When the anniversary of the Women’s March rolled around, it took me two hot seconds to check my calendar and fill in the date. I took Addison to the Women’s March in Oklahoma City last year and I knew we need to repeat the adventure.
I must admit that prior to attending I was a little worried about the turn out. I didn’t have as many friends and acquaintances attending this year and I was worried that the buzz and excitement was not carrying over from last year and all the shiny had worn off of the movement. I’m pleased to report that the crowd and number in attendance seemed comparable to the previous year.
The best part of the march was the conversation I was able to have with my thirteen year old son. The signs, hats, and speakers generated good conversation between the two of us that would have been mostly one sided had I just brought this up at home. We talked about which signs were the funniest, which were inappropriate and should have been left at home, which were cleaver, and which were mean spirited. One sign we couldn’t really figure out at all other than it’s statement of the obvious fact that girls, do indeed, poop.
He was curious about the many signs that said things about equality for women and equal pay for equal work. We talked about how, historically, women have never been paid the same amount as men for similar work. Even today, many women are still not receiving equal pay or treatment in the workplace.
He was curious about the pussy-cat hats and why there were so many being worn. He wanted to know why so many women were there in the first place and why did they feel the need to speak out. We had a great conversation about the history of women’s rights…right to vote, to own property, inequality in pay, to pretty much not be able to do anything without a husband. We talked about how much times have changed but that women are still treated as objects. It was a wonderful opportunity to tell him that many men treat women as objects and feel like they can talk down to them, mistreat them, grab them in inappropriate ways, and basically do what they want just because they can. We talked about how, up until very recently, women have been too afraid to speak up about the way they were treated.
He was genuinely confused as to why women would be treated like that. Why they have been denied the same rights as men over the course of human history. I tried to explain to him that for as long as history has been recorded, women have been treated as property, as less-than, as baby factories, as sources of pleasure.
But why? He kept asking. Why would someone treat an entire group of people as not equal? What’s the point of treating women that way? Isn’t that racist? Isn’t that like what we did to African-Americans and slavery?
Oh, out of the mouth of babes.
My best answer as we marched around the state capitol was – power.
When one group of people are in power and hold all the power, they want to stay in power. To stay in power they have to hold other groups of people, different than themselves, down. They have to deny them the privileges they enjoy in order to maintain the power they posses. Abuse, shame, manipulation, fear, and mistreatment are tools used to keep a group of people in check. The fear of loosing their power propels them to use inequality and abuse as a tool to maintain the status quo. Power and inequality allows the belief system of “us and them” to persist, that one group is better than another, that someone deserves less than another just because they say it should be so.
As much as I sometimes feel helpless about the state of our country, this boy gave me some hope.
Perhaps this iGeneration will grow up with the notion that inequality among groups of people is ridiculous and old fashioned. Perhaps the children we are raising will look at the way we have lived our lives and treated each other and will say That’s stupid. We can do better.
Hopefully, twenty years from now, our kids will look back and tell their kids…I marched with my mom in a women’s march because, can you believe this, women still weren’t treated as equals? Can you believe that racism was still strong and alive in America in 2018? Can you believe that people turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and blamed the victim?
Or perhaps not. Perhaps in twenty years we will fight each other for clean water, public education will be a joke, and America will finally have devolved into a two class system. Perhaps meteorologists will have to invent a new classification for the intensity of storms.
For my own sanity, I’m going to put my money on my son’s generation and bet on their sensibilities. I will remain hopeful because one thirteen year old in Oklahoma couldn’t understand why in the world denying rights to half of the world’s population has been okay for all of history.