March has always been one of my favorite months. My birthday is at the end of March, so that’s always been something I look forward to. Strawberries are my favorite fruit and my home county is known for growing them, and they start to get really really good right around mid-march. The sun is out longer, the weather starts to get warmer, and I always feel like I’m pulled out of the fog that winter gives my brain post-holiday season. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to love the month even more, for bigger reasons. March is women’s history month, which is important because women have been oppressed throughout history and honestly still are to this day (lookin’ at you, trump administration). And March 8th is widely celebrated as International Women’s Day, a day for women to recognize the other powerful women in their life and speak up about important gender inequality issues.
In response to the Trump administration, the organizers of the women’s march on Washington created another form of protest – A Day Without A Woman. The purpose of this was to show the world what it would be like if women didn’t exist. The most extreme version of this protest was to not show up to work and not make any purchases (I think I read something like women do 70-80% of spending in America). Of course, this isn’t realistic for many women in America, so some alternative guidelines were placed — if you have to purchase something, do it from a small business owned by women, people of color, or immigrants; and if you have to go to work wear red, as it would be very hard to ignore a group of women at their job all wearing the same, eye catching color.
I fell in the latter category, I could not afford to take the time off of work, especially because as an intern I do not accrue sick days or vacation time. But I did make sure that I did not need to do any shopping that day, and I wore red to the office. But I also work for a company that is dedicated to empowering women around the globe each and every day. Our staff is small, but it is all female. We pay our workers oversees fair wages for their work, and we have a program where we work with new immigrant women in the US to provide them with a job they can do from home and a living wage. I felt empowered going to work at this company on this specific day, knowing that I work someplace that really seeks to inspire and support women. Everyone in the office acknowledged what the day was supposed to be, and we even looked into the restaurants nearby when deciding where to order lunch from that day to ensure we would be purchasing from a small business owned by a woman.
I left work feeling elated that I work with such amazing women who truly do all that they can to uplift one another. As I was driving home, I saw something that was honestly even more amazing. I drove past the largest intersection of the town that I live in, and there was a group of maybe 25 women protesting for women’s rights, lgbtq+ rights, and rights for PoC. Holding signs saying things like “Black and Brown Lives Matter,” “International Women’s Day 2017,” and the ever-so prominent “Dump Trump.” People driving down the street were honking at them in support, pedestrians stopping to talk to them and share their stories. I did not expect to see a protest like that in my town (it’s on the smaller side for the Bay Area), and I was really quite moved that a group of women in this town organized something like that instead of flocking to the larger metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, or San Jose. I really wanted to find someplace to park and join these women – photograph them and hear their stories – but my period cramps were being unbearable and I really just wanted to get home to pop a few Advil and snuggle up to a heating pad.
And then it clicked in my head that this is the exact reason why we need feminism in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I have always considered myself a feminist and I despise the gender inequality in this country. But the fact that other women were out protesting for my rights while I was suffering from something inherently feminine felt amazing, and would love to return the favor next time another protest comes along. Women need to stop pitting themselves against one another and accept and love and support one another. It’s ok that you sometimes can’t join the protests because you have to work or you have to go to school or don’t feel well or have to take care of your kids or any number of other things that can come up. We are all just beings of flesh and bones with so many responsibilities and expectations. What matters is that you support other women and they support you. You listen to their stories and they listen to yours. Women are strong and beautiful and magical and I truly believe that we can change the world if we all rise up together. We need to fight, not just on days of protest but in our everyday lives, in order to enact change. It can be as simple as speaking up against catcalling or rape culture. If you see a girl who looks uncomfortable in the situation she is in, try to safely get her out of the situation and make sure she’s ok. It can be as simple as calling your representative to discuss your concerns or reminding your best friend to schedule her yearly OBGYN checkup. Support each other. Listen to each other. Love each other.