“Aren’t you afraid?”
Twice, I have attended rallies in New York City. Twice, I have been asked the same exact question. Have I ever felt afraid for my safety? Isn’t it scary to be engulfed in a crowd? Considering I do it every day around rush hour, when I stuff my body onto the already packed F train, I’d say no. This weekend, I attended the Women’s March on NYC, and not once did I feel afraid.
The train ride there was long and crowded, but buzzing with women carrying signs and pink hats. Young or old, they all boarded the train with open minds and hearts as they chatted with strangers. I watched one older, mean-faced woman passionately explain to a girl of 12 the importance of peaceful protest. Once I realized, I smiled as I exited the train. I had expected her to be chiding the girl, but this weekend has seemed to bring upon an air of change in the city, even if it’s only temporary.
As soon as I walked up the steps, I was immediately surrounded.
People were frantic to figure out where to start as there was no beginning or end to the wall of people marching the streets. Though I have not been around in New York City long, this was one of the first times I had seen a complete shut-down of main city streets to allow the pink hats to peacefully carry their signs and shout their words into the wind. The rally cries rippled through like a wave, carrying from one avenue to the next as all joined in unison to the rolling sound. No arrests were made, and those opposed to the Women’s March were allowed to speak their words and uneventfully continue on their day.
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a dialogue opening up between my male friends and me. They actually want to understand more about the “supposed” inequalities of women. They don’t understand the reason for double standards, seeing them as unfair. As far as they can tell, they treat women fairly and see their female friends as equals. Most of the time, it’s easy to explain and we move on to the next conversation. Other times, it’s not.
“Why is it my responsibility to make sure you feel safe at night? Shouldn’t you be taking care of this yourself?“
Because throughout history, women have always been expected to be submissive and pleasant, regardless of the situation. Because no man I’ve ever asked, “have you ever felt unsafe walking home at night?” has said yes. We are expected to endure unwanted attention out of fear of violence. The amount of times I’ve been called a bitch, or worse, simply because I’ve swatted away wandering hands or asked for a stranger not to touch me, show we all still have some work to do. Our bodies are our own, and events such as the Women’s March allow women of all ages to remember their grandmother’s words of, “no means no” once more.
So when asked, “Aren’t you afraid?” For the first time, I could say no.
I was not afraid to be groped in this crowd of people the way I am on the subway each day. There was no fear of walking alone, because I was surrounded by sisters and brothers who are all marching for the same reason. Though I went to mainly take photos and be a witness, it turns out I walked along the entire route. It was empowering to be surrounded by such a massive amount of positive energy.
So I marched.
I marched for the girls who stay quiet when harsh words or body parts are thrown at them. I marched for those who are afraid to say no because we have all been there. In the end, I marched for her, for you, for me.
New York City has the amazing ability to bring men in pink hats screaming for gender equality and women to unite regardless of age/race/social status. At the Women’s March, I saw no fights. Both men as well as women apologized profusely for bumping into me. I watched as bonds formed between strangers of this typically lonely city. Again, I am so very proud to be able to say I live in a place that can lift one another up in times of need.