The Women's March started long before we marched, and it will continue long after.
We headed to the Baltimore train station Saturday morning around 6 AM for the 7:45 AM train. Despite our effort to beat the traffic, myself and four others, including one gentleman friend, stood for almost four hours in the frigid early morning alongside throngs of women (and men) from all over the country and beyond waiting to embark on the hour-long journey to Washington, D.C., where fellow participants would meet to begin the one and a half mile march through the center of the city. Among the thousands waiting in lines that wrapped around, across and (again) around the train station was a palpable sense of purpose and collective clarity, as the chaotic overflow of the station also had a certain calm to it.
It was here that the march began.
People waiting for hours shared food, held places in lines, moved aside for those trying to get through, and shared stories of what brought them there; creating a sense of community that would continue throughout the day. We were pissed, but we were on the same team. We were ready to be heard. As we continued waiting, locals on foot and in cars passing by cheered us on, helping make the cold a little more bearable.
"This is what democracy looks like"
The march continued when the Amtrak conductor (who was working on her day off in her own act of defiance) said we had arrived at D.C.. The track was packed with people from all over the country, wearing pink “pussy hats" and holding signs that voiced dissidence for everything from Islamaphobia to homophobia to violence against women to climate change to health care, all issues seemingly under attack by our new administration. We followed the flow of foot traffic out towards the monument-lined sky, which on this Saturday morning was a dismal off-white color, matching DC's stark midwinter weather.
This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up.
-March mission statement
All photos by Maria Cobb
One thing that immediately struck me was the varied age range of the crowd. There were babies in strollers wearing “Future Feminist" shirts, toddlers with Crayola-illustrated posters on their backs, teenagers covered in neon pink accessories, middle-aged women and men chanting “This is what democracy looks like," and grandfathers and grandmothers donning “Her Body Her Choice" and “Now You've Gone and Made Grandma Mad" signs, respectively.
If the wide-ranging messages were any indication, march attendees each had very specific, very personal reasons for being there. The beauty of the day was that everyone cheered for everyone's causes. One gentleman who waved a huge rainbow flag generated a vibrating uproar from us as we marched. An older caucasian lady who screamed out against racist police brutality was met with an equally raucous response. It was clear that this may have started as a woman's march, but it belonged to the people.
With each step I walked I felt more and more powerful. Alone I was one woman with a sign, but here I made up a vast tapestry of people standing in defiance of injustice and hate. There was a moment when we were all chanting phrases like "Love Trumps Hate" and "No Justice, No Peace" along with a drum, that I actually felt I could hear my own voice among the masses echoing loudly off the monuments, over the crowd and back into my ears. It was surreal. It was powerful.
Trump's messages of division and fear have been truly far-reaching, and the reaction was equal but opposite throughout the world.
After the march, we found ourselves in a bar a few blocks from the route's ending point (which felt premature but we were forbidden from getting anywhere near The White House). Women, weary and chilled from a day outside on their feet, began to thaw out with a beer and a burger. The venue's large flatscreen showed us the massive crowds in over 600 protests throughout the world. We cheered loudly upon seeing this, happily Facetiming our worried parents, friends and children who hadn't heard from us all day due to overburdened cell towers. From New York to Chicago to Australia to Switzerland, we saw women wearing the same hats and holding the same signs as we were, protesting in their own cities. I can't explain what it felt like to see that. We were all in this together, and the sheer volume of people in the streets meant Trump had to take a second look at our message. Right?
While chomping down on fries, we saw that the White House was about to hold an impromptu press conference. We couldn't believe it. We did it! On this day millions of people had come together in non-violent protest of a Trump America, resulting in the the largest inaugural protest in history, and he had noticed. "Let's see what he has to say," we all thought hopefully. As America's new Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, assumed his position on the screen, he bizarrely began to speak about Trump's inauguration crowd size (?) and how the networks had incorrectly reported it was smaller than it was due to deceptive issues like white plastic flooring. Wait...what? That was the pressing issue you called a conference for? And you had to do it now? Mr. Spicer then abruptly stepped off the podium with no opportunity for questions from the press. It felt like someone screaming “I'm popular" to a room of people who didn't like him, then running away. Clearly, the march was far from over.
"This Was The Largest Audience To Ever Witness An Inauguration, Period."
To me, the purposeful decision to make a completely unnecessary announcement whining about how well-liked Trump is just moments after an entire gender protested his presidency was in itself the new president's reaction. The timing, the blatant omission of the most newsworthy information of the day, and the focus on vilifying the media, was all Trump had to say when faced with this historically massive protest against his policies. Classic Trump. This man thinks like a boss, not a President, as he clearly believes that people will accept whatever he says as truth simply because he's the most powerful man in the boardroom...er. country.
To get to the truth throughout this presidency, Americans will have to practice their researching and between-the-line reading skills.
Because the size of things has become such an integral facet of Trump's few-day presidency (Freud are you listening?), we want to be careful about the numbers and are being very conservative in our estimates, each of which come from scrutinizing multiple sources. One thing we can say is that just D.C. had more than one million protestors, which is reportedly more than three times the number of those who attended Trump's prized inauguration, and impromptu popularity contest. The crowd in the nation's capital was so large, in fact, that cell service was nonexistent during the entirety of the event, and bathroom lines for the portable toilets exceeded an hour.
If we look at the globe, as a whole, the numbers are simply staggering (again leaving us with open mouths at the fact that Press Secretary didn't address it in the slightest). Los Angeles had a reported 750,000 marchers, while New York had half a million. Internationally, cities like London had 100,000 protestors, while Toronto had 50,000, and Sydney had about 9,000. Overall there were more than 5 million who came out to voice their support for the movement. Well played ladies.
Celebrities also came out and spoke out against Trump in record numbers. Emotional speeches from America Ferrara, Ashley Judd and Scarlett Johansen made us cry, throughout the day while comedian Aziz Ansari (who finally gave us the shout out we were looking for on his hilarious evening appearance on SNL) made us laugh.
Organized a day after the election, the Women's March was created by women concerned about Trump's decisive rhetoric. What started with just a handful of women from Hawaii agreeing on Facebook to come together and march, ballooned into a worldwide homage to free speech and tolerance.
January 21 was definitely a day to remember. Not only was it a testament to the power and strength of women and nonviolent protests, but most importantly it made us feel less alone, and part of something greater that we could get behind. The March on Washington was also a testament to the power of social media, as the entire event was amazingly created from the voices of just 40 women who originally took to Facebook to voice their frustration with Trump and his hateful rhetoric.
Throughout these next four years, we are going to find ourselves frustrated...many times. If Day 1 was any indication of this presidency, we are going to want to scream at the TV, cry and wonder what Barack is doing at that very moment. When this happens and feelings of defeat begin to rise, please remind yourself of this past Saturday and remember how just many people across this earth feel the same way we do about tolerance, equality and human decency. Also remind yourself that this country is still the best on earth, and we are proud of our constitution as it allows us to speak up against injustice. Not every country can say the same.
Lastly, don't stop now while you're on this high. Keep the movement alive with 10 Actions For The First 100 Days, which will continue the march for all of us in our everyday lives. Don't grow weary ladies! There's so much to do. Let's just keep marching.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.