In response to the millions of women who participated in the Women’s Marches yesterday, there’s a Facebook rebuttal going around by a woman named Christy. Apparently, there are quite a few women who agree with her.
The summary: Christy doesn’t need this march. Why do any women need this march? This is America, I have everything I need, and if you don’t, it’s your own fault, and marching won’t fix that for you.
Here is my response to Christy, and by association, all the women who agreed with her:
Hi, Christy. We don’t know each other, but your #NotMyMarch post is getting shared a lot today. It showed up in my feed, thanks to a few of my friends who like what you’re saying.
In some respects, our worlds probably aren’t too far apart.
I’m going to make assumptions — and I could be wrong — but I’m a college-educated, professional mom. I live in a safe neighborhood with nice houses, surrounded by big, shady trees. My days are filled with the stuff of suburbia: My kids get a warm breakfast before school, and I go to work or the gym. I get my groceries delivered to my door. I’m a single mom and my life gets messy sometimes, but I’m grateful for everything my kids and I have and I fully understand that there are women in this country who don’t have a sliver of what I have, and no matter what they do, they never will. And it isn’t because they aren’t trying hard enough.
Christy, I’m going to ask you an important question.
Besides the cashier at Target — the one who watches you swipe your bank card and walk out with your $195 worth of whatever you buy at Target — besides that woman, or the woman who stretches out of the drive-thru window to give you your grande skinny latte that you paid for with the app on your phone…and here’s the question: When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a woman whose life isn’t pretty much like yours?
Take all the time you need.
You said you were being made to feel like you’re a “disgrace to women” because you don’t agree with women who marched yesterday.
That’s a clever opener to get a boost from the girlfriends who might be on the edge of feeling the way you do and were waiting for someone to say it so they could agree with you. It’s like saying, “I know I’m fat and ugly,” so your friends will rush to your side to reassure you that you’re not.
You say your voice is heard. You say you’re not a second-class citizen. So what’s the problem, amirite?
Again, I’m full of assumptions here, but you feel like your voice is heard because maybe you have no idea what it feels like to not be heard. You don’t feel like a second-class citizen because you’ve never been one.
You feel like you have control over your body.
I have control over my body, too, so I hear ya. In fact, next week, I’m going for my annual Pap and mammogram. It’s covered as a well exam on my insurance. But, a few years ago, my OB-GYN recommended that I get an IUD. Medically, this was a better choice for me than other hormonal birth control or no birth control. But the insurance plan I had at the time didn’t cover IUDs. It was going to cost $1,000. The other stuff — pills, implants — was covered 100%, but wasn’t right for me medically. I passed on the IUD and decided to just deal. Because I didn’t need the IUD to prevent pregnancy, but that’s another thing entirely. Sure, $1,000 is a lot of money. I could have paid it, but I was pissed off that it was singled out as the one that had a price tag — and a big one at that. I wasn’t going to die, and my uterus wasn’t going to be diseased if I didn’t get the IUD, so it was a choice I could make for myself.
Have you ever skipped an annual pelvic exam or mammogram because your kid needed new shoes and you had to choose and hope for the best?
Not everyone gets free reproductive healthcare in this country. Have you ever stopped using birth control because the clinic in your neighborhood closed and the closest one now is across town, and you can’t get there because you’re working two jobs and someone else in your family uses the one car in the driveway? If you’re feeling okay, putting off that exam for a year, or two, or three is almost always an easy decision when you literally have to decide how to spend the $50 in your hand and your kids need stuff.
Have you ever been sexually assaulted? Shoved around by a drunk ex-boyfriend? Felt unsafe around someone? If so, did you have control over your body then?
I don’t think this needs explaining, but maybe it does. Violence against women doesn’t know zip codes or security gates. It happens to women no matter what their life and economic situation. It may be happening in a house on your street. When women are assaulted (and this has a very broad definition), women have no control over where or how they get hit. Or cut. Or pushed up against a wall. Or followed too closely by a weirdo in a parking lot. Or when fucked with their own hot curling iron. Or dragged by the hair while her kids hear something behind that closed door and they’re crying in the next room and she’s trying to be quiet so she doesn’t scare the kids, but it’s hard to be absolutely silent when she’s sure this will be the time her husband will kill her. It’s really something you should care about, and you need to understand that this is in your bubble, even if you don’t know it.
You say you can go out and get a job if you want.
You are fortunate. So am I. I don’t have to “get permission” to work (some women in this country do). I don’t have to feel like the hole that is my life is getting deeper and blacker because I don’t have the skills to get the job I want that will pay more, put more food on the table and more gas in the tank. Or don’t have a way to get to work. There are millions of women out there who desperately want to work and can’t afford the childcare. Do you know anyone who has these barriers?
You can vote.
So can I. And I always do. This last election, for the first time, I got more involved, and I spent election day working at a voting precinct. I was that person who checked your ID to make sure you were voting in the correct location. I was the person who gave directions to the confused elderly couple who thought they were at the right place but needed to go a couple of miles down the road. I was the person who congratulated young voters who were voting for the first time; I wanted that day to feel important to them. I checked the IDs of women who dressed up to vote because it’s a special day, and people who showed up in torn, dirty shirts and crusty work boots.
I welcomed moms with kids in strollers and people pushed in wheelchairs. I was the person who apologized to the woman in a hurry because she was on her lunch break, and I had to tell her that the address on her ID didn’t match what was in the system. She moved to this neighborhood recently, but hasn’t had time to get her driver’s license updated. There’s no way she can get to her old precinct and back in the 20 minutes she’s got left, and she’s crying because she really wanted to vote. Or the woman who ran in at 6:57 p.m., breathless and hoping she wasn’t too late. We celebrated her as the last voter of the day. She cried too.
All of these people were lucky — just like you and me, they knew they could vote. They had an idea of where they should go to vote. They had a way to get there. They had the ID that I checked against the precinct’s rolls, probably because they drive. But, just as a single example, I live in a city that’s nearly 70 percent minority, and the older women come from a time, place, and culture where their husbands always drove; and they never learned to drive, never got a license. Her husband died, and she found a ride so she could vote. She fumbles in her pocketbook for something with her name on it. A Medicare card? Can I take her Medicare card? “I’m sorry, ma’am. I know, it’s a government card, but it’s not on the list of IDs I can accept.”
I turned a few others away too. Not because they were the “fraudulent voters” we’re told hover around our polling places, waiting to cast an illegitimate vote. I didn’t see a single one of those, even in my city full of immigrants and people who live in the shadows, even though they don’t have to. I had to turn away veterans, old people, young people, I had to turn them away for a whole bunch of different reasons brought about by the fear that someone who shouldn’t vote, might try.
You say you feel heard.
I feel like I’m heard too. Imagine, though, if you lived with any or all of the things I described above and nobody cared, or your senator heard a lobbyist’s voice over yours and voted to cut off funding for your kid’s after-school program or neighborhood clinic, or changed a bus route that got you to work and back, or took away your family’s health coverage. Imagine if that was your life. And nobody cared. Worse, people write about it on Facebook, and declare your life as a poor choice and that you should have made better decisions.
The only person who can stop you is yourself.
I feel that way about my life too. I was raised in an environment where I was nurtured and encouraged. I’m going to guess you were too. We take that for granted because we were told from the time we understood language that we could do and be anything we wanted. We were never on the other side of that, where families shrug their shoulders and are a little disappointed when their daughter decides not to finish high school. Her mom and grandma never finished high school either. College? That’s for kids who live in the neighborhoods where she’s cleaning houses with her aunt; she never finished school either. Just like the bubble you and I live in, she’s got her own bubble, except it’s not as nice. If you don’t know any women who finished high school or anyone who’s gone to college, and if you aren’t surrounded by people who tell you what’s possible, it’s easy to think it’s not your reality.
But what about the horrible things that happen to women in Pakistan, Mali, and Guatemala?
Yes. I know. Horrible things happen to women all over the world. I also ache for their oppression, their abuse, their poverty, their lack of schools and clean water. But that’s a whole different conversation. In case I haven’t made myself clear yet, there’s a lot of women right here, in this country, who need things they aren’t getting, and they deserve their own conversation.
Which brings me to the Women’s March…
I didn’t march because I personally feel marginalized. I marched because I can. I marched because a lot of women can’t, even if you don’t see them. I marched for women of privilege, women who don’t have shit, women who are raising awesome children with their same-sex partner who has to legally adopt the child that is biologically hers and might find herself spontaneously unmarried in the eyes of the Supreme Court. I marched for women who need reproductive health care of any kind. I marched for the 17-year-old pregnant girl who dropped out of school to sort my clothes at the dry cleaner for $7.25 per hour. She has to quit when the baby comes because she doesn’t get any time off, paid or otherwise. Her next job will be minimum wage, too, because she hasn’t gotten her GED yet and doesn’t know if she can get in the night school program because she’ll need someone to stay with her newborn. I marched for the woman who was raped in college and still hasn’t even told her best friend, after all these years.
I even marched for you, Christy. Even if you don’t feel like you need anyone to march for you.
© Susan Sheffloe Speer 2017. This piece was originally published on Medium.