This post is written by Maureen Wilson, Hamilton, Ontario
I have a box filled with treasures.
No, they’re not diamonds, gold or even Apple shares. These treasures are homemade cards and pieces of art work made by each of my three children. Some of them are touching: “I love daddy. Daddy loves pizza and pie. But he loves me more” (Nailed it). Some are funny: “For 7 years of my life, you were a good mom.” That one was written by my son when he was seven. I can’t wait to see what he writes when he’s 14 and 21. Or maybe I can.
No hallmark card comes close to offering me a glimpse into the heart, humour and personality of each of my children at that moment in their lives. My son will never be seven again, but I have a piece, however small, of what he was like when he was seven. Just thinking about it makes me weepy.
Which brings me to the Women’s March on Washington. I suppose it’s because I love the written word so much that I was drawn to the signs. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of signs, almost all of which were homemade. The same mothers who have made countless trips to the craft store or the dollar store on behalf of their kids and pending school projects were making the same trip for themselves. Bristol board. Markers. Some required glue and yarn. Others needed cotton batten. There was paint of every colour.
I’ve been to a few demonstrations over the last number of decades but I’m the furthest thing from radical. I aspired to be Mary Tyler Moore’s “Mary Richards” when I was younger, not Gloria Steinem. I am a feminist and have thought of myself as a feminist most of my life. To be sure, I am a white now middle class feminist. I am growing increasingly aware of my privilege and I know that I must listen and learn from the experiences of women unlike myself, including women of colour and Indigenous women. Some of the signs helped in that regard and have got me started on my journey.
The homemade signs offered a glimpse into the heart, humour and personality of each woman. They owned their signs. It was important to them and they carried the signs with pride and tremendous emotion. And, unlike other demonstrations I have been to, solidarity and strength was not measured in the uniformity of each sign. It was found in the differences. And, isn’t that a lesson in democracy, inclusiveness and civility, especially after witnessing the intentional chaos, panic and fear of the Executive Order from the President of the United States seeking to ban refugees (Muslims) from entering the United States – a case study in how demagogues and their handlers fan the flames of division, create scapegoats and use diversionary tactics to reorder society to prop up their own positions of power and privilege.
But of all the signs I bore witness to last Saturday one in particular affected me most. We came upon a long line of women, and a few men, with linked hands dressed in jumpsuits depicting a brick wall. In the place of some bricks were the words:
- Must be a pretty picture. YOU DROPPING TO YOUR KNEES.
- As long as you’ve got a young and beautiful PIECE OF ASS.
- A person who is FLAT CHESTED is very hard to be a 10.
- Disgusting Animal
- There was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever
- I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her
Of course, these are the words of Donald Trump. We had all heard these words over the past year. But to see them in bold print and attached to the bodies of women was very powerful. Imagine the size of the crowd, as you’ve seen from the television reports, and then imagine absolute silence. Women knelt before this wall and cried. I cried. The women forming the wall cried and strangers hugged strangers to console, to grieve, to give strength and support. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it as long as I live.
The printed word matters. Today, more than ever. Truth matters. Alternative truth is another word for fiction. Sources that seek to uncover and offer the truth matter like the free press and libraries. I will double down on my support for both and I hope to unite with people who feel the same. And, I will refill my supply of Bristol board and markers and always have a comfortable pair of shoes at hand. I am ready to march. Again.