“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou
Today was the day of the women’s march in DC, as well as the numerous other marches stretching across the globe. There was one in St. Paul at our Capitol – less than a mile from where I live. I didn’t go.
I wish that I could have brought myself to. It isn’t that I don’t agree with it – I do, and I also respect all of my black and brown sisters sitting out because they don’t feel that they have a place in the pervading white feminism of the march. I didn’t sit out for that reason, though. I don’t like crowds and they tend to offset my anxiety, but that also wasn’t the full reason that I didn’t go.
I’ve been enjoying seeing the photos of the various marches around the world. The crowds cheer me and give me hope. Many of the signs are funny, smart, and inter-sectional.
This election cycle has been hard. After a friend tried to rape me in my apartment this past summer, I was triggered and sunk into a depression. My anxiety increased and I went into hiding. As I started to feel better again, the horrific tape came out of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. I wrote about my reactions to that here. The past several months have been traumatic and I’m still figuring out how to cope and find my footing.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook today, thanking friends who are out at marches, and reminding us that not everyone is in a good, safe place in their minds to be able to be out marching. That is me. That is why I am not out there today. I worried about being triggered, with my anxiety from the crowd already on high. I feel vulnerable, and I knew that this would push me over the edge. As I scrolled through social media reading protest signs, I became triggered by a few. I started shaking and crying, unable to breathe. I had to put my phone away and take time to focus on breathing and calming my mind. I knew I would spin into a full-on panic attack if I didn’t take care of myself. I am glad I am not at the march, as much as I wish that I could be.
Instead, I’ve been taking time to think of ways that I can resist Trump but not be triggered and not put myself in an anxious situation. Reflecting on these things took me back to my teenage years. I think that I had to be an advocate and activist for myself as a woman earlier than many of my friends and peers. As a teenager, I would argue with many of my friends who now proclaim themselves feminist and have now caught themselves up with the things that I began fighting for earlier than most. I scared off a lot of people and lost friends.
You see, when you find your body raped and ravaged and shamed when you’re just 16, you are your sole activist and advocate. Chances are your friends and peers don’t understand the situation you are in, despite your pleading and cries for help. As I’ve grown older, my friends have been liberated from their comfort and ignorance (I hope in ways less violent and traumatic than my own liberating) and have begun to understand the complexities of rape culture and survivorship. But here’s the thing: I spent so many years alone in this fight, tired and weary from fighting with the very people who I thought might believe me most, that I feel very left out from the newfound unity among my friends and peers.
I am glad that so many people are awakened and showing up for victims/survivors of sexual assault and rape. I don’t mean to sound bitter – I am just tired. I hope that one day we have this same awakening for domestic violence, for trans issues, and for the stories of injustice and hardship that my black and brown sisters have to share. I have work to do to continue staying in tune with these things, as well.
But what I mean to say is this: it’s not okay if you feel left out. It’s not okay if you stayed home out of fear of being triggered, or having your body disrespected due to your skin tone or your biology. I am sorry if you felt these things; you are not alone.
To my friends who are new to the fight, as you resist these next four years, don’t forget about your friends and peers who have had to resist all their lives, or at least for a time much longer than you. You have a lot of privilege if this is the first time you have had to resist. You are marching alongside individuals who have had to be their own advocate and activist for much longer than you. For whom resistance wasn’t an option – it was a necessity to their very existence. The world can be scary for people like us. So please don’t let your good intentions get in the way of your clarity.
I am tired, but I thank my sisters who showed up today. I am grateful for those who have been showing up their whole lives. I am glad that the past several months have woken up so many people – I wish it didn’t have to take this long…and let’s not forget that it was white fear of losing white privilege that gave us Trump & his administration to begin with. Let’s keep marching….with our queer, black, brown, trans, survivor, Muslim, immigrant, incarcerated, disabled, indigenous, and refugee sisters at the forefront.