I had the unparalleled pleasure of marching with women (and friends of women) at San Diego’s Women’s March. I have never experienced a feeling of total solidarity and pride in my gender as I did that day. The moment I hopped in my Lyft to head downtown, my driver, an older woman named Marlene, told me that although she had to work, she was proud of us for marching and was with us in spirit. I was one of many people she was ferrying down to the march, and our conversation sparked that initial fire that burned steadily even after the march was over.
By the time I arrived, the crowd was too thick to get anywhere near the Civic Center. I could only vaguely make out the voices projected over microphone. We waited with anticipation for any sign that we could begin to march. I chatted with the people around me, and we all took turns taking pictures of each other and complimenting creative signs and outfits. It started to rain pretty heavily while we waited, and the ones who brought umbrellas generously shared with those who did not. Despite the poor weather and increasingly claustrophobic conditions, the sense of cheerful community was palpable. People broke out in to song, singing “We are family! I got all my sisters with me!”
Cheers erupted when we finally started to walk. Call and response chants were spontaneous and frequent, the most popular refrain being “Love trumps hate.” People of all walks of life attended: Men, women, and children of all races and age groups. The crowd was kind and respectful, making extra room for wheelchair bound participants and the elderly. The Kumeyaay – the native tribe indigenous to this part of Southern and Baja California – marched as well, resplendent in elaborate traditional garb, cleansing the air with burning sage. Their drums set the tempo for the march, maintaining a steady pulse.
The most notable aspect of the signage at the march was the unabashed references to female reproduction. Amongst the sea of pink pussy hats, it was variations on a theme: the female form was on proud display, a strange and startling sight to behold in a public space. If not being used for sexual objectification, our bodies are typically rebuked, painted as a source of shame. It was revelatory to see such open celebration honoring the sacred autonomous functionality of the female sex, claiming it as our own to both define and control. It was, in a word, liberating.
Some are saying this is the largest demonstration in American history. And while it originated here, there is a reason the march spread internationally – women’s rights are human rights. This is very much a global issue. Access to reproductive health care and family planning is not only an essential right to basic care and bodily autonomy, it is crucial to the fight for environmental justice. Deforestation, food and water shortages, and climate change are exacerbated by unmitigated population growth. Study after study has shown that the best way to combat overpopulation is to provide robust resources for women’s reproductive health.
Trump, unfortunately, appears to be making good on his promise to undercut reproductive rights with the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule. This is a threat to women everywhere, including Mother Earth. The women who marched on Saturday know this. There were many signs that proclaimed “I’m With Her” with an arrow pointing to Earth, and others that simply asserted the simple fact that “Climate Change is Real.” Environmental rights and women’s rights are inextricable.
The fight ahead will not be easy. But after witnessing the abundance of positive, proactive energy all over the world, I have great hope that we have the momentum necessary to push women’s rights to the fore, to expand reproductive justice, and to overcome the damaging policies sure to come our way.