Written by Ariel Felton
At 8:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, I climbed out of my comfort zone and onto a bus bound for the Women’s March on Washington.
Valdosta State University professors sat near the front grading papers, while grandparents and stay-at-home moms from Centerville swapped button downs for “Nasty Woman” t-shirts. College journalists from Atlanta with their nose in school books sat behind retired Alpha Kappa Alphas with graying Afros and green and pink letterman jackets. Two women near the back of the bus were both reading “The Liberal Redneck Manifesto.”
As a self-proclaimed apolitical introvert, it terrified me to be on a bus full of strangers who were obviously comfortable sharing and discussing politics. I’m not a joiner and I typically avoid confrontation at all costs. I didn’t have the correct terms to keep up with their debates, couldn’t cite court cases or eloquently state what I was afraid of. I wasn’t even sure I had anything special to contribute, but since the election, the current divide and the general uneasiness in the country had manifested in my throat, becoming a constant lump I could not swallow.
“Since the election, the current divide and the general uneasiness in the country had manifested in my throat, becoming a constant lump I could not swallow.”
So there I was, headed to what was already predicted to be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, completely comfortable sticking my headphones in my ears for the bus ride and sorting out my feelings once I got there. But just as the pods were going from fingertips to ear, a miracle happened: someone brought out boxed wine.
For the next 3 hours, the women on that bus shared personal—not political—reasons for being on the bus to Washington D.C. I heard stories about finding judgment-free solutions at Planned Parenthood, stories of women who had been called bossy or shrill for simply speaking their minds and stories of women fearing they would always come in second to a man, no matter how hard they worked. Once we arrived in Washington, D.C., I heard those same stories repeated from the lips of women not just in our group, but in the streets surrounding us; loud women with even louder signs, and all of their friends, unforgivably demanding the attention of our new administration.
As the day went on and I talked to women of all different races, ages and backgrounds, my own reasons for being there started to become more clear, more concrete. I was there because the rhetoric of the recent election had finally lifted a cloud of apathy, destroyed the idea that it’ll all just work itself out eventually and emboldened me. I was there because I realized there was gravitas to the age old proverb: if you want something done, you better do it yourself.