powerful force in collective action and civic engagement.”
Mekita Rivas, 27, writer
As for me, the march is a chance to be on the right side of history. Future generations will demand that we be held accountable for what we have done and for what we do next. They will wonder, "How could you elect someone who was so obviously unqualified and unfit to serve in the nation's highest office?" I want to be able to say that I did my part, that I fought for civil rights, that I resisted, that I refused to be scared into silence.
And as a first-generation American, I feel an incredible responsibility to do right by my parents' sacrifices. They left their home countries, cultures, languages, and families behind so that I could have opportunities that they could only dream about. I march for them and for my future children who will ask where I was on January 21, 2017.