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More than a half a million people take part in the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Photo courtesy of Mark Dixon/Wikimedia Commons

‘Love Trumps Hate’

A Canadian woman marches on Washington and sees a generation of feminists ready to take on the world

By Denise Davy

Three teenage girls punch their fists into the air as they sing at the top of their lungs.
"This girl is on fire," they belt out, throwing their heads back.

The teens — one of whom is my 17-year-old daughter, Emma —  are standing beside me in the massive crowd at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. We’re just four hours into an inspiring lineup of speakers, celebrities and performers. And there’s more to come. My feet feel like dead fish squished inside my Reeboks, but I'm so energized by the crowd and speakers that it overrides any discomfort.

"I wish you could see yourselves," feminist icon Gloria Steinem yells from the stage.
"It's like an ocean."

Steinem tells us that there are 370 marches in every U.S. state and in six continents, and a thunderous chant of "We the people" erupts, rolling across the crowd like a tsunami.

"This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life," Steinem yells.

Indeed, it’s a powerful and glorious feeling being part of this largest protest in U.S. history. Organizers later estimated the Washington, D.C. crowd to be more than a half-million-strong, and I believe it! We spill across six lanes of asphalt on the city’s Independence Avenue, and stretch from 3rd Avenue, where the main stage is located, to well past 14th Avenue many blocks away.

Most streets beyond that point are so jammed that organizers later announce that they have to cancel the march. It's not just the sheer size of us that feels so powerful. It's the joyful feeling of solidarity. It’s like a soft, welcoming rain after a long, parching drought.

Denise Davy and her daughter, Emma, participate in the 2017 Women's March on Washington. Photo by Denise Davy
Denise Davy and her daughter, Emma, participate in the 2017 Women's March on Washington. Photo by Denise Davy

For the past year, we have endured the sexist, racist rants of an egotistical man who threatens to push back equality by several decades. As actress America Ferrara shouted to the crowd, "It's been a heart-wrenching time to be a woman and an immigrant in this country."
I’m Canadian — and proudly wear a Canada T-shirt at the march— but Trump's offensiveness crossed all boundaries during the U.S. presidential election. 

We felt the same rumblings of anger, shock and revulsion when Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States. But that was soon followed by a collective realization that we could either be brought to our knees or stand up for what we believe in.

After all, the nation's capital was born out of the hope and belief that change is possible. So in the middle of Trump's America, we have come together to reclaim kindness. As many of the signs read, "Love Trumps Hate."

I experience many of those gestures of kindness along the way: a Washington, D.C. woman I met on Facebook sends me a Metro pass by FedEx — at her own cost — just to make sure that I got to the rally on time; American women hug and thank me for supporting them; a woman at the Toronto airport hands out pink hats to total strangers.

The march is like Woodstock for women; it’s women-led, women-organized and largely women’s issues-focused. Many speakers, from actress Scarlett Johansson to Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, talk about violence against women, reproductive rights and unequal pay. The overriding message from everyone is that the march is just the beginning of a movement fighting for positive change.

And the energized crowd looks to be up for the challenge. We howl and pump our fists when actress Ashley Judd yells, "I'm a n-a-a-a-a-s-t-y woman." We cheer when filmmaker Michael Moore tells us to call Congress "every single day," and we wipe away tears when a speaker recites the names of black people who have been killed by police.

Watching the three teenage girls beside me, I see a young generation of feminists who are ready to take on the world. That’s one of the reasons why I took my daughter, Emma: to show her that she’ll have a voice in the near future.

At this moment, the Women's March shows that the impossible — bringing together more than 3 million people around the world — is, indeed, possible. And that's a powerful start.  

Denise Davy is a journalist in Burlington, Ont.

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