Women Without Borders

By Kathryn Babcock, Lead Strategist for The MATCH Fund

Kathryn attended the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. This is her reflection on the global sisterhood that unfolded around her.

When I first heard about the Women’s March in Washington, I knew I would go. It was a clarion call to be with women at the epicentre of incredulity and outrage.

As I was getting ready to fly out, reports were coming in of Canadians being turned back at the border. A friend implored me: “Don’t tell U.S. customs why you are going”. The flight to Washington was comprised almost entirely of women, many with pink hats and signs. Customs didn’t even ask.

At the March, there was a placard with Trump’s image that read, “You’re so vain, I bet you think this March is about you,” and, in a way, it was but, of course, it was about so much more.

I was so struck by the sheer number of people and our teeming diversity. From the older women carrying signs, “I can’t believe I am still marching for this shit,” to the girl on her mother’s shoulders wearing a cape emblazoned with, “The future is female” to the men whose signs read, “I am with her” with arrows pointing in all directions. Creativity swirled, proxied by the placards: from the clever, “We shall overcomb,” to the poignant, “White lies matter”.

What was most evident, what pervaded every moment, was the feeling of oneness. There was a potent outrage against misogyny and an unmistakable kindness toward each other. One placard read, “Melania, blink twice really fast if you need to be rescued”.

We were there not for the speeches but for each other, to collectively shoulder as a sisterhood what could crush us as individual women. Gloria Steinem’s words spoken at the March were experienced in real time. “We are not ranked, we are linked.” My heart soared in the recognition that this is what The MATCH Fund makes possible. It allows me as a Canadian to be linked with women under siege in every corner of the world.

The nurturing, connective power of the feminine was in full force. A doctor told me that she was easily able to get thousands of people at the March to create a path for those who were ill or having panic attacks because everyone was paying attention to each other and were so attuned to vulnerability. She had never seen anything like it.

The next morning on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a group of young women were being taunted by a group of men. Around them, a circle of women started to form, ballooning in minutes to a crowd of hundreds chanting “Love Trumps Hate” – a popup Sisterhood. Security dispersed the group, as chanting violated the “quiet zone befitting a memorial,” although I suspect Lincoln would have been wholly in favour.

The event brought to mind words of a poet spoken the day before: “If they do not let us dream, we will not let them sleep”.

The euphoric sense of sisterhood was grounded when I met two women who were Trump supporters in town for the previous day’s inauguration. I had to override the impulse to recoil in order to step back and find common ground. We had all come great distances to be there for auspicious occasions; we all hoped for great things. We were mothers.

I reflected that the sisterhood is a more fundamental drumbeat than a political perspective. Our efforts to build bridges with the women who helped put Trump in power could only be built with curiosity and compassion.

Many of us, as women, have been socialized to compete with each other and to defer to male authority. The March in Washington was both a profound cooperation with each other and appreciation of each other.

When the flight landed back in Canada, a woman reached up to get her bag and exclaimed out loud as the thought occurred to her: “Oh my God. We are Women without Borders – Les Femmes sans Frontières! A tagline for The MATCH Fund if ever there was one.

The global sisterhood. The road ahead will not be an easy one. I look forward to the next family reunion.

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