Millions of people are participating in marches across the US and Canada this weekend. It’s Women’s March 2018. The aim?
“The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.” (taken from Women’s March Mission Statement, website, 2018).
You all may be too young right now to understand the many, many reasons why such marches are still necessary in your lifetimes — OUR lifetimes — but they are. Women, historically, have been marginalized, silenced, degraded, dehumanized, hurt, abused, killed, and seen as little more than sex objects or shallow, emotional creatures. Much has changed in North America, certainly. But what you need to understand about systemic oppression is that systemic oppression over centuries of time will impact any group of people for centuries more as we all seek healing.
We can’t just “Get over it!”. Life and healing do not work this way. And so we march, we show up, we participate, we declare, we pray, and we stand together.
Why is it important for you boys to understand? What’s in it for you?
Out of everyone, you boys are the most likely to hear messages about how white men are now being oppressed or marginalized because so many voices are committed to ending white power. I urge you all, with deep love and sincerity, to love the people who are speaking such things but also to reject such words as lies. Hurt feelings are in no way comparable to centuries of oppression across cultures. The truths coming from the voices of Women’s March may be hard on your ears, but I encourage you to step into that hardness. For in this hard space, you will find freedom. Our freedom as women is intimately tied up in your freedom.
We move towards freedom from sexism, from racism, from homophobia, from transphobia, from poverty, from inadequate medical care, from hunger, from any number of structural barriers still in the way of women, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, people differently abled, and people of other faiths.
We move towards racial equality, sexual/gender equality, class/socioeconomic equality, equality for the differently abled; we move towards justice, mercy, grace, peace, and love; we move towards inclusion, understanding, mutuality, respect, healing, and embracing differences.
Enter this hard space and you will discover a bright truth: the millions of diverse voices converging on the streets and squares of our cities today don’t all agree with one another on every single thing. Too often we expect people joined in huge movements such as this Women’s March all agree with one another in every way.
That’s an impossible expectation. Not all women agree about abortion; not all women agree about how we relate to and accept transgender people; not all women agree about the prevalence and position of white power. We have a lot of learning to do from one another — many miles to walk together. The amazing thing about this journey is the length we have to share together. The hard part is realizing that the hurting and wounded have walked for far too long alone and rejected for some of us to continue in our own opinions.
These are deeply divisive spaces and you would do well to enter them with humility and consent. But they are brave spaces. Brave because they are not always safe, they are not always easy, they are not always prepared with barriers to the outside world. They live with the potential of an atom bomb, but this also gives them the power of immense freedom and life.
This is the spirituality of Women’s March: women coming together in solidarity, to walk humbly together, bravely against the powers of this dark world, and with the ongoing need to listen to one another as we discover how many of us, even still, are far more privileged and powerful than others. As we discover our own disparity and inequity that we have helped perpetuate, we can commit to dismantling those powers that have left so many behind in the dust.
As you all grow into the men you will become, pause here and bear witness to the courage and community that comes with each woman who chooses to march. Instead of turning away, step carefully into the hard spaces of the world and stare into the levels of power, opportunity, and privilege you have been afforded without thought. Listen to the voices crying out “Black Lives Matter!”, “Indigenous Lives Matter”, “Me Too!”, “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”, and so much more. They are angry, wounded, passionate voices that often rise to a cacophony of noise swelling past the point of understanding.
Do not turn away.
Let the swells break over you. Invite them in. Let them hammer into your very core such as an ice axe breaks a frozen lake. It will hurt; it will not make sense (to you); it may even anger you. Choose to move past these discomforts towards something deeper, more powerful, and more interconnected.
Are you hearing me, boys?
And if you are asked to leave, offer your peace, and step away, holding no malice or rejection. There are plenty of spaces in the world where men, especially white men, have free and easy access. When women need our spaces to be brave, safe, and diverse, respect that and learn what kinds of courage it takes from us to demand them. And it is true: we have had to demand these spaces. They have not been shared, given, or created lightly or without sweat, blood, and tears. The powerful resist relinquishing their power at all costs.
When you read your favourite stories, refuse to be ashamed when the hero is a girl or a woman. And when the main characters are not girls or women, have the courage and anger to ask “Why?”. Count how many stories in your own room where boys and men already are assumed title roles. Why is that? How come? What does that mean?
Crack open your beloved books and read of Marcella Althaus-Reid, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Cheryl Bear, Idelette McVicker, Muriel Stanley Venne, Susan Aglukark, Naomi Shihab Nye, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Coretta Scott-King, Dorothy Day, Audre Lord, Sylvia Rivera, and so many more.
When the time comes for you all to enter the crazy world of romantic relationships, ensure you have already cultivated such powerful relationships of trust with your parents that you can ask them anything about anything. If your partner gives off cues that you don’t understand, take that as a “no” to whatever it is your doing and talk about it between the two of you; go home, and ask mom and dad about what those cues may have meant so as to get some guidance; and seek to be men who seek to be present listeners in your communities.
In our world where voices are raised to shouting so quickly and without reason or regard, choose better paths. One of those paths is the many routes of the Women’s March. Created as political, but deeply spiritual, choose to see more deeply than you ever thought possible. This is the action of Christ.
For where is Jesus?
In each of us women, silent or loud, walking for justice and mercy.
I love you more than you could know,