I am in the Women's March in Manhattan. It is more like a stand-in, or stand-still because it takes over an hour to reach the end of a block. The march has been organized to be entirely peaceful, nonviolent, and family-friendly. The official information online is detailed with legal clearances and permissions, alphabetized meeting times, and maps of the route, bathrooms, and on-site psychiatric stations in the event that the event becomes too overwhelming.
The official RSVP to the march encourages participants to bring signs of their own making. A sign's message may be devised at the discretion of the participant. It is noted to be aware that small children and plenty of press will be in attendance and documenting the march. Your image may end up on a thousand newsfeeds or a million screens around the world. Your image is public property at the march, and that includes your sign if you bring one.
The official details of the march suggest to consider it from hindsight: if the Women's March is written about in a history textbook in the future, and you are featured in an exemplary photograph, would your sign clearly tell people what this march was all about?
My body my choice is written on a lot of the signs I see.
I'm not from your rib, you're from my vagina.
Why am I here at the Women's March? Because I want to be heard if I have something to say, even if the woman next to me does not share the same view. Even if the man next to me does not share my view. I am here to say I do have something to say for the people. I am here to say I am part of my nation's body. When a body is sick it flares up to signal healing.
Men of quality do not fear equality.
I wonder how much I don't know is against me, as a woman, as a young woman. I think of oppression and think of jobs. I think of domesticity and think how nice it is that we have the gift of romantic vision. I think of my cabin when I had lived there, sweeping my porch as the sun rose over the mountain, self-sustaining my bills, living alone, isolated and independent and self-exiled. I think of how I had done this to myself. I think of how I had left it to help myself too.
It's my vagina you dick.
Is oppression the same as rejection? To want and to be denied it. To desire and to be led on for it.
I think of when I have been rejected. I think of being denied by employers, friends, and lovers. I think about when I have not had enough money or restricted my food or donated my belongings in trash bags instead of selling them for any value.
I think about being denied for my own value.
We are all women.
What do I want as a woman? I want to be recognized for my specific biology. I want to be able to say I have my period when I am feeling ill or blue or so exhausted I cannot stay awake in the days leading up to my period, when I also develop a bottomless appetite for protein. I want to be able to stay home when I am feeling physically crushed inside by my period but I don't want to have to use a job's sick-day allowance because having my period is not the same as being sick. I don't want to have to make excuses for the biology out of my control.
I want a respectful maternity leave package. I want my tampons, pads, and Diva Cup to not be budgeted from my monthly earnings if society deems these to be indisputable female needs. If I am required to not let my period bleed through so that others are not offended by my maturity, why am I spending my earned money to make others comfortable in the denial of what we all know is happening? If society says beautiful women will be made successful and beautiful women are more welcome to work in male-dominated environments, then why do I have to spend my money to make myself fit into society's comfort zone of ideals?
If you want me to be beautiful then you can buy my makeup, hair cuts, waxing sessions, manicures, teeth whitening, plastic surgery, acne treatments, body wraps, personal trainers, appetite suppressants, collagen injections, vitamins, supplement stacks, and chapstick.
If you want me in heels and expensively tailored office clothing then you can buy my masseuse, orthopedic appointments, and dry cleaning bills after paying for the designer clothes.
Of course these expectations of my female body would be ludicrous to expect society to pay for, as they are each ultimately my choice to indulge in or not - it is my vanity if I want it for myself. Not one societal idea of beauty has been mandated, not one ideal has been handed to me as a ultimatum between success and failure. But we know it to be true as a gentleman's agreement. If I am more beautiful by the majority opinion then I am more likely to succeed overall.
Put the cunt back in country.
I think about all the jobs I have been warned about regarding the proverbial ladder to climb to power. "It's not who you know, it's who you blow," I've heard.
The casting couch is an audition of your merits, particularly testing discretion and flexibility.
Make America think again.
I am not at the Women's March to stand behind one thought, I am here as an action of my whole being formed by my thoughts. In my bag I have Anne Roiphe's memoir Fruitful, on mothering in tandem with critiquing the feminism of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s. Here we are today. I try to imagine what Anne would write about this.
I join my friend for the march, my friend who had thought she would march alone because she wanted to do it that way for herself. I am thankful she had asked me instead if I would come into Midtown, let's meet up and do this together.
On the piece of cardboard she has brought for our signs, she has written on one side a quote by Margaret Sanger: No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body.
On the other side I write my own quote for the textbooks: My body is not a platform.