9 Mar 2009

Reflections on Million Women Rise, Saturday March 7th 2009

I was slightly apprehensive of what to expect, having heard about last year's March from a friend who attended and felt it could have been better organised to have more impact. When something matters as much to you as feminism does for me, you want to see it well represented and you definitely don't want to see anything fall flat. However, I needn't have worried; impact was the order of the day. As I legged it down Oxford Street trying to find the gathering place for marchers, I could already hear them coming - a red sea of placards and signs emitting an ear-shattering wall of noise - I could hear whistles, drums, klaxons and above all - a hell of a lot of shouting. I joined the sea of women quickly and was swept along with the sheer energy and joy of them all. That was the thing - it wasn't a po-faced experience at all, it was fun and it was motivating. It was also one in the eye for those who believe that female loyalty and solidarity is a myth and that really, we will all stab each other in the back for male approval. There was nothing to divide us - and it felt fantastic. It also felt like a wonderful reclamation of the streets on which we are taught to walk in fear, not take up too much space, and put up with leerings, gropings and foul comments - walking down Oxford Street, the road specially cordoned off for us, surrounded by thousands of women - now that's how to take back the street. It was great to see just how many pedestrians stopped to watch us, and how many took flyers and looked on with interest. There was no abuse, no catcalls, no dissenting voices - just stunned onlookers. To be honest, I don't think anyone would have dared. When you're that many strong, people take a reverent step back; if only they would do that for us when we're on our own, as individuals. But if we can't achieve that, then celebrating our strength in numbers is certainly the way to go for now. I felt so free and happy - yelling my head off, uncensored, unintimidated. After a lifetime of having to choose your words so carefully, of explaining and justifying your beliefs ad nauseam, it was such a relief to say exactly what I really felt, and feel like my beliefs were the norm rather than a scornfully-regarded 'minority concern'.

Although I've felt plenty of feminist love already from valued friends and online communities, I think I needed to see it first-hand to appreciate how many women do really give a shit about women's rights. It's too easy to think that we're on the margins, but Saturday proved to me that feminist concerns pervade every community, every age group, every race, every skin colour, shape and size. We're right in the centre of things, and that's where we must stay. It was great to finally feel that, although it can be so hard to go against dominant social models/beliefs, what I've been feeling since I was old enough to think was not misguided, nor unheard of. After feeling for most of my life that feminism has become so derided/unfashionable that trying to get any of my peers to understand its purpose was just a losing battle, my faith in the strength and smarts of women has been renewed. There are girls and women out there who GET IT - and we aren't alone. With thanks and love to the organisers and participants of Saturday's march: One woman - one body - one song - one love.

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