The day after the Women’s March on Washington, I was bombarded with historical headlines, aerial shots of huge crowds and witty, yet poignant signs all over social media. They were powerful pictures and videos showcasing men and women coming together in support of women’s rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, health care reform, racial justice, workers’ rights, protection of the environment and freedom of religion. This worldwide protest, which took place right after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, was not just riveting, but also inspiring. Despite, what I consider a social and political upset in the US, 4.8 million people around the world came together in over 500 protests against ignorance and misogyny. However, within this sea of support of the march, there were flickers of women (and some men) who didn’t support this movement. This is a letter to those women who opposed this cause and to those who didn’t support their parents, children, friends, significant others, and peers.
The most wonderful thing about democracy is that we all have a voice and can use it to share our opinions. We have the freedom to disagree and agree with each other. We all have the ability to create dialogue and educate one another. My goal in this instance, is not to argue and say you are wrong to not support the march, but rather try to illustrate the perspective of the 4.8 million people that did participate in this movement on January 21st.
Before I go on to say anything, I want to say that I am a privileged woman. Despite my background as a South Asian female, I am privileged. I have been lucky, so far, to not have faced the amount of disrespect that exists in the world for a woman. I have been lucky to have not had to overcome the countless of barriers most women face. I have been lucky to have a family who is forward-thinking and takes my faith seriously when it preaches equality. Honestly, I’m just lucky because I hit a lottery when I was born and got the better end of the stick. I acknowledge my privilege and I am forever grateful for what I have, for what I have had not to endure, and for the men and women that came before me that tirelessly fought for what I have now. However, don’t get me wrong, I am not blind with my privilege as many people are. I still see the sexism. I still see the misogyny. I am here to tell you, as a privileged woman, that the “equality” we feel is just an illusion. Its not real.
Within all the discouragement, the most common reason many women didn’t support the march was, “well I feel respected and don’t see why I should be complaining since I’ve never been held back before.” To you I say, sweetheart, you’re privileged just like me. I have healthcare, control over my uterus, I have access to a great education, and the colour of my skin makes people think I’m white so I don’t have to deal with racism that often either. Moreover, despite the incredulous and absurd South Asian stigmas about women, I have also been lucky to have slipped by them… well for the most part. So when I say I get it, I really do. I understand that you feel like you already are equal and are not a victim to sexism. I really get that. But let’s be honest here, you need to acknowledge that your privilege does not extend to everyone. Just because we can say, “I can defend myself. I have control over my body. I feel treated well”, does not mean everyone can. We shouldn’t tear ourselves apart because we’re lucky, but rather we need to use that luck and fight for our mothers, sisters and daughters.
So many men and women have this privilege, but hundreds and thousands of people don’t. Privilege blinds us from a lot of what happens in the world. It makes us believe that just because we’re of a certain status and feel a certain way, that all people feel like that too. This, my friend, is ignorance. Frankly, ignorance is the cause of so many misunderstandings and misconceptions that exists in the world. To break the ignorance is why we speak up and sometimes, protest. This isn’t “complaining”, this is standing up for ourselves and our fellow humans. Change can’t occur if the people who are in positions of privilege don’t stand up and fight alongside of those who aren’t.
Another comment I’ve read in frustration with the march is that, “it’s just a waste of time and money since there are other women in the world that have it worse so we should focus on them.” To you I say, protest creates noise which creates a conversation which creates change. I agree that there are women around the world in horrific situations, much worse than here, but this march is for them too. This march, this movement, is for all women. In fact, this movement is for all humans!
For some odd reason, so many of us seem to believe that because we unite for one cause means we are ignoring all the other injustices around us. No one is taking anything away from a certain issue, but rather turning their attention to an issue that is in dire need of some reallocation of resources. Just because we’re fighting for women here, doesn’t mean that we have forgotten or are going against other women. Rather, this movement is fighting for them too! How do we expect to create worldwide equality for females, if the women of more developed and progressive nations can’t seem to achieve equality themselves? So in reality, this movement is giving a voice and hope to those women who can’t protest and can’t speak up. We have the freedom of speech and the right of peaceful protest so why not use it?
So many people seem to believe that women are not “second class citizens” and therefore the march was unnecessary. All I can say to that, is that your privilege needs to get checked and you need to take a history lesson really soon. This journey hasn’t been easy, in fact it hasn’t even ended. Just because some of us don’t feel the pressure and pain of misogyny and sexism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I mean just because you aren’t sick, doesn’t mean other people can’t go to the doctor if they are. The voice you use today, is because of the women that came before you who were arrested, imprisoned, and beaten for speaking out on the injustice. Its because those women literally put their lives on pause so we could feel a sense of “equality”.
For this reason, what women have today, should not be taken for granted. The reason we can make our own choices, vote, speak up, take our seats in government, and control what happens to our bodies is because the women before us were remarkably loud and resilient in their march. As privileged women, we’re so lucky that these strong women fought misogyny and pushed through institutional patriarchy and fought for us. However, the battle has not ended and we need to make it better for the women that come after us. So this delusional idea that we are equal and that this march is ridiculous makes you ridiculous. Why? Well, let’s take a step back and really analyze how equal you really are, even if you’re privileged:
- Do we still make the same amount of money as men for the same amount of work?
- Do we still have our bodies debated on by a majority of men in government? Are our male-dominant governments still deciding on what kind of prenatal care should be presented to us?
- Are basic sanitary needs still being taxed, even though the menstrual cycle is a biological function?
- When walking alone, do we feel a bit anxious? Do we still have to explain to judges and juries why we were drunk and why we wore what we wore the night we got rapped? Do we have to justify our actions when a man forces himself upon us? Is it still our fault what happens to us?
- Are we still being catcalled, whistled upon, objectified and sexualized in real life and in the media?
- Is slut-shaming still a thing?
- Are we still being scrutinized for being too fat? Too skinny? Too old? Too young?
- Are mothers still going back to work when their bodies haven’t properly recovered from birth? Is silently suffering postpartum depression still a thing?
- Are we still arguing if breastfeeding in public is acceptable or not?
- Can we only be defined by beauty and not intelligence?
- Are our bodies and clothing more important than the substance in our heads?
- Is being abused by your significant other still called love? Are we still considering little boys bullying little girls as them liking her? Are we supposed to just deal because “boys will be boys”?
- Are we considered too emotional for the professional workfield?
- Are STEM fields not for us to seek jobs in? Are we supposed to be in the kitchen and not in the workplace?
- Are baby girls still being killed just for being born female? Are honor killings still something that is predominant in our society?
So are we really equal? The answer is no. You are not equal. I am not equal. We are not equal. Some of us have privilege so it seems like we are, but we aren’t. What we are most definitely is systemically oppressed. We need to fight for women’s rights because they are human rights.
But alas, if you still think that this movement is all a waste of time, then so be it. Myself along with the 4.8 million others will fight for you and our future generations. We will continue to burn the cauldron to keep the fight for equality going. We will be bold and fierce. And hopefully, one day, just one day, women won’t feel equal, they will be equal.
*Disclaimer: Featured image is not mine. Retrieved here.