From PGH to D.C.: These Nasty Women Take a Stand in Solidarity

Name: Maggie Church

Year: Senior

Major: Economics and Statistics

Hometown: Kent, Ohio

Name: Megan Conrow

Year: Senior

Major: Neuroscience

Hometown: Webster, New York

Her Campus: What made you decide to go all the way to Washington to march?

Maggie Church: It's really important to me to show the world, physically, how much we care for social justice. I wanted to do my part to make sure that Sunday’s news spoke of an astonishing and larger-than-expected turnout. Coming from a red state, the march was also an excellent way to release all of my election-related frustrations with like-minded people.

Megan Conrow: After this election season, in which Hillary Clinton focused so much on the power of women and women's rights, while at the same time Donald Trump seemed to spout a new disgusting or threatening comment about women every day, seeing how our nation turned out to vote was extremely discouraging. With all the rights that were now about to be threatened, it was tempting to just bury my head and wait it out. However, I knew that, as someone who has the privilege to make my voice heard, it is my responsibility to speak for those who don't have the means to come out to something like this: women in poverty, disabled women, immigrant women, the trans and queer women who feel unsafe participating in these demonstrations...the list goes on and on. To do what I could for the rights of all people, I chose to undertake the slight inconvenience of going to Washington to show the new administration we mean business.

HC: Who did you go with? How did you get there?

Maggie: I was invited to go with my friend, a Pitt alumni living in Lancaster, and her family about a week before the event. I originally said I would be interested if I could find other Pitt friends to split gas and tolls with me. I never found anyone, but as the date drew nearer I got more and more excited about it and decided it was worth driving the four hours to Lancaster alone.

Megan: I went with one of my very good friends at Pitt, who is very active in social justice movements, and her siblings and a group of their friends. They came in a huge van all the way from Chicago and picked up my friend and I on the way. It was a little squishy, but so fun.

HC: It seems like a wide variety of issues were represented at the march. What issues were the most important to you?

Maggie: I was really there for the feminism. It's important to me that women's rights are taken seriously by this mostly-male Congress. They may not want to face these issues, considering their erasure from the White House website, but we can’t let them forget that we are watching and ready to fight back. I'm also supportive of intersectional aims, so I’m really glad they were included. There were a lot of signs and speeches calling for the rights for all women. These kinds of conversations can help us move towards a greater solidarity. It makes sense that other causes were represented, too. Liberal stances are really easily tied together, for example, the burden of climate change largely falls on women and other minorities.

Megan: It's really hard to choose, as all the issues brought up were so valid and important, including some I had not heard much about previously (such as the fact that women of color, and trans women, are far more likely to be incarcerated for the same crimes than white cis women). However, for me personally, I am very passionate about universal healthcare, protecting the environment, and closing the gigantic wage gaps that exist in America. All of these things are not only human issues, as of course they affect all people, but women's issues in particular, as women stand to lose more on average from the loss of Obamacare, are more likely to be displaced by climate change, and are disproportionately paid compared to men. We need to remember that every issue affects each of us unequally according to our social status, and so I thought it was awesome how much the March focused on the intersectionality of social justice.

HC: What does the Women’s March mean to you?

Maggie: The march was the beginning of a movement. A way to tell Trump on Day 1 what the masses are really demanding. It was a way to tell the world that we’re here and we’re not going to take some of these backwards policies lightly. It was a way to stand up for and stand beside minority groups. It was a way to get conversations started, a way to motivate people to get involved in politics these next four years, a way to inspire solidarity for a more organized party in 2020.

Megan: The fact that literally millions of people turned out around the nation, and that half a million were willing to make the trek to DC even knowing the logistical difficulties, shows me that we are not going to sit back and let Trump and his (very strangely assembled) Cabinet steamroll our rights without a fight. Of course, the Women's March did not do anything tangible. It did not protect our healthcare, increase our wages, or stop the violence against women. However, it gave us an opportunity to stand together, to be encouraged and called on and built up so that we have the strength to continue to fight, knowing that millions of awesome women (and men!!!) have our backs.

HC: Can you describe your experience during the march? What was the atmosphere like?

Maggie: The atmosphere was energetic and cheerful. I was crowded in the metro for almost 2 hours, a situation in which I’d normally be pissed off about, but I could only be convivial because I knew all of the people crammed into that space were there for each other. I was so proud of everyone who protested that day. It was also well-behaved. Whenever we passed the police plenty of people thanked them for their presence. And it was humorous, with some pretty funny signs and chants.

Megan: It was an all-around amazing experience. There was such great diversity, in terms of age, race, gender identity, area of the country, you name it...it felt like an awesome cross-section of American women. Everyone managed to stay so peaceful and calm while being really amped up about spreading our message. It was truly everything you would expect in a gigantic group of women - so much singing, laughing, sharing snacks, and handing out spare tissues in the giant port-a-potty lines. There was so much appreciation of other people's signs, great conversation, and a generally optimistic yet determined tone. Even when we were standing for four hours, waiting to march (because there were so many people!) everyone stayed in good spirits and kept on participating in awesome chants and songs.  

HC: What were some of the best signs you saw?

Maggie: There were so many good ones. “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA.” “Free Melania.” “At least the Lannisters paid their debts.” “Liberté, Egalité, Beyoncé.” “Trump likes Nickleback.” One man had a sign that said “I also feel strongly about this.” There was another sign that had a picture of a calendar reading: “The gay agenda: Monday be gay. Tuesday tacos. Wednesday be gay. Thursday be gay. Etc.” And any sign with a Hamilton quote.

Megan: There were so many good ones!! I saw everything from the humorous (but really too true) "I don't want your tiny hands anywhere near my underpants," to a giant stuffed uterus, to a woman carrying a mirror that said "Reflect Decency." But I think my favorites were the ones carried by little kids, especially young girls; "Take Back my Future," "Impeach the Pumpkin," and the best of all: "If one man can destroy the world, why can't one girl change it?"

HC: What would you tell someone who is feeling discouraged in light of the recent inauguration?

Maggie: I had an Arab professor who saw how distraught my class was the day after the election, and she reminded us that at least we have checks and balances, and at least we have a democracy. If you are discouraged, don’t be passive. Get involved, have conversations, write to your representatives, donate to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and vote! Also, to those who have become uncomfortable or fearful, I want to say that not all Trump supporters are inherently bigots, though they put their own preferences in front of your rights. And though some actually are, there are also plenty of people who are standing up for you, too.

Megan: It's very difficult not to feel discouraged, and some days I want to just tune out from the news, but that's neither helpful to your mental state nor productive in changing things. The good news is, there ARE concrete steps we can take to make this world more like we imagine it could be. One thing I want to start doing more is getting in touch with my elected representatives: calling and writing frequently, and hopefully attending local town hall meetings when I am able. The organizers of the Women's March have put together suggestions for 10 things to do over 100 days of action, including writing a postcard to your senators. You can follow the movement here: https://www.womensmarch.com/100/. Another thing anyone can do is become more involved in volunteering regularly in your community. Use your talents and bring a little love and hope into the world! If you like cooking, look for a soup kitchen where you can make food on Saturday mornings. If you like working with kids, find a program where you can be a mentor to a local kid after school. If you're good at knitting, make hats and scarves for homeless people while you're watching Netflix. It can be anything! While it may seem small, I know from volunteering regularly that you can actually make an impact in people's lives, and with these sorts of local grassroots efforts, we can build the communities we want to live in.

 

Picture Sources: 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 belong to Maggie; 2,4,6,7,10 belong to Megan