by Constance Garcia-Barrio
“Public cervix announcement,” the young woman’s sign said, “pussies matter.” Another sign: “Tweet others as you would have them tweet you!”
Another woman had a sign with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” And yet another: “Tweeting is for birds, not presidents! Speaking of birds, Go Eagles!”
This Women’s March, a year into Trump’s presidency, had a more angry, scathing tone and perhaps even broader coalitions than the one a year ago, I found, when I hit the Parkway Saturday despite a newly-replaced left knee — last year it was a new left hip! — and the tail end of a cold.
A half dozen white women from Mercer County, N.J., had a sign saying, “I vote because you can’t.” Nothing but consciousness compelled these seemingly middle-class, comfortable women to protest gerrymandering, voter ID laws and other maneuvers that hobble mostly people of color. The women’s energy and awareness gave me reason to hope. “If you vote, you can affect issues,” one of them said.
I saw more men this year. A tall 31-year-old artist said that he had “..come to see what it was all about and to give the women support.” He was open to learning.
Bruce, 69, sat, on cardboard on the sidewalk near the Radisson Hotel, begging. I gave him a dollar, and he gave me an opinion. “Women are the mothers of the world,” he said, as he thanked a man who put a dollar in his cup and a woman who handed him two bananas and an apple. “Life couldn’t go on without you.” He stowed the fruit in a box that had more food in it. “If I could get a hold of Trump for a minute, I would tell him to get real.”
Folks from Planned Parenthood had staked their claim to a chunk of Logan Circle. “We’re having an amazing day [with donations]” said Tracy, who’s involved in the political- action arm of the organization. I didn’t doubt what she said about donations, the way she stepped up to me, did her spiel and left my wallet $5 lighter. I applauded her presence and that of the young people with her. I’ve probably been post-menopausal longer than Tracy has been alive, but that’s not the point. Teens need a place where they can seek accurate information, and women can’t make financial progress without control over their reproductive lives.
Katarina, 29, a blind woman from Lancaster County who works there as a teacher’s aide, tapped her way along the Parkway with a white cane. “I’m here with my family,” she said. A relative spoke to let her know that he was nearby. “It’s important that people with disabilities have a voice and a presence at events like this,” Katarina said. She paused and then added, “I wish Trump would spend time with people who are different from him or who have opinions different from his.”
I saw more children this time around, energetic, savvy and not yet 10 years old. One little girl had made her own sign that showed a sky-blue globe with tan continents. Under the world she’d written the word “peace.” She had come with her mom and a younger brother “…because I like the idea of the march.” And as to her age, “…I’m turning 8 in a few days.”
Farther along the Parkway, I heard two little girls and a boy chanting. When I asked their ages, the tallest girl said, “We 8, 8 and 9 years old,” pointing to herself last. Then they took up their chant again: “We need a leader, not a tweeter.”
This year’s sharper political tone included a recipe for “A Trump Sandwich: white bread, full of bologna, Russian dressing and a small pickle.”
Marchers still found room for humor. “So much wrong, so little cardboard,” one man’s sign said.
Someone in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume wore a sign that said, “I may be a fossil, but I’m a feminist.” I related to both parts of that statement. With my new knee piping up its own protest, I headed back to Suburban Station. I’d savored the march, read dozens of posters that marchers had woven through the vertical bars of the barricades, and heard a speech in Spanish that delighted me with the wider outlook it betokened. A day well spent. But lo and behold! When I boarded the train to Chestnut Hill West — could it have happened on any other line? — the ticket taker sported a tie with words that supported the Women’s March and with tiny blinking lights with every color of the rainbow.
Constance Garcia-Barrio, a Mt. Airy resident, is a freelance writer and retired professor of Romance languages at West Chester University.