Why I Marched

By Katherine Kerr

There’s a Facebook post going around where women oppose the Women’s Marches across the world.

I respect your opinions AND I invite you to read my responses to your cut-and-paste post.

I don’t think you are a “disgrace to women” because you didn’t support the march. You have every right to choose what to support.

I’m glad you don’t feel like a “second class citizen” because you are a woman. There are many women who feel differently they are because our patriarchal government and institutions have made sure they know their places. Remember, we’ve only been able to vote since 1920 and we still don’t have equal representation in Congress, the state legislatures and most city and county and school entities.

I am glad that you feel you have access to opportunities in America — in spite of a woman. Not every woman feels that way.

When I was searching for my first job, I was told by an editor at a newspaper in southeast Texas that even though I was better educated and had more experience than any of the other applicants, he wasn’t going to offer me the job because he thought the job of police reporter was no place for a young female. BTW – about five years later I was covering night police in Houston.

I am glad you feel you have control of your body and choices. But many women do not.

Some women grow up in families, cultures and religious traditions that tell them their role is to submit to men, to support men and to bear and raise children. I remember a youth-led Bible study in high school when that point was driven home. I was among the few kids whose mother worked outside the home and I always dreamed of a career outside the home. That was the first wedge that drove me from the church for about 20 years.

Too many girls and women have been misinformed and are uneducated about their reproductive systems. When they have an unplanned pregnancy, there are laws on the books and proposed laws in the pipeline that dictate even if they are impregnated by a rapist they will have to carry that child to term. There are also laws that require women to bear a child who medical professionals say is unviable, or as we recently saw here in Texas, dead. Imagine the trauma for those women. Do we really expect them to “deal with it,” or “get over it?”

Then there’s the economic impact of bearing children, especially for those who are undereducated and/or are working minimum wage or low-income jobs where health insurance is nonexistent. Even though child development science proves that having maternal contact is imperative for those first formative months, women who are on the edges of society often face with the prospect of losing their low-paying jobs if they do not return to work quickly. And, try finding good child care for an infant when you’re working a minimum wage job. It was hard enough as a middle- to upper-middle income family.

I am impressed that you do not feel that you are “not respected or undermined” because you are a woman. I am surprised that you have never been called sexist names or had parts of your body grabbed, poked, prodded or ogled. I’m glad you’ve never worked someplace where the dress code for females was different than the one for males and that you were never required to wear heels, pantyhose and not barred from wearing slacks. If you are a woman of a certain age (like mine or older), that is quite an accomplishment!

I’m also fascinated you’ve never been in a business meeting where you could propose an idea and have it dismissed or ignored, yet when a male colleague says the same thing, he is credited for his brilliant thinking. I’m amazed that you’ve been in a workplace where you weren’t expected to make the coffee and clean up the office kitchen and the nasty office refrigerator (or that you did so) because no men would do it.

I’m happy you believe you can make your own choices, speak and be heard, work if you want and that nothing is stopping you except yourself.

For most of my life, I would have agreed with you.

Thanks to the family I was born into, I lived a pretty stable life. I had a mother and a father. I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear and family around to love and care for me. I attended four good public schools.  I was blessed that my parents could send me to college and I graduated without student debt.

But after nearly 40 years of adulting, I’ve learned not all families follow the same paths. Divorces happen, jobs are lost, families get evicted, cars can’t be repaired, illnesses decimate finances and families, not all schools have the same resources, and not all parents are good parents.

I have worked with and on behalf of women who are victims of domestic violence. I have worked with and on behalf of children who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Trust me, he trauma doesn’t go away with the snap of a finger. Too often, those mothers and children have little or no access to mental health services that could help them get better and, in some cases, just get functional.

I have advocated for kids whose unstable family lives and entry into the foster care systems mean their education is repeatedly disrupted. Remember how hard those tween and teen years were? Imagine if every few months you’re the new kid in school. And, since you’re in foster care, some counselors and teachers won’t spend much time with you because who knows if you’ll be in class tomorrow?

I have African American friends who were the only African Americans in their neighborhoods and schools and were ignored and/or bullied by students and parents who used racist terms against them and school officials who turned the other way.

I know Asian American friends whose kids were called racist names and ridiculed for their appearance.

I have Latino friends who have been told “you lost the war, go back to Mexico,” even though their families have lived here for generations. A friend who is the mom in a biracial family told me that her darker skinned daughter was called a “bastard wetback” by a neighbor’s child. The parents of the offending and offensive child did nothing.

I have Muslims friends who have been verbally assaulted and told to go back to where they came from, accused of being terrorists and told they were not real Americans.

Science (yes, I believe in science), shows the impact of trauma I’ve described on the brain development of children. It affects their ability to learn, reason, cope and control. It also erodes self esteem, which you are blessed to have in abundance.

I have come to learn that institutional racism and oppression over generations has an impact on people’s abilities to realize the American dream regardless of how hard they work and how much they hope and dream. We will always find the exceptions who overcame adversity, but wouldn’t it be nice if we worked together to eliminate barriers of isms?

My ancestors enslaved people who were kidnapped from Africa and brought to America against their will. I think it is fair to assume that these same ancestors split families; treated men, women and children like or worse than livestock; and brutally punished those who tried to escape, who didn’t breed in accordance with the masters’ instructions and who tried to learn to read and write.

When emancipated, these formerly enslaved people had nowhere to go and no resources. They and their descendants were likely hounded and threatened everywhere they went. Later they suffered under Jim Crow laws, which limited upward mobility. Doubtless they were forced into segregated neighborhoods and schools where resources were definitely not equal. Despite Civil Rights legislation, their descendants have probably lived under institutional and systemic racism, which is real and which continues to exist.

Exhibit A:  Take a look at Mr. Trump’s cabinet, corporate leadership and political systems. They do not reflect our demographics and it isn’t because of lack of talent, education or experience.

Since you and I grew up in relatively healthy situations, you’re correct, it isn’t right that WE blame our circumstance or problems on anything other than our choices or that we didn’t get what we want. But not everyone is as lucky as we are.

Frankly, I think it is okay to blame disease if your life isn’t perfect. Whether that is a disease you suffer, or a disease, or accident or tragedy that devastated your family or deprived you of your parents. Either way it’s likely to really screw up your life and affect how you see the world and whether you have the energy to fight for a fair shake or save your energy to just get through the day.

I do not equate explaining with blaming. I believe context matters. Every person’s life is different, which means circumstances shape lives and outcomes. Some walls, virtual and physical, are real and cannot be climbed over alone or even when someone tries to give you a hand up.

I take responsibility for myself AND I take responsibility for others whose voices are not heard, whose lives are marginalized, who are struggling just to survive. I do so because my faith calls me to do so. And because of my privilege.

I’m not trying to impress you when I say I do speak about and try in some small way to address real injustices and tragedies that affect women, children and other human beings in so many ways.

I would love to talk and work with you about effective solutions to domestic violence, latch-key kids, living wages, teen pregnancies, affordable housing, mental health issues, the environment and any other issues you want to discuss.

And, as a citizen of a nation with a great deal of power in the world, I think we also should address oppression of women and other vulnerable groups around the world.

And, I’d really like to have an honest dialogue about how together we can work toward a civil discourse, even though we come from totally different ends of the political spectrum.

I do not hate you, nor do I love you less than I love people I’ve never met who live in other countries. I believe we are all children of God (or a creator or higher power known by the name you choose). I believe with my whole heart, soul and being that each and every human being deserves to have our basic needs met and opportunities, not barriers, to realize our potential.

Like you, I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend. I also am an aunt and soon to be a grandmother.

I wasn’t wearing one of the pink hats on my head during the march, nor did I scream profanities or bash men. (After all, I am married to a great guy and have three amazing sons.) Those who did the latter two were among the minority. Most of us were pretty laid back, coming together to peacefully share our concerns, frustrations, and grief because we are deeply concerned about the future of our great country.

I hope that I have responded in what you consider to be a kind manner because many of those who posted this meme are friends whom I love and respect.

Yes, I joined many sisters, brothers and children and youth. I did not hear whining. I heard and sensed an energy and desire to protect the fundamental ideals of our country. We feel our basic freedoms – speech, press, religion, assembly and the right to petition our government to address our concerns – are under attack.  I We believe we have grounds such fear because of the rhetoric of Mr. Trump and his cabinet.

I march for truth because integrity matters. And, Mr. Trump seems to have a complete contempt for the truth.

I marched, not for myself, but for my children, my grandchildren (of which I hope there will be many!), my nieces and the children of my cousins and all their descendants. I speak for those who I have not met, that I will never encounter nor who will have any biological connection to me.

I marched because women still earn 78 cents compared to the full dollar that men make. I marched because
“traditionally female” important and difficult careers like education, health care and social work, are grossly undervalued. I don’t want today’s women or others who have been oppressed to be subjected to further discriminatory and exploitive circumstances.

I marched and will continue to march for kids who need education so they can be contributing members of our society and they have a greater shot at realizing their dreams. I march for those who have historically been marginalized because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability. I marched for the homeless, the hungry, the impoverished, the sick and the incarcerated. I marched because I can give a voice to those who cannot or are afraid to speak.

And today, and every day, I will pray for wisdom, empathy and discernment for all of our leaders, elected or not, and regardless of whether I voted for them. Just as I have for most of my adult life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *