Women’s Work

sister march edinburgh

This is what we do with walls

I’m still processing what happened over the weekend. Global figures for those attending the women’s marches have reached an estimated 4.8 million, and there were 678 events world-wide. I don’t know if this includes the disability march which people who were unable to travel to a live event could sign up to participate on-line, but these figures are astonishing, as is the fact that I haven’t seen any record of any arrests. I’ve heard it said that this is because there were a lot of middle-class white women marching, and the police were merely protecting their own, but I’ve been on marches where the police outnumbered the mostly white, middle-class (and middle-aged, if I’m honest) women, and I can tell you that wasn’t the attitude! There was something very different about the police handling of these marches, and if I were in Trump’s staff right now, I would be seriously concerned about it.
There was something different about the march, too, and not because it was mostly women, nor because it was well-behaved. The marches I’ve been on have mostly been well-behaved, but they’ve often been tense, or angry, or full of machismo. This one was characterised by wit, courtesy, good humour and plain speaking – no minced words, no alternative facts, no bragging or threats. There were men there, but without white-knighting, or taking charge, and there was certainly no harassment.
I’ve heard of racist attitudes displayed at some marches, but in this country, anti-racist and green banners were as common as anti-sexist ones, and equality, welcome for refugees and international peace didn’t come far behind. Political changes in the last twelve months have struck at everything many of us hold dear, and Trump isn’t the only villain. He is just the most visible face of all the threats we have come to recognise, and his appalling election campaign has simply made us realise that we have to act now.
Later, I recognised the feeling I had about this march. When my father died, my mother was so strong, so resilient. My brothers all wanted to help with what had to be done, but they found her already on it. Later she said to me. ‘This is women’s work. Birth and death are women’s work.’I get the feeling that every woman involved had that same feeling – not a war to be fought, but a job of work to be done. Men are not excluded – far from it, but this is something that women are going to do.
This is a big thing and we are only at the start of it. News from the US is coming in, of lockdowns and rights removed, and also of some spirited resistance. The US is not going quietly into this bad night. But it isn’t only in the US. It’s going to take all of us. We will have to resolve to tell the truth, in spite of the lies and obfuscations of powerful people,to refuse injustice, and protect those who take the brunt of repression,and to come together to create something better.
If you know the Cherokee story of the two wolves, you’ll know what I mean when I say ‘let’s feed the good wolf’.

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