Why I Marched:
The first time was in Boston. We were 17, out dancing. Virgins. Screaming along to the ABBA song. My girlfriend was grabbed on the dance floor. She was apoplectic. We rushed her home.
The second time in Spain. Italian tourists passing by down by the wharf in Barcelona, under the Columbus monument, our bellies full of pan dulce and Spanish coffee. There’s a strategy to it—they like girls who are traveling in groups. They do it quickly as you all pass, while you’re engaged in conversation. By the time you realize what’s happened, they’re already halfway down the road. Laughing at their success.
And you stand there as the walls close in. Your breathing comes in short spurts. You were fine a minute ago. And now you’re not. Now you’re trapped. Now you can’t breathe. Now everyone sees you, you’ve been shoved into the ocean.
They wanted you to feel stupid. And cheap. And easy to fool. They wanted you to know just how much they hate you. And they succeeded. They’re going to sleep like a baby tonight, knowing that by violating you, they’ve won.
And you won’t sleep at all.
So yes, it’s true. Nobody likes to be grabbed by the pussy.
But that’s not why I marched.
We went to Target and we went to Ralph’s and we bought the neon colored poster boards and we asked our husbands, “Which neon color says to you: ‘Don’t touch my pussy? Pink, right? It’s gotta be pink.’” And we got out our magic markers and we wrote “RESIST” in all capital letters. And we wrote, “My Body, My Choice,” and we wrote “Hands off,” knowing that anyone who would ever think of doing that with their hands was never going to read our signs anyway.
But fuck it. That’s not why I marched.
We got on the train. It was crowded. It was claustrophobic. We laughed it off, we smiled at strangers, we wondered if there would be enough air in the train cars and we panicked a bit when we realized there wasn’t. We got on the train with our signs, with our anger, with our friends, with our pink pussy hats and our Planned Parenthood T-shirts and we felt like maybe, just maybe, if there’s enough of us, if we’re loud enough this time, if we’re strong enough this time, if we march, if we walk, if we scream, they will hear us.
There will be more of us than there are of them. We will not walk alone.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton marched. Not because she was a woman, but because the world that presented itself to her was unacceptable.
Martin Luther King marched, not because he was black, but because the world that presented itself to him was unacceptable.
Mahatma Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Gloria Steinem. They marched not because of one issue that defined them, but because they refused to be defined by only one issue.
When we got off the train, it was like plunging into a wall. A wall of pink and neon. A wall of pussy hats. We couldn’t walk, we couldn’t get through the crowds. We tried to find higher ground to gain some perspective, but there were too many people. Drums beat somewhere far off. A toddler sat on his mother’s shoulders, his eyes wide. There wasn’t enough air, even outside.
My brother once locked me in a trunk. Shoved me in and sat on the top of it, laughing, not letting me out. Not enough air. Calling out for help. Nobody listening.
We pushed through the crowd. We broke through the wall and made it to the top of the hill. Almost half a million people clogged the streets, swung from the signposts, perched on the rooftops. A woman dressed as Lady Liberty. Another as a suffragette.
“The arc of liberty is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I asked myself: What can I do for my country?
What can I do for my mother, 30 years a US history teacher, heartbroken to watch her life’s work crumbling in the corrupt hands of a professional con artist? What can I do for my daughter, six years old, her first tooth wiggling right out of her mouth? What can I do for my friends? For my son? For myself?
I can march. If nothing else, I can march.
As I was leaving the house for the train station, pink hat pulled low, pink sign tucked under my arm, my husband, who was staying home to watch the kids said, “Baby, I wish I could walk with you today.”
I thought of Boston. And I thought of Barcelona. I thought of every time a woman has walked home afterwards. Scared, mortified, furious. Alone.
And I smiled at my husband, knowing he would walk with me that day if he could. And I said, “Yeah, I know, baby. I wish you could, too.”
Image - Mobilus
Bio: Rebecca Phelps is an actress, screenwriter and novelist. She is the co-creator of the popular writing blog Novel2Screen.net and her adaptation of the novel The Doll in the Garden has been optioned for film. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.
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