Reflecting on the March for Women’s Lives 10 Years Later

10 years ago I attended the March for Women’s Lives. I was not a ‘professional feminist’ ; I was not an Activist ; I was not a student. At that point I did not to clinic defense, I did not do any feminist organizing in ‘the real world’ nor had I sought out social justice based spiritual spaces. I may have been moderating feminist community on LiveJournal (a kind of discussion board) but that would’ve been the most I was ‘doing for feminism’ at that point. I think this distinction is key because so much feminist organizing right now is predicated on a job or education path. We don’t think of ways to encourage those of us who care about the issues of reproductive justice (but lets say.. work in retail) to become involved/be heard.

It’s important to know that my entry into activism was through ‘on the street work’. My first experience was helping an aunt leaflet for her union, later I took part (and found solace) in the antiwar marches. I’m not sure where I heard about the March for Women’s Lives (though the old post I recovered and placed here makes some mention of it) but it must have been online. What I do remember I remember traveling downtown meeting several friends for the first time in person, although I’d considered friends for years. It was exciting to hear voices, see people’s faces and expressions that matched the fierceness they expressed in eloquent posts of the years. These weren’t ‘up and coming bloggers’ – but all sorts of folks who just happened to know each other through communities on this one blogging platform.

It was this experience with a march that mobilized me. After I left I felt such a buzz in my stomach and in my heart. I remember asking my friend Dorothy “what do I do now with all this energy?” She then brought me along to her activism at the time- local organization that provided clinic defense and got me working on the weekends helping patients get in past protesters. After couple years doing clinic defense I was introduced to the organization who I work with to organize a DIY feminist conference. As LiveJournal waned I found other spaces for my writing/thoughts (ie. this blog and my sporadic podcast).

So while it was LiveJournal that introduced me to a lot of concepts ideas and people (so many wonderful friends!) it was the March for Women’s Lives that introduced me to the power of presence as a tool for promoting social justice. Internet organizing is awesome and definitely has its place in the toolkit, but physically showing up when we can (when the limits of money and time and ability don’t over-weigh the benefits of meeting somebody face-to-face) linking arms walking down city streets together for a cause is a thing of gorgeousness.

I spent part of my morning today looking at your pictures were taken 10 years ago. The quality of the pictures is comedic (apparently my phone now has better memory and skills than our digital camera did then). A lot of the faces in those pictures are people I do not talk to anymore. Friendships fade, and even break apart at times, so some of those memories are bittersweet. While complicated by the passage of time and by the growth that happens between each 25 and 35 these pictures make me smile. I can see the distance that I have come, and the faults in those feminist groups that are still being repeated today. By no means was the march perfect but I know that for me that day standing with so many other people who cared about the cause I finally understood that I was not alone.

At least 11 of the marchers I knew
At least 11 of the marchers I knew

A post from 2004

My site from back then is gone, but this is what I posted after the 2014 March for Women’s Lives (no edits were done to this text):


My March Story

Like so many people on e-mail activist lists I had marked the date of ‘The March for Women’s Lives’ in my daily planner a year before it was going to happen. I followed their email updates about schedules fundraisers and the like. Friends I had known only through internet chat and message boards began coordinating trips and places to crash. I spent time leading up to the event knitting headscarves with the feminist symbol as a NARAL fundraiser. So many friends began trading cell phone numbers and plans to meet up before the event.

The Saturday (4/24/04) before the march was excellent! I went to my friend Dorothy’s home where I met Krista and Mary- two women who we had known on-line who Dorothy generously let stay at her place. Also meeting up that day were Kim (another online buddy) and Angeala, Joel, and Ruby good friends of mine. We went to Dupont Circle to have a big noisy lunch. At the circle we met up with another on-line friend fro Washington state named Cassie. Trying to meet her in the circle was a challenge as Planned Parenthood was having a kick off rally in the same space. I ended up hanging out there for a bit after our meal disbanded.

That night I came home excited and already tired. I had dinner and some quality time with the husband before gearing up for the next day’s events. I stayed up late baking tasty treats for breakfast and whirring the loud food processor (probably angering the neighbors) for my famous hummus. I went to bed at 2 a.m. not tired at all. I didn’t sleep well in the sort of way that reminded me of the first day of school, new jobs, and big trips.

I got up early (6:30) to cats being their typical cat selves. So I really worked on being calm and dragging out the morning: yoga, tarot, juice, printing stuff, checking the check list, etc… After a while Angela was at my door and we drove down to D.C.

During the amazingly wonderful breakfast at Dorothy’s house I randomly met Crystal (who was wearing alj shirt for a popular online forum) and Leslie who I dorkily said: oh wow, I just commented in your journal that I’d hope we’d meet!’

After consuming some food and coffee I helped out Krista writing names all over for women she was marching for. Finally the time to get ourselves in gear arrived and we moved en masse to the metro. I can’t name all the folks I met, but everyone was friendly and just amazing.

Coming up off of the Archives metro stop the sheer number of bodies everywhere was just breathtaking. The metro was packed, the landings were packed, outside the walkways were just full of bodies. People were selling buttons, giving away news papers and signs and all sorts of information. We all took pictures of the scene, the masses and each other, including some strangers who took our pictures. Despite the chaos, or perhaps because of it I was already near tears. As Dorothy put it ‘I found my tribe!’. At the mall we split up, and I stuck with Angela, Joel, Krista and Mary so that we could find the mysterious ‘b12’ where the mamas for choice

After walking on a very crowded mall for what seemed like a long time, we found our group of mothers and allies. While we waited for the march to kick off we all chatted, exchanged names, listened to speakers, and giggled over where we had run into each other. I found out that Julie had been on the ‘whole lotta love’ email group (a fan listing for the band Hole) I had been on years ago. While we stepped off into the march with the mamas, all of the chaos that is one million bodies soon separated us from our comrades and Angela, Joel , Ruby, Angela’s Mom and Cassie I were on our own mingling with several groups and even hangin’ with the Haddassah.

The March itself was so empowering. I chatted with women nearby, I took pictures of amazing signs, and I of course chanting my lungs out. As we reached fanatic land I felt so lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of friends. Angela and Cassie, and I did a lot of directed chanting at the protesters (our favorite being ‘pro-life that’s a lie, you don’t care when women die’ egging each other on with our strength. When I saw a sign that read Birth Control Pills Hurt Women I turned to my friend’s Mother (who felt like my Mom at this point) and discussed what was really at stake.

And that’s the thing…we weren’t just marching for abortion rights…I mean we were fighting for that too and there isn’t an ounce of shame in that. But there is a real undercurrent of female repression here. Most of the counter protestors were hurling some real judgmental bullshit- judgment of our sex lives, our spiritual lives, and our worth as humans. That to me was the real fight. You can be personally pro-life… more power to you. But on that Sunday I fought for my civil rights. I haven’t had an abortion yet in my life, but I’ve drank a lot of mugwort tea and downed fair amounts of vitamin C during pregnancy scares. The thought of calling a clinic to handle unplanned pregnancy doesn’t make me wince. Hell I’ve walked through their heavy and very locked doors to get those evil birth control pills, and I’m sure ‘Operation Rescue’ considers that just as heinous.

Post march we eventually found some grass to sit on so we collect our thoughts, energy and devour some much needed food. Coincidentally we landed only a few feet from my friend Kim who I couldn’t reach by cell phone that day. The other folks I randomly saw on the mall were Tara who I saw while waiting in line at the port-a-potty and Ken (both people I also know from on-line interactions) who walked up to me saying ‘hey I know you’. I hugged so many people that day.

When I talked to strangers that day I was so blown away by the amount of women and men who traveled from all over the country. A woman who I met in the port a potty line had come from Indiana on a bus, completely on her own. She was probably over 60 and she was so moved by this tide against our rights that she just signed up with NARAL to jump on a bus.

That to me summed it up. Trusting each other, and the movement to carry us through this day.