PART I of III
Pussyhat, pussyhat, where have you been?
I’ve been to Chicago, to protest the “king.” (with apologies to Mother Goose)
This past Saturday I attended the Women’s March on Chicago. We travelled by van and car to Forest Park & took the blue line into the city, stopping off at the Harold Washington Library to establish a meeting place to go if anyone got separated from the group. Having established our bearings, we took a short walk to the Grant Park area near Congress and Balboa, where the rally was scheduled to begin. Getting closer, we saw City snowplows at intersections, fully laden with salt to mark the outer borders of the protest area and easily moved to block off the streets.
As our train got closer and closer to the Loop, more and women wearing pink, knitted hats with prominent cat ears (pussy hats) filled out train car, to packed standing room. These hand-knitted wool hats were a direct response by women to election of a President who once told other men exactly what they should “grab ‘em by.” The idea was to reclaim the word and to be a clear visual response to the promotion of physical and sexual assault of women. Pink hats filled the crowds like blue at a Bears game: these women were saying, loudly and proudly, that they opposed such a statement and all related abusive behaviors, both personal and political.
There were Black, White, Asian, Hispanic and Native American women from all socio-economic levels and ages there. Individuals, groups, families, church groups, student groups, groups with matching t-shirts and those just wearing their regular street clothes. There were straight people, gays & lesbians, transgender people: from all sexes, genders and sexual orientations, based on buttons, clothing and signs. It was family-friendly space, and people were caring for each other: sharing food, water and portable chairs. There were lots of women of varying levels of physical ability, from women in wheelchairs to those who needed to rest now and again, to women whom I know personally have invisible disabilities with no obvious visible indications. The day itself had started out foggy and foreboding, but sun and blue skies broke through and the temp was nearly sixty, like a new Spring day.
There were babies and toddlers and grade-schoolers and tweens and teens and adults of all ages, sizes and shapes. From what I saw, it was a rainbow of people. For context, the crowd, which swelled to over a quarter million souls, was mostly women, mostly white, and mostly those who were not required to work on a Saturday. And there were feminist allies: about 30% were men who support their feminist friends or significant others in pursuit of equality and fairness across the board.
The organizers started with about 20-30 people crammed into a kitchen, saying “we need to do something” in response to the results of Election 16. That turned into 100 folks organizing others, getting the word out, and preparing for maybe ten or 20 thousand people at Grant Park for a rally and a short march to the Federal Plaza. They expected 50K attendees sometime last week, and by late morning it was announced that the staging areas and parade route were filling up, that there were over 100,000 people there, and many more thousands still en route by train. By lunchtime, it was announced that the crowd had swelled to over 200,000. Then over 250,000. The entire parade route and many streets surrounding the area were packed with protestors. The march would be impossible to have because the entire parade route was packed with standing participants. Standing room only, as they used to say on Broadway.
Will they march or not? What will happen to the protesters? Where will they go? Is the whole world really watching? More on this next week, in this space!