Signs tell personal stories about many of the thousands attending the Women’s March in Iowa Saturday.
Signs tell personal stories about many of the thousands attending the Women’s March in Iowa Saturday.

January 23, 2017

“I’ve been raped.”

“(The Affordable Care Act) saved my life.”

“My pussy is not up for grabs.”

Around the country, around the world and around Iowa this weekend, women put on pink “pussyhats,” grabbed signs — many with personal messages — and headed to Washington, D.C., their state capitols or the streets to participate in the Women’s March and say that they’d had enough.

On Saturday, participants marched in every state. On every continent — even Antarctica. Estimates are that certainly more than a million, and perhaps millions, of people participated.

Attending the Des Moines march Saturday, which an estimated 26,000 attended, I got to see the Iowa slice of this worldwide event.

I watched people of all ages, from an infant girl with a “Pee on the patriarchy” sign to an elderly woman in a wheelchair keeping up with the crowds marching around the statehouse, listen to and speak with and hug and cry with people of all types.

I watched as the cat-eared “pussyhats” knitted, crocheted or sewed to represent the president’s “grab them by the pussy” comment, filled the capitol lawn with a sea of pink.

I watched as white suburban moms vowed support for Native Americans and Muslims.

I watched as young Asian men vowed support for the LGBT community.

I watched as men vowed support for women.

I watched as women with hijabs and middle-aged white men carrying their young daughters crowded closer together to make room for the expanding crowd.

I watched young girls and boys ring the Liberty Bell outside the Iowa State Capitol.

I watched women — white, black, Asian, Latina, Native American and more — women in pink hats and women in hijabs, gay women and gay men and straight white men line up, link arms with strangers and stand together.

The solidarity, inspiration and, yes, catharsis that came from being among thousands of people who want everyone to be treated equally on Saturday was followed Sunday by people who called them “crybabies” or “snowflakes,” who reduced them to a whining group without a real purpose or message. An obstruction.

Three million people in “pussyhats” around the world, and the countless others who supported them, would argue differently.

When you brush off the message of scads of pink-hatted women who flooded streets in hundreds of cities around the world, you brush off not just the marches but the daily experiences of millions of women — truly, of billions of women.

If asking for understanding or empathy for crowds of shouting women is too great of a step, what if I reduced it to just me?

The woman who has interviewed you. The woman you say hi to at the coffee shop. The woman who lives a block away from you. The woman who sits down the pew from you at church.

I’m one of those women.

A woman who has been treated unequally at work.

A woman who has been followed down the street by men shouting obscenely about what they want to do to me.

A woman who has been groped by men — enough times that I can no longer count them on one hand. I was about 13 the first time. It’s happened since in Carroll, multiple times.

A woman who has been called a whore for ignoring unwanted attention from a man.

A woman who has been told to stop whining.

My experiences aren’t unique.

On Saturday, around the country, around the world and in Des Moines, Iowa, countless women who have experienced the same banded together and said they were done.

Women are done.

Done being catcalled, with being the recipients of obscene gestures, with being touched or grabbed or groped by men who apparently never learned how to treat other humans.

Done walking with keys between their fingers and their heads down at night.

Done being asked what they wore or how many drinks they had on the night they were sexually harassed, assaulted and raped.

Done watching an inexcusably low number of rapists go to prison.

Done being told by politicians and educators and men that it’s their responsibility to make sure they’re not sexually assaulted.

Done not only getting paid less for the work they do, but being talked over, patted on the head or treated inappropriately at work. Done being the recipients of words and actions from men at work who would never direct those same words and actions toward other men.

Done with those who, in trying to stop abortions, also want to block many people’s access to the affordable birth control, cancer screenings, testing, treatment, vaccines, smoking cessation, education and more that Planned Parenthood offers (not to mention testicular and prostate cancer screenings, vasectomies and treatment for the pesky little problem of erectile dysfunction) — and having lawmakers offer idiotic suggestions for finding those resources elsewhere. Like, at the dentist.

Look, my dentist is great, but she’s not going to give me birth control.

That suggestion came from a state senator in Iowa. A man.

Done hearing from the people in their lives that women shouldn’t be upset that they voted for a man who said you should “treat (women) like s***;” who bragged about sexual assault; whom multiple women accused of sexual assault; who said he’d date his own daughter; who said women sexually harassed at work should simply find another career; who said certain women were too ugly to sexually assault; and who blamed sexual assault in the military on the fact that more women joined the military — and then having those same people wonder why women are concerned his administration won’t represent them.

I could go on.

Women are done.

If you can’t support women’s arguments for supporting Planned Parenthood, ask yourself if you can support women’s desire to not be afraid when they walk past a stranger, to be treated fairly at work, to not be raped and then blamed for it.

This isn’t just about the country’s current administration, women at these marches argued. It’s about the overall treatment of, and attitude toward, women throughout the country.

It’s not just a Trump issue. It’s not just a Congress issue. It’s not just a partisan issue. And it’s not a rabid, man-hating issue.

It’s about how women systemically are treated by the men in their lives. By their friends. By their coworkers. By their bosses.

By total strangers.

During Saturday’s march in Des Moines, recorded women’s and kids’ voices floated across the lawn:

“Because I’m a feminist, and that’s not a dirty word.

“Because no means no.

“Because I want to smash the glass ceiling.

“Because I want to be president someday.

“Because I want my sister to be president someday.

“Because I fought for freedom for all, not some.”

The march was initially branded a women’s march, and it ultimately grew to represent people of color, LGBT people, people who practice different religions, people with disabilities and more.

But there were plenty of straight, white, Christian, able-bodied men who showed up as well, simply to provide support.

And that was important, too.

Some of the signs I saw from these marches broke my heart. Others, carried by men, provided a bit of hope.

One, in D.C.: “I was going to write my opinion, but it’s probably about time white men just shut up and listened.”

Another, written in Spanish and carried by a shirtless man who went to the Buenos Aires, Argentina, march, translated to: “I’m half naked, surrounded by the opposite sex ... and I feel protected, not intimidated. I want the same for them.”

We want that for ourselves. Do you want that for us?