One year ago, I had just begun my final semester at Haverford College and was very unsure about what the world would look like when I left. A man who stood against everything I believed in had just taken our nation’s highest office. I could still feel my tear tracks from November 8, 2016. I burned with a desire to encircle women, immigrants, minorities, everyone with positivity and love, but it was easy to feel like there was nothing I could do. One thing I could definitely do? March.
The following is a piece I composed shortly after attending the Women’s March on Philadelphia. In it, you’ll find italicized records of the best signs I saw, all my thoughts (both funny and gravely serious), and the story of a girl who was just glad to be a part of something this big.
A year later, these emotions still ring very true. Every day of 2017 seemed like a rollercoaster leaping from screaming “Yasss, you go girl!” at all the women who took charge to feeling completely disheartened by how over half the world’s population was treated by society. Whether you find it positive or problematic, “resistance” has become trendy. Chants I heard for the first time a year ago are now on T-shirts everywhere. Countless women have come forward in the past few months exposing the way that they have been harassed by men both inside and outside of the workplace. This November’s elections were much more heartening than the last, with the election of the first openly transgender person to state legislature and other historic victories. A year ago, I could never have imagined the political conversations we’d be having right now. But I didn’t doubt for a second that we’d still be resisting. I’ll be marching again on January 20, as will millions of others across the world.
Don’t worry, I have my own pussy hat now. And for 1/20/18? You can bet I’m making a sign.
I don't know where to start...
Which do I hate more, Donald Trump or SEPTA? Both are poorly managed and cause me a lot of anxiety.
Obviously, the answer is Trump. But on this January morning, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority was really helping to fuel my rage at the establishment before the Women’s March on Philadelphia. My little crowd of freedom fighters and I (politely, this was a day of love and solidarity) urged the folks at Green Engine Coffee Co. to move our orders along so we could catch the 9:13 train to Logan Square, where by day’s end, 50,000 people would be amassed, armed with clever signs, justifiable rage, and unexpected kindness and optimism.
We boarded a Philly-bound train 57 minutes later. The delay was annoying, but also somewhat uplifting considering two trains were so full of marchers that they had to whizz past Haverford station without stopping.
There was a great sense of camaraderie on the platform. Students and professors alike were all waiting to head into the city, so I didn’t go into my typical we-are-going-to-be-late-the-sky-is-falling state of jitters. I did, however, spend the time that I wasn’t making small talk with my group obsessing over not having made a sign. I mean, I was prepared with a tote bag full of snacks I never ended up eating, and yet I thought I wouldn’t want to carry a sign around all day. Typical.
Once we got on the train, it was incredible to feel that I was surrounded by strangers all with the same destination, literally and figuratively. It was clear that at least 90% of the passengers were march-bound. I was in a better mood than I usually am when sitting backwards in a germ-infested public metal tube, and I chatted eagerly with my friend and her boyfriend. Mostly about animals and Asian food. Because life has to go on, even as you’re trying to stop the presidential equivalent of an eight-year-old running with scissors from cutting the fabric of American society like it’s papel picado (not that Trump knows what that is). Even as the scraps that are falling to the floor are human rights and planetary welfare.
Men of quality don't fear equality.
From the second we got off the train at Suburban Station, it was like the march had already begun. Knitted pussy hats abounded. How did everyone have time to make them? I clearly missed the memo; I didn’t know they were a thing until the night before. Not that I can knit anyway. I should have made a sign.
My excitement was building as we followed the swarms of like-minded people who seemed to know where they were going. When we got to Logan Square, it was sensory overload. I wanted to read every sign, hear every conversation, and I certainly didn’t want to get separated from my friends. The introvert in me was pleased to find that our conversation amongst ourselves naturally fizzled, save for reading exceptional shirt and sign slogans aloud, as we all took in the experience, equally wide-eyed and humbled.
I kept imagining a history textbook from the future writing about the day, how I would be able to say that I was there. Thinking those kind of thoughts are really the only times I feel like I want children, that and when I come across a great baby name. Florence Joanne will probably remain a figment, but I can still tell my best friends’ children how their moms went to marches across the country. By then, every little girl will know the word “vagina” from the moment she can talk, and know that her body and her pleasure aren’t shameful topics. I hope.
I wanted to be friends with everyone there, and it felt like a convention for love. Wow, that sounded weird. I mean, the vibe was not unlike that of pop culture conventions I’ve been to, except for instead of fiction, what we were passionate about was the future of the human race.
We rounded the corner to begin marching in earnest, a tag-along acquaintance of mine complaining about how slowly we were moving and how we weren’t really “marching”. I rolled my eyes internally. I was just thrilled to be there. And wasn’t it pretty great that the crowd was so big that we could barely move? I thought so.
Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman,” blasted as we passed the Franklin Institute, and proceeded to be stuck in all of our heads for the remainder of the day. I eavesdropped on the adorable middle-aged women behind me eagerly discussing something they had seen on “Billy on the Street.” Clearly, social consciousness wasn’t the only thing I had in common with many of the marchers. They had fabulous (and woke) pop culture tastes, too.
If I wanted the government in my uterus I'd fuck a senator.
As we passed the least scenic part of our march, a grey and dreary construction site, and the crowd began to bottleneck, my anxiety jolted awake. How long was this going to be? I’m thirsty. We really aren’t going anywhere and it’s really crowded. Am I going to have to use a port-o-potty? I launched into my extremely bad habit of enjoying an experience for 15 minutes and then starting to think about whatever I had to do next.
Would this have been more fun with a sign?
Then, of course, a guy in a fuzzy unicorn suit trotted by and everything was better.
We followed that unicorn around the scaffolded corner and my enthusiasm was renewed with a cinematic crescendo. The view was a sea of recycled cardboard posters and knitted pink labia, slowly swimming to the foot of the Rocky steps and the art museum. I know our march was short, and was tiny compared to D.C., but that moment felt like a less-terrifying-yet-still-powerful version of being on the mall. I felt history for a second.
There was also a bit more room to breathe as we rounded the corner, cheered on by a couple of stationary, bearded gay men (self-identified “bears”) with signs emblazoned:
Bears for pussies: How does that grab you?
Well. I laughed aloud and smiled at them.
At this point, the line between march and rally began to blur. We inched as close to the front of the steps as we could, reaching a stalemate about halfway between the ugly construction corner and the iconic landmark. America in a nutshell.
Even once the rally began, the real activity was people watching. Supposedly the mayor of Philadelphia and some other local movers-and-shakers spoke, but we couldn’t hear a thing from where we were. That was okay. The crowd was the most interesting part, anyway. The diversity was great, not just in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation, but of age. I loved seeing little kids and really old people. Seeing little boys with pro-woman signs gave me hope for a fizzling patriarchy and a fuckboy-free future. Some people brought their dogs, which seemed impractical, but also made sense because I assume all dogs in the world are anti-Trump. Some people brought their babies, who were oblivious and scared now but would probably thank their parents in a decade or two.
Several people, myself included, made relatively failed attempts to get a chant going. A young a cappella group sang questionably relevant songs immediately next to us. I joined in loudly for “We’re All in this Together,” because we were.
I'm not Putin up with this.
Just before my bladder told me that it was time to leave, a terrifying partial effigy of Trump in a clown mask began making its way across the sea of pussy heads, puppeteered by someone traversing the crowd. At first I was disturbed, until I realized that harlequin Drumpf was being chased by an equally large vagina puppet, ready to swallow him up with the rest of the white supremacist patriarchy.
As I pulled out of the crowd, I kicked myself for my moment of hurry when we were marching. I should have savored every second. All but the most perfect experiences are either too long or too short. Maybe that's a lie; maybe the best of experiences always seem too short. As we left, many other people were leaving, too, and our train back to Haverford was equally as packed as the one coming in had been. I may not have gone all the way to Washington, I may not have made a freaking sign, I may not have shouted “PUSSY!” as many times as I had hoped. But I went to stand in solidarity for what I believe in more than anything – love and kindness – and I was counted.
I wasn’t there for long, but I was there.
By Katy Herman
All photos courtesy of the author.