It is glaringly clear we are living in extraordinary times. Yesterday four or five million people, mostly women, marched around the USA and globally to take a stand for what appears on the surface to be many different causes, yet the umbrella over it all can be named with just one word: Love.
For hours I stood in a sea of umbrellas in San Francisco, arm in arm with two other mothers. Between us we have four daughters, the oldest being six years old. Rain did nothing to slim the peaceful, passionate crowd, gathered for our daughters and sons, our men-of-quality-who-don’t-stand-for-inequality, elders, ourselves.
A multitude of feelings surged through me.
Pride... to have been born in this city that stands for human rights and dignity.
Honor... to be marching with two other mothers, for the sake of our daughters.
Relief... that I hadn’t brought my daughter and could stand, witness and participate for
five whole hours.
Serenity... that I felt no anger, no desire to insult Trump and spew more hatred into the world.
Awe... to be part of what would turn out to be the largest protest in US history, led by and for? Women.
And I also felt some uncertainty, some sense of stale unsettledness, wondering if next week would feel “same old same old” because this was just another example of the San Francisco cutting edge. Protests in the "bubble world" pockets of our culture but then back to life as usual, back to the doldrums of work and overwhelm, back to the sense of “my one voice doesn’t matter much.” It has happened many times before.
Then I woke up today and the internet had exploded with images of huge sister marches in cities all over the world — Berlin, Rome, Dublin, Oslo, Detroit, Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles — a total of 673 cities around the globe. It is estimated that almost 5 million people marched yesterday. Marches were held in 47 cities in the state of California alone.
That’s when I reminded myself that California is home to 12% of the U.S. population, it is the world’s 6th largest economy, and it is often the cutting edge. When people act like Californians are off-the-rocker, “too New Agey” or far-fetched in our idealism, I remind myself that it is just a matter of time before our best traits — because certainly, they’re not all good — spread far and wide across this country that is so thirsty for love.
California knows diversity. We’ve got super money-rich. We’ve got super money-poor. Dark brown, pale white and everywhere else on the rainbow. Every spot on the sexual preference curve. We haven’t perfected coexistence but we're not in denial about that, and we’re practicing.
Beneath our yoga mats, Hollywood gloss and hot spring relationship retreats, California knows we all need to work on emotional intelligence and communication.
But that was just my small picture, packed into the peaceful pod of 100,000 San Franciscans.
Our 47 California marches had 626 sisters.
With two of mine, I marched. Bearing perhaps the most common female names in the English language, Sarah, Jen and I (Jessica) caterpillared our way through the crowds until eventually we had to make our way back home to put our daughters to bed.
Walking two miles back to our car in the rain, we lifted our joyful thighs up and down the wet hilly sidewalks of the city, admiring architecture and talking about what struck us most about the march.
Since my writing is personal as much as it is anything, I’ll share what struck me.
Ever since I gave birth I have been angry with women at large. This anger doesn’t consume me but it’s been there, irritating, beneath my skin. It is really sad, even maddening, to see us so readily give our power away!
We are powerful and miraculous because we birth new life. What more is there to say?
Even for those who are unable to carry and birth children of their own, or those who don’t want to become mothers in this life: We all come from mothers. Women are spectacular!
(Warning: Strong language follows, including profanity. Stop reading here if you want to.)
Emotionally mature females value our worth. Emotionally mature men uphold and honor women while they stand in their own worth as men. And mature people are the ones who primarily set leadership agendas and serve in key leadership roles, thereby setting the tone for society.
So what’s the fucking problem?
Why do women still stare in the mirror for hours every week trying to look good? Your power comes from within you. Spend five minutes in the mirror telling yourself the Top 10 Bad Ass things about you today — how you treated your son with kindness even when you were exhausted, or how you took five minutes to do yoga at your desk — and move on. How many times a day do you think about whether you look good enough — pretty enough, slim enough, lean enough, curvy enough, sexy or stylish or classy enough?
We disempower ourselves at least as much as others devalue us, and I would assert far more.
Your worth is not in the goddamn mirror.
And our annual U.S. spending of over $426 billion on beauty products? I don’t even know what we spend on new clothes and shoes. Look, ladies, how about we… err… cut our beauty-product spending in half and build some new schools for our kids, or community retreat centers to refill us from the inside, for all that we hold up?
Pretending our worth is largely made up by how we look, is just one way women belittle ourselves. We. Do. So. Much. Disempowering ourselves. We give our power away in many ways, with various addictions, bad habits and distractions, and none of us is “done” with this work. We all have some “looking in the mirror” to do.
Yes, that was intense. Yes, I wear mascara two or three times a year. Yes, I fret over how I look sometimes. Yes, you are still marvelous and totally worthy of love if you wear makeup every day and even if you spend a shitload of money on creams, blush, lipstick and shoes. And so am I, even though I used to tear off magazine covers off so I could plaster my walls with supermodel photos in my adolescent years.
But why? Why put so much attention outside of yourself, when your only true power — which is Love — lies within you?
There is Prince on the radio, there are mountains to hug and trees to climb, there are letters to write. There are songs that want to be wailed with your very voice, there are beaches to dance on, if not near your house then inside your imagination, on your living room floor.
All I am saying behind my annoyance is that women are amazing, all of us, and I am so, so, so tired of us devaluing ourselves.
So for me, yesterday’s march was about relief.
As we marched in the rain, I imagined myself with my arms wrapped around all the women who’ve felt self-assured long before me.
Who, while I was sobbing over some guy in college who didn’t want to go out with me, were pissed off about how small I made myself.
Who, while I was hiding out eating a half gallon of ice cream, sighed about how empty I felt inside, when what they saw was a bright light of beauty, complete and divine.
Finally, I feel women at large waking up. Maybe it’s just because that’s what I see in the mirror: my own thank-God, at-last. Enough of us to turn the tide. Enough of us to stop tolerating domestic violence and vomit-worthy levels of commercialism in our schools and child mutilation and all the other crap we allow as a collective sisterhood.
This is in our hands, ladies. So a wounded, hateful man got elected into a noteworthy government position. He does not have power over you.
This is in our hands, ladies. It is widely known that women overall lead household spending patterns. Well guess what? When we stop buying things to fill our inner emptiness — and instead fill ourselves and our sisters up from within — there are no sick corporations left to buy our government.
Yesterday was a worldwide exhibition of women reclaiming our power. In sisterhood, we marched for the sake of life itself, under a banner of mostly love. And this movement is quite literally just beginning.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.