I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What’s Next?

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

“We only predicted 18,000 people today…”

Sandi Toksvig’s voice echoes through the cardboard placards which fill Trafalgar Square. Faces are turned towards the sun; banners flutter below Nelson’s column, flanked by roaring bronze lions made 150 years ago. If I squint, I can see Big Ben in the distance.

We are in the midst of London’s most famous landmarks on a chilly January day, most of which were built by men. But at the start of 2017 we’re listening to the speakers of a Women’s March, in solidarity with the march on Washington, D.C –

“… and we’ve just been told there’s actually a hundred thousand of us filling up the streets!”

An audible sense of disbelief ricochets amongst us – is that really possible?! – but quickly there is cheering. Applause. Tears. A tighter grip of my friend Jas’s hand, as we look excitedly at each other.

Who knows what we’re managing to achieve by standing here right now?

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

Why we held a Women’s March in London

In the early hours of November 16th 2016, I sat in my apartment with a few friends, some empty beer cans and my hands over my eyes. With every new swathe of state-led red on the TV screen came a fresh wave of nausea.

The US election felt like Brexit all over again.

The mood across all my online and offline networks was sombre. Seeing the victory of a man who legitimises sexual assault, racism, and discrimination against almost every demographic possible felt like a blow to the chest. How could over 62 million people have voted for him?

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

Travel is one of my major motivations in life. Why? Because the world is wide and open. It is beautiful and fearsome. It is a place I will never get tired of exploring because there’s always something new to see, new people to meet, new lessons to learn and new perspectives to realise.

The election made me understand with a new, humbling certainty just how much fear and anger is present in the world, and how much power those emotions can have. Yet so many moments of positivity throughout my travels have given me the utmost faith in the goodness of people – and there isn’t a single second where I don’t doubt the equal power of that goodness.

Together, we can be kind. We can be loving. We can respect each other, protect each other, and we can come together for the sake of millions of beautiful people living alongside us. There are worrying times ahead, that’s undoubtable. But love trumps hate, and disaster provokes action.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

It’s taken me a long while to evaluate what I feel about the current political climate – and it doesn’t help that I’ve only become politicised in the last few years.

Now, I’m beginning to understand what I’ve always refused to notice before: that the spectrum of political opinion is an absolute grey area. It has to be, despite its accompanying frustration, because every single person is different.

Here’s the hard, sticky, uncomfortable truth of it: to get to grips with what the hell is happening to the world right now, those of us firmly on one end of the spectrum have to actively pay attention to exactly why and how those on the spectrum’s other end feel the way they do. 

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

We need to be compassionate. We need to be understanding. We need to make space for conflicting opinions, and be strong enough to address them.

I’ve never before wanted to engage with people who I think are racist, homophobic, sexist, or any other myriad of things I deem to be unacceptable. Nonetheless, I’m strangely grateful for the double-whammy of Brexit and Trump. Their presence is already galvanising people to act in ways they’ve been too nervous to do before.

Like painting signs, donning coats, and stepping into the winter air to publicise their feelings with their feet.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

Meeting 100,000 fellow Women’s Marchers

The energy in London on January 21st was palpable.

The feeling of dozens, hundreds, thousands of bodies with that same fiery feeling radiated out and upwards. I kept thinking of those books we all read as children, where love and happiness became something visceral and visible; something with the power to protect us all and make us stronger.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

I know some people were nervous – for many, it was their first ever demonstration – but the positive, all-inclusive attitude prevailed. There were people of every age, every race, representatives of dozens of minority groups and not a single bit of violence.

In fact, once the demo had officially ended, people wheeled huge sets of speakers into the square and we ended up dancing to techno tunes while waving our appropriately British placards.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

But outside the positivity and happiness which flooded London throughout Saturday, what really hit me was seeing young girls making their voices heard.

I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t have many friends with young children, so kids aren’t that much on my radar. But when I saw these three girls holding up anti-racism signs it reminded me with a jolt that these issues simply aren’t going away unless we work our hardest to eradicate them. And it truly does take ALL of us.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

The marches are over. What do we do now?

With over three million people marching across seven continents, I think I’m safe in the knowledge that this question has been a very popular Google search over the last few days.

Nonetheless, it’s still a fragile place to be. Somehow, the weekend’s energy has to be harnessed so that progressive action continues forward.

Here’s how I reckon we can make a start.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

** Get educated **

  • Expand your literary knowledge. All those issues you saw cropping up at Women’s Marches? Research their histories; their policies; the memoirs written by their founders; the essays which discuss them. Get into the bones of these causes, and find out what makes them tick.
  • Keep up with the news. Current events affect everything, as do the politics of different countries. Understand as much as you can, and ask questions about what doesn’t make sense.
  • Engage with culture. Check out your local museums, galleries, art spaces and theatres. Watch plays, listen to lectures and walk through exhibitions. Pay attention to the ways people express themselves through art, and examine what’s triggered them to do so.

** Get uncomfortable **

  • Confront your echo chamber. Social media bubbles are a legitimate thing, where the majority of your chosen network agrees with your opinion. It can make us self-indulgent and a bit lazy. Start using social media to challenge your preconceptions – and although engaging in debate with online trolls isn’t always the best idea, follow some of those arguments and investigate how their beliefs have been formed.
  • Be humbled by your privilege. I’m a straight, cisgender, white woman, and I simply don’t know enough about the suppression, exclusion and demonisation faced by those who don’t share my background. Whether your own privilege is racial, financial, geographical, sexual or something else, vow to use your platform of relative safety to help those without it.
  • Expect to be challenged. More than that: actively search out situations which will do this. Your brain is powerful. Let it work.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

** Get inspired **

  • Find your female role models. There are plenty of inspirational women around the world who are going to inspire the hell out of you. Research the works of writers, artists, politicians, musicians, teachers and activists – particularly those women of colour – and absorb what they have to say.
  • Follow your passions. If you’re anything like me, you’ve joined dozens of interesting-looking Facebook groups and never actually checked out what they do in real life. Whether it’s a choir, a running group, a knitting circle (all about those PussyHats!), the more out of your comfort zone, the better. Re-investigate. Reconnect. Remember how many wonderful experiences you’ve had in the past when you stepped out of your comfort zone for a minute? Yeah. Do that as much as you can.

** Get involved **

  • Volunteer within your local community. It’s the best place for your new-found determination to stretch itself. Join the closest library; help out at after-school programmes for kids; volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Put yourself in environments where you can pass on your knowledge to others, and they can teach you things you’d never thought of. Communication is crucial.
  • Lend your voice to politics. Sign petitions and help organise campaigns. Pound the streets and hand out fliers. Engage others in passionate dialogue about this fantastically important new information you’ve just learned.
  • Be consistent. Every single thing in life needs dedication to make a discernible difference. Promise yourself you’re going to commit to a new way of thinking, living, speaking, seeing, and let that be your New Year’s Resolution for 2017. This is a year for change like no other.

In conclusion? Get ready!!

Too often I have worried about being alone. About being an outsider. About not belonging.  But on January 21st I felt part of an intrinsic sisterhood like never before. And I vow to maintain and channel that feeling into something bigger, with more longevity.

There will be more marches, and there will be more action. But most of your determination HAS to come from within you. This is a work-in-progress, and we all need to stand up together if we’re going to incite change.

I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What's Next?

Today, I wrote this article to express some of the passion still bottled up in me. Tomorrow, I’ll scour the shelves of my local library to find feminist literature I haven’t yet read. The next day, and the days after that, I’ll join local groups and listen to local women speak and march in yet more marches.

I am galvanised. I am determined. I am passionate. I am one of the four million people who stated on Saturday that we believe in change.

I am a woman. HEAR ME ROAR!

Because information is power…

I’d love to update this article with any positive resources we can collectively find. What inspires you? What drives your passion? TELL ME what you’re doing today which is different from yesterday! Tell others too!! Your inspiration is only going to inspire people around you. But it still starts with YOU. We’ve started marching now. What are we going to do next? 

[Updated 5th Feb]

A Reading & Resource List

In the UK:

In the US: 

Science, Environment & Climate Change: 

Donate to an Organisation: 

About Flora

Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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25 Responses to I Joined London’s #WomensMarch with a Hundred Thousand Others. What’s Next?

  1. k10 January 23, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

    Love this and something I’ve been thinking about, too, from Boston!

    I can’t recommend the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You more highly. They sadly stopped recording new episodes as of this year but have a catalog of 800+ episodes that cover a wide swath of intersectional feminist topics. I also have added some acclaimed nonfiction titles to my read list to understand more about the rest of America outside of my liberal bubble – Strangers In Their Own Land, Hillbilly Elegy, and Evicted being top of the list.

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

      Fab recommendation re. podcasts – I had a six month frenzy of listening to everything possible (around when Serial was at its most popular) but haven’t followed any for a while. As for the non-fiction, all three of those are now on my list! Thanks 🙂

  2. Gerry pare January 23, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

    If you are in the United States join a political party. If you are a Democrat, become a PCP, Precinct Committee Person. This is true grassroots, the lowest political entity but frothy with true power. A PCP is the person who votes for the people that will represent the Party in Our county, at the state and national level, at the DNC. The Party may not want you. They may be condescending because many don’t want our new voices showing up. Show up anyway. Vote for Progressives and run yourself.

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      All fantastic points Gerry, thank you – I think getting active within the political landscape is of the utmost importance now. For those of us in the UK there are lots of avenues to start pursuing too, which I’ll update within the article as they become apparent!

  3. The Wallflower Wanderer January 23, 2017 at 5:07 pm #

    I marched in San Francisco, my second march ever — the first was three days after the election. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart and energizes me that women (and men) on all seven continents are joining together against this tyranny, ignorance, hatred, sexism and racism that is rearing its ugly head. It gives me hope that we can fight this! Thanks for doing your part in the battle for good, this was a much-needed article 🙂

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

      That’s so wonderful to hear Kirsten! Congratulations for making that step to begin marching 🙂 I completely agree – although the reason is worrying, the fact that so many are galvanised into action is something remarkably positive. All the best to you in beautiful SF (where I used to live!!)

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

      Ooh no I didn’t know about her Book Club! I’ve just signed up 🙂 So glad you feel the same way, Oriana – let’s hope the energy stays as high as we’re going to need it to!

  4. veena January 23, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    Great post! I am working on my own post about the march, and you have articulated so many of the same things I have been thinking and feeling. Participating in the march in Memphis and ending in front of the National Civil Rights Museum was especially powerful, and I will not soon forget the feeling of hope and energy I felt at the end. Thank you for walking in London, and thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently! xx

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

      I can only imagine how incredible the energy was in Memphis, Veena – and I’m so glad that you’ve been equally inspired by Saturday’s actions! Looking forward to reading your thoughts about it all 🙂

  5. Camille January 24, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    I was there in Washington D.C. on Saturday and I’m still processing all the amazing emotions I felt. Seeing the millions march around the world is truly awe-inspiring. The only way is forward! Thanks for sharing.

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing your impressions too, Camille! Washington must have been an absolutely incredible experience 🙂 Keep marching!!

  6. Emma Alyson January 24, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Absolutely love this post!! So inspiring to see so many women marching and taking back to power, but also to see so many men supporting us! I was devastated when I heard that Donald Trump had been elected, because I personally felt that people had voted against women, against LGBTQ+ people, against different religions and races… And yet people from all these groups are out in force, marching and letting the world know they won’t rest easy. It really is inspiring and gives me so much hope in humanity, so thank you. I was in Milan this weekend so couldn’t march, but I’m so grateful and proud of all those who did.

    I am a woman, hear me roar!
    Emma

    • Flora January 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

      Yesss – I was so inspired by just how diverse the crowds in London were! I know there’s been an inevitable backlash post-Saturday (pro-lifers who apparently weren’t welcomed in various marches, questions from WoC about the whitewashing of the marches etc) but I nonetheless feel so invigorated by the sheer numbers. We’re all roaring!!

  7. Oriana Pagano January 24, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi Flora, I was there too and loved the palpable sense of solidarity and togetherness you’re describing. I think one of the things these marches have already accomplished is to make us feel less alone – in a “Ok, so it’s not just me and a few of my friends who think this is totally f..ked-up” kind of way.

    I also agree that that is just the start, so thank you for this article and for highlighting ways we can channel Saturday’s energy and make this much needed fight part of our daily life. We must keep at it in any way possible.

    As for the feminist literature, do you know about Emma Watson’s Feminist Book Club on Good reads? http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179584-our-shared-shelf

    Stronger together,
    Oriana

    • Flora January 25, 2017 at 8:59 am #

      Ooh no I didn’t know about her Book Club! I’ve just signed up 🙂 So glad you feel the same way, Oriana – let’s hope the energy stays as high as we’re going to need it to!

  8. Tory Stanley Tsui January 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm #

    Fantastic post. I was feeling so lost for a while, thinking that I was the only one with such “radical” views. Watching the marches happen across the globe was so reassuring. I hope it continues!

    • Flora January 28, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

      I’m so glad you felt inspired by this post, Tory – rest assured there are hundreds of thousands here in the UK who are ready & willing to make sure our voices are heard <3 Where were you marching?

  9. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad January 29, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

    This is such an inspiring post! There are too many articles and comments being flung around with blame and anger, and while they completely encompass how we feel, we need to go deeper than that. I love your ideas for getting to the root of why anyone would vote for Trump instead of throwing angry comments at trolls. I’m sick of social media and sick of all the comments from both sides, I just sit here and wonder how difficult it really is to respect another human being. I’ve been getting really down about the whole thing – I’m not even in the US, but of course in the UK we have just as big a problem with Brexit and a PM we didn’t even vote for. It’s just a really sad situation and seems to be getting worse every day, so it’s nice to see such a positive and actually really constructive response to it in this post.

    • Flora February 2, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

      Thanks so much Clazz! I’m really glad you felt inspired by this article 🙂 It’s a pretty dire situation all over the place at the moment, but I’m hoping that more people will try actively communicate with those who have differing opinions instead of simply getting aggressive..!

  10. Matt Morelli January 30, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    Fabulous! Really love this post. I regret not being able to go on the march as I was sick, but the next one that happens, I’ll be there to show my support and solidarity. I’m with you all the way!

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      Aww Matt, that’s so lovely to hear! Hope you’re feeling better too 🙂

  11. Tom Mayer February 2, 2017 at 2:18 am #

    If you haven’t seen this, please look at it. It encouraged this old man 0f 74 more then anything in the past three decades politically. You younger generations are now in the driver’s seat. I have complete confidence you will make he world a better place by the time you are my age. We Americans are in a terrible state right now from which I am not sure we will recover. Don’t wait for us if we don’t. Move forced and remember this my favorite quote: “…in every generation civilization is the laborious product and precarious obligating privilege of an engulfed minority.” Will Durant The Age of Faith

    Now look at this great slide show and she the great history that everybody around that participated created in home country

    Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/21/world/womens-march-pictures.html

  12. Ethan March 6, 2017 at 6:55 am #

    I am too supporting you guys, you are doing fabulous job.

    • Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

      Thanks so much Ethan 🙂

  13. Flora March 9, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    Such an inspirational link, Tom – thank you for sharing 🙂 I hope the passionate politicised voices of the younger generation will continue to encourage you!

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