It was Tuesday, March 8th, International Women’s Day in New York City’s own Union Square. The sun was shining bright and there was a slight breeze that brought with it the last remnants of the cold winter chill. I was walking with my daughter, stepping out of the Barnes and Nobles store just north of the Square as we approached the mass of people gathered together. The crowd in the square was about 70 deep and still growing as we cut through them and advanced towards the stage during setup. My daughter looked up at me, apprehension in her eyes but her bravery setting it aside. She steps forward and picks up a sign that lay on the ground in a pile with a dozen others like it. The bright orange background with large black font read “Abortion On Demand And Without Apology”.
She gripped the sign with both hands and raised the poster board high as the stapled cardboard roll rested on her shoulder. She immediately looked like she belonged in this exact moment where she found herself. This was my daughter’s first protest.
Riley is 11 and a fierce feminist who held her placard up as she chanted along with hundreds of others in a sea of orange signs and green bandanas worn to honor the other warriors in solidarity that have fought this battle here at home and abroad. Warriors that won their reproductive freedom in countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Ireland. Countries where women were jailed for “interrupting pregnancies” in clandestine operations and at-home procedures that were life-threatening. Countries where victims of rape, molestation, and incest were forced to carry children to term. Unwanted children coming into the world at gun-point, essentially. Women in low-income situations who are forced to bear the weight of single motherhood in poverty when some can barely care for themselves, let alone another mouth to feed. Putting their lives on hold while the fathers can freely exit at any moment with little to no consequence. My father was one such individual.
As women find themselves and their right to reproductive justice under constant attack in states across the nation like Texas, Missouri, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky and Mississippi, each taking women’s reproductive rights backward step at a time, it’s clear that this fight needs as much energy as we can muster. I look at my little girl and think of the world I’m leaving her to embrace, the society that is actively working against her rights to make educated medical decisions with her doctor rather than having one’s autonomy over her own body outlawed by the state. I look at her and think that she deserves more out of this world, a free country that respects women as equal to men, capable of making their own decisions, and recognizing ownership over their own lives.
I looked at her and then I looked at the mass of people, still growing in number, vibrant and alive in the street, ready to fight for themselves and each other. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other men, women, and more children, all for the same cause and concern. Roe v. Wade is under attack and silence at a time like this is akin to violence against women.
The speakers began to mobilize and the crowd moved closer together, hundreds of people and hundreds of emotions. Some were happy, some angry, some fed up, and some hopeful. Some cheered and some gritted their teeth, but each and all were there for the fight.
We watched as the speakers, one by one, stepped up to the stage and stood before a backdrop that stated “We refuse to let the U.S. Supreme Court deny women’s humanity and decimate their rights!”
We listened as they invoked emotions of struggle, pain, sadness, and hope. Speakers like Sunsara Taylor, her words brought to life the images of women being forced into unwanted pregnancies and subsequently a form of slavery for the rest of their lives. Forced motherhood is female enslavement, nothing short of that.
We felt the sense of desperation that was conjured by the scene of two women holding a giant hanger behind Merle Hoffman as she made her impassioned speech to the crowd beseeching them all to be “Warriors of Light” in this fight for women’s right to choose. That sense of desperation that countless American women have met in their minds in the decades before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal.
We clapped for the words of Gloria Steinem, read by Lori Sokol, Women’s eNews Executive Director, comparing the anti-abortion agenda to the Nazi narrative of it being a crime against the state as they shut down all family planning clinics. The fact that the right to choose and the right for a woman to have control over her own body is as necessary as the right to free speech yet not necessarily as fundamental because of patriarchal influence. Men being able to absolve themselves of the responsibility of parenthood whenever they see fit after the moment of conception, while not having to endure the health risks of undergoing a pregnancy tips the scales in regards to their overall level of “give a fuck”. With the mandating of a vaccine, however, suddenly every white cis male in the country with wrap-around shades and an 8 mile-per-gallon pickup truck is screaming “my body, my choice”. That’s the patriarchy hard at work to be as hypocritical as possible.
Then we cheered for Lori Sokol as she expressed the importance of taking this fight from the written word to the streets where solidarity was seen and felt, and the work progressed forward aggressively and in real-time. Her words hit differently for me as I looked at my daughter, her first time out in these streets holding her placard up high. This was special, on International Women’s Day, at the Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights rally, I was proud to be standing next to her at this place and in this moment.
About Fe-MAN-ist Voices: In collaboration with Women’s eNews, Amy Ferris (author, writer and screenwriter) and Beth Broday (producer/director) have created and curated a column designed to inspire, encourage, awaken and enlighten MEN. We are bringing together an amazing team of men who will write about such topics as love, family, sexuality, compassion, tolerance, empathy and vulnerability, just to name a few. Our fervent wish is to not only include male voices in conversations that are often reserved for women, but to inspire all men to open up their hearts and their minds so that they may stand with us, by us, and for us; to champion our causes, to support our missions, to march with us, and to help shoulder & lift all of our stories. We are thrilled to launch this column so men can raise their voices, share their stories, join in and stand side-by-side with women.