At 9:00 am on Saturday, March 21st, every parking lot in downtown St. Louis was full. Crowds of people carrying posters and signs made their way towards the front of Union Station, where a proud few stood holding a banner stating “Women’s March On St. Louis”. The feeling of excitement grew as over ten thousand women and men of all ages showed up to participate in a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington. Many news outlets reported that women’s marches around the country had the biggest turnout in over a decade. But why? Why were people who had never been to a march in their life showing up to one with thousands of people involved?
The answer to this question that people seem to be asking across different social media platforms is more than what meets the eye. Womensmarch.com, the official site for the Women’s March on Washington, provides a clear mission, “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” However, after attending the march, I can safely say that while this message rings true, this movement represented much more than that.
At the march, I saw signs ranged from funny to more serious – one had the words “Delete your account” across it, while another said “No women are free until all women are free.” There were messages that called for LGBT rights as well as Black Lives Matter. A group of young girls held out signs promoting love instead of hate. People chanted calls such as “Love not hate” and “This is what democracy looks like”.
While marching, I interviewed attendees with two simple questions: “Why are you marching?” and “What does this march mean to you?” The answers were never the same. Amelia, 14, told me with confidence, “This march means to me equality for everyone. Whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re a person of color or you’re white, we should all just be accepted for who we are and things we cannot change about ourselves. We should all be equally treated with respect and kindness.”
A completely different response came from Natalie, 23, “It means something to me because it’s opening my eyes to issues that have always been issues. It took it affecting me for me to realize how much people who are always affected have to act and stand up for themselves.”
Different parents told me they were marching in the hope they could provide a safe future for their children. Janai, 33, explained, “I’m marching because I believe in the empowerment of women celebrating women, supporting women..I am a woman. I have twin sons and I want them to grow up to be future male feminists.” A father told me he was there with his entire family, all women, and he felt this was a movement of urgency that he was proud to be an ally of.
This march, while representing a united message, also allowed individual voices to speak up and protest about issues that concerned them. The entire world watched in awe as women had the courage to get up and raise their voices in numbers unheard of. Lily, 14, phrased it simply for me, “I think it’s important to stand up for what you believe in and to not be silenced.”