Returning from the Women’s March on Washington D.C., it felt good to return finding my house just the way I left it. There is great comfort in having things the way they always were. I slip into a favorite pair of pants, the ones that don’t pinch at the waist, pour a cup of tea, and sink into the couch to watch another hour of Queen Victoria on PBS. Nice. Very nice.
However, ease and comfort were not what added the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote – a right known as woman suffrage. Before this law went into effect, women couldn’t own property and had no legal claim to the money they might earn. Their marches and meetings were a 70-year struggle that included incarceration and force-feeding.
Today, marching with other women and men was not about the right to vote, per se. Yet, I know first-hand that not all American women feel empowered to vote. The women who whisper into the phone, “I can’t talk now. He’s home.” Or the woman whose husband controls whom she can see and if she can use the car, or the physically abused woman who tip-toes so as not to arouse her spouse’s roars.
We marched on Washington for equal pay. In the United States, the median annual pay for women with full-time, year-round jobs is $40,742 while for men it is $51,212. So for every 80 cents a woman makes a man makes $1. The wage gap for women of color is typically 63 cents on the dollar and Latinas are paid 54 cents for every $1 paid to white men.
We marched for equal rights of our bodies. I listened to the chorus of young women chant, “My body, my choice” followed with thousands of deep men’s voices, “her body, her choice.”
We marched for equal representation in government. Today, less than 20 percent of the U.S. Congress is women. We want to hear the soprano and baritone voices from the pulpits of Capitol Hill.
We marched to say: Women should have the same opportunity as men for career advancement and women who choose to stay home and take care of their family should be valued. In this writer’s opinion, all stay-at-home-parents should receive a monthly stipend – society’s expression of the value and importance of this work.
We marched to remember that we are a tapestry of colors – black, white, brown, yellow and red. We are black braids and yellow locks, smooth skin and wrinkled faces. When a marcher yelled, “Tell me what democracy looks like,” we responded with “this is what democracy looks like.”
The march was a balm for those looking for support, for others to have their voices heard, and for one historic day, we immersed ourselves in a sea of citizens. It was civil, inclusive and supportive. A day in history that I shared with women in my native country, adopted country, and women all around the world— a solidarity of sisters like one the world has never seen before.