Monday, January 23, 2017

Bonding in the Porta Potty Line: Dispatches from the Women's March in Washington D.C.

One thing all women know: there will be a line for the bathroom.

We talk to each other in those lines, smile, nod, in solidarity. We never cut in front of each other-- unless it is an emergency, or we are toting a small child who is wailing that he has to GO! Then the cutting is okay. We understand. We've all been there. The crying kid, the diaper bag weighing down our arms. We know. We know.

The women at the march are older for the most part.

In their late forties, fifties, sixties. They skew upper middle class. But it makes sense. Who else can hop on a bus, a plane, a train and travel across the country fairly easily? Not that there aren't younger women here. Women pushing strollers, walking with babies strapped to their chests. And men, God bless them, our allies, the ones who hold our purses and make emergency trips to the CVS at night to buy tampons for us when we have our periods or fetch the craved Wendy's hamburger when we're pregnant, men who wait patiently for us to return from the always long ladies' room line at the concert.

The buses let people off in the streets and we walk together with our signs. Love Trumps Hate! Keep Your Hands Off My Uterus! Y'all Means All! We wear our knitted pink hats. We smile at the babies wrapped in pink blankets, the dogs in pink sweaters. A golden retriever trotting with a sign: Even The Dogs Understand No Means No.

We pass the Capitol. The Washington Monument. The newly opened African American History Museum. People parading from all directions, so many people that we don't use the planned march route. We march on all of the streets. We take pictures of each other. We say excuse me when we step on each other's toes. Someone starts a chant and we laugh and repeat it:

Hands too small
Can't build a wall

We need a leader
Not a creepy tweeter

Tell me what democracy looks like
THIS is what democracy looks like

We tear up at the sight of the women in wheelchairs, the ones walking with canes. I walk with a woman who has stage four breast cancer. I walk with rape survivors. I walk with women who've had abortions. Women who relied on Planned Parenthood in college. Women fearful for their daughters and their son's girlfriends. What will happen to these girls in a country where the president refers to them by one body part? We are not women to him. We are not human. We are pussies.

I hate that word.

Each time I read it on a sign, my stomach clenches with anxiety. But this man who sits in the beautiful building we march by calls us this word, and half of the country is perfectly fine with it. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for this man. I know some of these women and I am having a hard time understanding their betrayal

especially as I stand in line for a porta potty, chatting with the black woman in front of me.

Always a line, she says, smiling.

I know, I say. I know.

We shuffle up together, commiserating at the number of women standing in the line in front of us, marveling at the size of the crowd surging around us, all of the lovingly knitted pink hats, the clever signs, the funny signs, the vulgar signs, the defiant signs, the man with the Canadian flag sitting in the tree waving, telling us we're all welcome in his country, the college girls chanting, the grandmothers taking a rest on the bleachers, the little girls asleep in their mothers' arms.

We are more than our reproductive systems-- although we all know we build our lives around that, planning pregnancies or finding ourselves pregnant, caught in meetings without maxi pads, fanning ourselves through hot flashes--

Still, we are not ruled by our wombs and we cannot be distilled down to one word--

We are scientists and teachers, doctors and attorneys, writers and artists, stay-at-home moms and never-been-moms. We are lovers of men. We are lovers of women. We are newly graduated and retired. Black and White. Muslim and Christian and Jewish. Mexican, Italian, Polish, German, Irish, Somali, Native American--

We are women

shuffling together toward the line of porta potties, surrounded by millions of our sisters.


  1. Sisterhood! Thanks for joining me Jody.

  2. I livestreamed events all day long last Saturday. I'm SO inspired and energized. What an amazing march.

    1. It was truly amazing to be a part of it. I am so glad I went.

  3. A beautifully written re-cap of the event. As a writer, I keep struggling with the posts I see some of my Facebook peeps write, trying to figure out how to dialogue the next time I see them in person, helping them step outside themselves. Sure, person A, you are a super confident woman, but you're white and middle class and have a fantastic job and wonderful children. Have you walked that mile in the shoes of the raped girl? the raped woman she now is? The one who missed meals because mama smoked crack or worked two jobs and paid the rent.... Thank you for keeping the word out there.

    1. I struggle with this mightily. I recognize how privileged I am. To be able to pick up and GO to a thing like that in the first place. To be able to return home to a safe place. To be speak up if I want to. Or to shut up and retreat. Something I keep thinking about is the importance of listening. Acknowledging other people's stories and experiences. If someone tells you they are afraid, if they tell you they've been hurt, there is so much power in simply hearing them, and believing.