Women in Revolt: Suffragettes’ city

The Women’s March on Sacramento galvanized thousands—but what’s next?

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We’ve only been walking for a half-hour when a man starts yelling. Instantly, my body tenses at the possibility of discord—even though ostensibly that’s something my friends and I signed up for when we joined the Women’s March on Sacramento, a sister event to hundreds of other demonstrations being held worldwide as a protest against the new presidential administration.

And what a protest it turns out to be. On this day, half-a-million will march in Washington, D.C.; 400,000-plus will take to the streets in New York City and 750,000 will show up in Los Angeles. Elsewhere, protesters will take over Tokyo and Singapore, London and Cape Town, Antarctica and hundreds of cities in between. Ultimately, the estimated global count will land somewhere upwards of 3 million marchers.

It’s not just women either; in Sacramento, where officials eventually tally the crowd at 20,000, the streets swarm with people of all ages and ethnicities. There are college students linked arm in arm and babies in strollers; there are gray-haired ladies clutching “Keep your tiny hands off my reproductive rights” signs; and balding men chanting, “We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”

Vive la résistance; the revolution will be feminist.

And yet as the man’s voice gets louder, I grit my teeth nervously and whip my head around, unsure of what I’ll see or hear. Is he yelling for us to go home? Shouting “feminazi” over and over? When I stop to listen, his voice becomes clearer, floating above the parade of marchers.

“You are an army,” he shouts into the cold morning air. “You are an army!”

We are an army.

It’s just another galvanizing moment in a day filled with such instances. We’re here protesting because we’re angry and afraid; we’re marching because we’re determined to make a change.

This is my first march. In years past, I’d appreciated those who pounded the pavement for a cause, but often wondered what difference it really could make. Now, on this chilly, drizzly weekend afternoon I feel a purpose.

Later over pizza and beer, we revel in the belief that we just made history.

Eventually, however, the excitement dims. The new administration isn’t just dangerous, it’s moving forward at a breakneck speed and already it seems impossible to keep up with the deluge of travesties and threats. In the week following the march, the new commander in chief will ban refugees from entering the country, execute a free-speech freeze on federal scientists, unveil a “plan” to build the wall and continue a petty, obsessive feud over the number of people who attended his inauguration.

What’s next, we say now, looking around at each other. What do we do?

It’s the question that’s plagued me every day since November 8. The Women’s March excited and invigorated us, but it’s literally just a few steps in what will likely be a long and painful journey.

Now there are phone calls to make, organizations to fund and candidates to support at the local and state level. None of that will be as exciting as marching in the streets, chanting and waving signs. Sometimes we will feel lonely, overwhelmed and defeated. We are an army, facing the biggest fight of our lives.