Author Archives: Melissa Edmondson

Silent Marchers: April

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

My name is April.

Yep. That’s my real name. No alias for this one. It’s all me.

I didn’t march in the Women’s March, mainly due to finances. Also, no one I knew that I’m close to was going, so there was no way to split the expenses. I really wanted to be there though.

So.  Since I didn’t get to physically be there, I want to talk about the event and its aftermath by telling my story here.

aprilThere has been so much backlash about the Women’s March since January 21.  I do agree that the majority of women in the US have got it easy compared to those in other countries. That being said, however, that doesn’t mean we don’t still have women here who are discriminated against in various ways.

That also doesn’t mean that we should stop fighting for equality.

Me personally? I’ll just name a few ways I’ve experienced sexism:

While house hunting with my then fiancé, we went to so many places (all headed up by men), where not one of them shook my hand or even addressed me until they realized that the loan would be in my name. Most of the men never even directed their sales pitch or questions toward me at all. You know who we ended up buying our home from? A wonderful woman who shook my hand and my fiancé’s. A woman who looked me in the eye and addressed us both. A woman who treated me with the same regard and respect as she did my fiancé.

I’ve worked a few jobs where I did the same work as a man, but was paid less.

I’ve been verbally assaulted by men while waiting tables in various jobs.

I’ve been considered inferior due to my sex in various ways.

These are just of few of the reasons that I support the Women’s March and all women period; regardless of how they feel about it all. I support it because I’m proud of what my female ancestors accomplished in the past and I want to make them proud by continuing to fight for equality.

Maybe I hold men to a higher standard because I have a great dad, wonderful husband, and awesome guy friends who have always treated me as an equal. Or maybe I’m just lucky, unlike so many women who are surrounded by misogynistic, closed-minded assholes. Either way, equality for women is something that I am passionate about and that is why I support the Women’s March fully and completely.

My name is April. And this was my Not-so-Silent Marchers story.

***

“I’m willing to be seen.
I’m willing to speak up.
I’m willing to keep going.
I’m willing to listen to what others have to say.
I’m willing to go to bed each night at peace with myself.
I’m willing to be my biggest bestest most powerful self.”
―Emma Watson

 

 

Silent Marchers: Emily

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

My name is “Emily.” But not really.

I did not march in the Women’s March. But I wanted to.

I have a special needs child whom, among other things, is autistic. My husband had to work that day and I had no one to watch my son. I would have loved to take him with me but due to his needs it wasn’t feasible. He does not do well around large crowds and I also have to limit his exposure to others during flu season due to a compromised immune system.

momboyTo me the March signifies unity, action, awareness and solidarity in not just one cause but many. At some point in our lives we are either going to be the victim of discrimination or know someone who is. Either because of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, financial standing or any other perceived slight.

In this day in time it is unnecessary and archaic.

To claim this March wasn’t for you is naïve. At its very heart, it’s for everyone. No one wants their child to grow up to be in an abusive relationship. No one wants to be told they can’t freely practice the religion of their choice. No one wants to feel of less value because they are not on the same socioeconomic rung of the ladder. No one wants to be told what they can and can not do with their body. We don’t have to personally believe in decisions others make but it’s not our place to tell them they are wrong. Guns kill more innocent lives than abortions do, yet people will fight to the death to keep them and allow anyone to have them.

We need to focus on quality of life.

I see no one running to adopt children in the foster care system, or helping the little babies born with congenital defects which will leave them with unforeseen health problems. However we can scream to cut the funding and Medicaid/insurance which will provide care that’s so desperately needed. Then there are those who falsely claim that they don’t want tax dollars funding abortions. It would serve people well to research laws before spewing nonsense. Taxpayer dollars have not and will not pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest and health of mother or child. The Hyde Amendment. Most have never heard of it and don’t care to.

So yes, the March means so many things to so many people and, directly or indirectly, affects us all.

To me, it’s hope and love and empathy and equality and giving a voice to those who are unable to speak up.

I grew up in a home that was very chauvinistic. My mom was never allowed to get her drivers license. My dad was an alcoholic. My mom was the only one who worked a full time steady job with dad taking her and picking her up everyday. My dad worked odd jobs here and there. I was the oldest. I had one younger brother. From early on, I learned that my brother’s interests and activities took priority. Everything revolved around him. My mom and I was left to do all the home stuff – cook, clean, not question.

I always knew there was more somehow. A world that was different.

I wanted to be a lawyer but was told I couldn’t do that because it was a job for men. But I knew I could.

As I got older, I started to rebel. I didn’t want dad or any other male telling me what I could or could not do. I was tired of being forced to go to church by my grandfather. I was tired of being told I couldn’t cut my hair. I was tired of being told I couldn’t do things because I was a girl. That created more problems and I was beaten into submission both literally and figuratively.

I became pregnant at the age of 19.

The father ran and I was left to take care of a baby born with special needs alone. I swore off men. I worked at low paying jobs to get by because I was a single mom with only a high school education. I tried to attend community college but it never failed – my son would have a medical crisis and would be in the hospital for several weeks at a time.

The next relationship I was in was when I was 23. It became like the movie Groundhog Day. I became pregnant and he left (after trying unsuccessfully to persuade me to have an abortion). The rest is rinse and repeat.

I resigned myself to being a single mom forever and destined to work in menial jobs.

Then I met my current husband

We married when I was 30. Thankfully he is a man of great integrity, love and compassion. He helped me find my voice again. The fire that had always been smoldering was allowed to burn. That meant that being a woman, even one who had been beat down, could still make a difference. While I never achieved my dream of being a lawyer or any other cookie cutter profession I have become an advocate. An advocate for the disabled, for women, for those less fortunate. That’s just as much, if not more, rewarding than anything I could have ever dreamed of.

If as a woman you did not March out of fear, I’m telling this story for you. Whatever reason was holding you back, we will fight to remove those barriers. You are strong, you are worthy, you are loved, you are valued. Please know that. If you didn’t March because of other reasons – distance, financial, whatever – I beg of you to still use your voice. To help others understand that intolerance, discrimination, bigotry, racism has no place in lives and society.

Movements work.

All you have to do is look at history to see how far we have come. We must not go back to such dark times. Please don’t stand silently.

Be loud, proud and full of dignity.

And another little side note to my story?

My brother has grown into a staunch Trump-supporting all-right fanatic. He pounds his chest all day long about gun rights, building the wall, hating the “lazy liberals” who do nothing but mooch off the system. He preaches it loud and proud to anyone who will listen. Yet through it all he, can’t hold down a job.  His whole family, with numerous kids, have Medicaid and receive food stamps. I’m sitting here thinking, “so when your demigod takes away Medicaid and cuts welfare you do know that means you’re going to lose yours too, right?”

But then I’m just a whiney snowflake who needs to get over it.

He needs to learn not to bite the hand that feeds him.

My name is “Emily.” But not really. And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
– Margaret Thatcher

Silent Marchers: “Dave”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

My  name is “Dave.” (But not really.)

I did not march. My reason is fairly simple.

I was afraid.

I was afraid of the sheer size of the crowd. (I do love visiting NYC, but even those crowds can start to get to me quickly.) But even more than the fear of the crowd? I was afraid of some major act of violence being perpetrated by those who disagreed with the march. I couldn’t help but picture some crazed gunman or a bomber…I suppose in retrospect that sounds lame. But at the time, it was a very vivid, very real concern.

daveI feel as though I let people down. Many of my close friends went to the march. I don’t really know if they were concerned about violence, but even if they were, they went. One of my dearest friends has major anxiety and an auto-immune disease, but she went. I just kept my original plan to go and visit family for the weekend, but kept track through Facebook. I was blown away by the sheer volume of people in attendance, and incredibly thankful that there was no violence.

To me, the march was about exercising the right to peaceful protest against the changes forthcoming in the new administration. Healthcare is being taken away from people who need it. Soon to follow will probably be other programs that assist the less fortunate. I’m not proud of it, but if it weren’t for some of those programs, I would not be here today. I spent the years of 18 to 24 without health insurance because I did not have access to it. I am well-accustomed to “the look” that you get when you push your cart up to the checkout and have to tell the cashier you’re paying with food stamps. (Most of the time, the look is from the person behind you, sizing up the items you lay on the conveyor belt, as if to say how DARE you buy name brand anything, let alone any sort of treat or snack. But every once in a great while, the look comes from the cashier, which somehow is worse.)

Protections in place that ban my employer from firing me simply because I’m gay are also at stake. Never mind the fact that I am damn good at my job, and being gay has no impact on my ability to do my job, there is now a distinct possibility that I, and many of my non-heterosexual friends, could be unemployed simply for existing.

For existing.

I just find myself stunned that people were more offended by Ashley Judd using profanity and talking about menstruation than they were by the fact that our president said it was okay to grab women by their most private parts, and never owned up to it or apologized for it.

I’m sorry…I’ve turned this into something about me, and it’s not about me. Many of the people in my life, to whom I look up and admire, and love with all my heart, are women. And women deserve to be respected and protected, and not seen as property or “less than.”

Here’s the thing: people are going to judge you for not marching, at least until they hear your reasons (and in some cases, they might judge you regardless.) There is nothing you can do about that. But know that the march is only the first step. There are plenty of ways we can still make a difference and make our voices heard. There are Facebook groups that promote local events – from peaceful protests on the smaller scale, to postcard-writing parties, to how to contact your representatives.

Don’t feel bad for not marching.

Just find out what things you CAN do, and do them.

My name is “Dave.” (But not really.)  And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“Most activism is brought about by us ordinary people.”
– Patricia Hill Collins

Silent Marchers: “Candace”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hi. I’m “Candace.”

But not really.

This is not a story that I tell very often, but I want to tell it now. This movement is showing me how important it is to speak up.

I was sexually abused as a child by a family member.  It has been more than ten years ago now, and my family still doesn’t know. Thankfully, it never amounted to anything. Just a few “abuse sessions” as I refer to them, and then it was just over.

This family member is still in my life. He pretends like it never happened and actually considers us “friends.”

Several years after that happened, I became involved in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a boy four or five years older than me. I ended up being hospitalized, but not from physical abuse. It was his words that put me there. I spent the end of my junior year in high school in a hospital because I wanted to die.  I spent three years in counseling after that because the feeling never went away.

It still resurfaces sometimes.

This has made me a stronger person but it has also caused many problems in my current relationship. My fiancé felt used for the first half of our relationship because I was so wrapped up in hating myself that I didn’t have much room to love him. I’m really lucky that he stuck around. That is how I got to finally experience unconditional love.

We now have a young son together, but I had a miscarriage four months before I got pregnant with him. It sent me into a frenzy at the time. I lost all the progress that I had worked so hard for. I had almost been normal before that. I had gotten to where it was only once a month that I was having days where I shut myself away and cried for hours. But after the miscarriage, I returned to being a daily crier. It sent my relationship into a downward spiral that we are still trying to recover from.

We had another pregnancy scare when my son turned three months old.

That’s something that almost ended us for good.

silentmarcher2I wanted an abortion but wasn’t sure I could handle the guilt. It caused so much tension that I nearly ended my life. Again. (I almost left my tiny baby alone once during this time. I am still ashamed of that feeling.)

I heard so much negativity and shaming in the media regarding women who abort fetuses. The guilt over what I was feeling lead me to almost end it all. I almost left the love of my life to be a single parent to my still so new baby.

I am so ashamed.

I ended up miscarrying again.

Had I not miscarried, I would have gotten the abortion. Had I not miscarried or gotten the abortion, the pregnancy would have been enough to cause me to ruin my family and myself.

I was not emotionally able to handle another child.

I wanted to march in the women’s march, but I couldn’t. We have only one vehicle and only one source of income. My fiancé was working a fourteen-hour shift that day. If I would have had a way to get there, I would have gladly pulled out the baby carrier and marched with my son strapped to my back. I wanted to march, not only for myself for anyone sitting at home who had ever had the same feelings I had – just hoping that they could find the courage in themselves to do whatever they thought was best for them. Only them. No one else.

I also want my son to grow up knowing how to treat a woman. I want him to become a man who knows how to respect both himself and everyone else’s rights.

My life is tarnished but livable. His is pure and ready to be filled with all the things we have to teach him.

My name is “Candace.” But not really. And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“No woman has an abortion for fun.”
– Elizabeth Joan Smith

Silent Marchers: “Bethany”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hi. I’m “Bethany.” (But not really.)

I really wanted to march in the Women’s March. I knew I couldn’t make it to Washington DC for the big march but I would have liked to march in a smaller, more local march. My reason for not marching was that I was out of town.

Sort of.

Okay, truthfully, I was glad to have an excuse not to march. Even though I feel strongly about everything the march stands for, I didn’t want to call attention to myself by participating.

Why?

Because I’m seventeen years old and I’m a lesbian.

Now, I’m not ashamed of this, don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t a choice, it’s who I am. I understand that and my parents understand that. Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of other members of my family who most definitely do not understand.

So I don’t tell them.

silentmarcher3The older I get, the harder it gets. I have a girlfriend – let’s call her “Jessica” – and we are very much in love. My parents and my siblings know, but the rest of my family doesn’t. My grandparents and aunts and uncles are very involved in my life and I want so much to tell them who I really am – to them how much Jessica means to me – but I just can’t. They are very religious and are the biggest Trump fans you’ll ever meet. It’s so hard to sit and listen to their conversations about how gay people are abominations and how they’re “going to hell,” all the while knowing that they are talking about me.

I don’t say anything though. Inside, I’m screaming. Inside I’m telling them how wrong they are and how hurtful they are being to someone that they are supposed to love. But outside? I just stay quiet.

I don’t like confrontation. I’m a peacemaker.

Prom is coming up and Jessica and I will be going together. It’s not fair to her or to me to not go. We want to be there and to experience this rite of passage that every teenager gets to have in their life. There will be pictures of us together so I know that the time of them not knowing is running out.

Honestly, I’m scared.

Not because of what they’ll think of me. I’ve learned to be tough and know that what I think of me matters more than what others think. No, it’s not that. I think I’m just afraid of disappointing them. I’m such a good kid in every way – I never get in trouble, I get good grades, I’m kind. But I feel like none of that will matter when they find this out. Knowing that I’m gay will wipe out everything else.

And that’s not fair.

So this is why I didn’t march. I just wasn’t ready yet. But equality for all is something that I’m very passionate about and as soon as I’m ready to raise my voice, I’ll make sure that it’s loud enough for everyone to hear.

Especially the others who are like me.

My name is “Bethany.” (But not really.) And this was my Silent Marcher story.

***

“I think people feel threatened by homosexuality. The problem isn’t about gay people, the problem is about the attitude towards gay people. People think that all gays are Hannibal Lecters. But gay people are sons and daughters, politicians and doctors, American heroes and daughters of American heroes.”
– Hollis Stacy

Silent Marchers: “Amy”

Silent Marchers is a series of stories from real women (and men) who wanted to march in the Women’s March on Washington and various sister marches across the nation, but could not be there for a variety of reasons. These are their stories of why they weren’t there, why they wish they could have been, and why they support this cause and all that it stands for. Their hope is that you might find yourself in one of their stories, and know you’re not alone. Together, we will resist.

***

Hello.

My name is “Amy.” But not really.

I wanted to march in the Women’s March. I was all set to travel to Washington D.C. to march with like-minded men and women for a cause I believed in.

But I didn’t quite make it.

Here’s why.

I suffer from anxiety/panic attacks. As much as I wanted to be there, the thoughts of being in the massive crowd with no escape was petrifying. I knew there would be no easy way to find friends there due to the crowds, friends who would make me feel safe, so my anxiety won.

1732007173256It keeps me from living my life and can be so debilitating that some days I don’t leave my room at all. I had even mentioned several times to my housemate that I didn’t want to go alone, and feel a bit betrayed as she swore she wasn’t going to any marches and went to one any way.

Petty, maybe, but I don’t trust her now.

For those of us with anxiety and depression there is so much stigma and guilt we bear that when our fellow female friends dismiss it, it’s even more devastating.

Here’s why I wish I could have been there.

I am a firm believer in equality for all. We have had the Equal Rights Act on the table for what, 90 some years, and it still isn’t ratified?? I am worried to death about insurance issues if the Affordable Care Act is repealed fully. My parents and most of my family will be affected. I worry about fellow veterans who are tossed aside after money-making wars. Our environment is in extreme danger and we do not have a back-up planet to go to!

Here’s what I’d like to say to anyone out there who may have found yourself in my position.

If you suffer like I do from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that kept you from marching, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER IT! Sign petitions, call your representatives, offer to volunteer at local political offices where the crowds are manageable. We can still fight the good fight, it just might not be on the mainlines. I am struggling with guilt over not going but I’m trying to do my part in the ways that won’t make me panic. It’s been a rough few months since Nov. 8. But I’m still here. I’m still fighting.

In my own way.

My name is “Amy.” (But not really.) And this was my Silent Marchers story.

***

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.”
– Bayard Rustin

 

Up Here on My High Horse

“Look at you up there on your high horse.”

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately.

Have you?

Seems like any time I engage in a debate on Facebook about the recent women’s march, or just about scientific facts in general, I get told to “get down off of my high horse.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this, and more often than not it has come from other local women in my small town.

I couldn’t seem to get that phrase off of my mind, so I decided to research it a bit. (For those who aren’t aware, “research” is a thing you do when you don’t understand something. It’s preferably done before you start speaking about a particular subject. I’ll wait if you need to go write that down.)

Okay.

I found a site called phrases.org.uk. Kind of a fun little site that helps you find out where certain terms originated from. This is what it had to say about being “on a high horse:”

“When we now say that people are on their high horse we are implying a criticism of their haughtiness. The first riders of high horses didn’t see it that way; they were very ready to assume a proud and commanding position, indeed that was the very reason they had mounted the said horse in the first place. The first references to high horses were literal ones; ‘high’ horses were large or, as they were often known in mediaeval England, ‘great’ horses.”

Okay, so let’s break that down. What is now used as a term of insult, actually didn’t used to be that way. It was almost a term of honor. It was used to refer to the people who were in a “proud and commanding position.”

A proud and commanding position.

Well.

So, how do I respond to that?  Am I actually up on a high horse like I’ve been accused of being?

I only know one way to answer that.

Hell yes I am!

And here’s why.

During the Women’s March last weekend in Washington, D.C., my friend Cassondra and I were literally smashed between thousands of people. We could not see anything other than the backs of the person in front of us. Sometimes we managed to squeeze ourselves into a position behind a person shorter than us and, in those rare moments of being able to breathe, were actually able to see the speaker on the television screen who happened to be talking at the time.  We couldn’t really hear them, mind you, but we could at least see them for a split second before our view and breath was obstructed yet again.

At one point amidst the ‘standing room only’ crowd, my claustrophobic and exhausted friend started showing signs bordering on a panic attack. I asked around to see if anyone knew of a place we could go to get out of the crowd and, while that was practically impossible, one person did point out that there was a long tunnel-like alley leading down to a locked underground passageway beneath a nearby building. At this point (this would change later, mind you), not many people were down there because of the sight restrictions. The crowd parted in what little way it could to let us make a small path to this spot to give my friend some breathing room.

When we got there, while she could breathe easier and we felt less struggle, we couldn’t quite forget what we were missing up there. Above us, history was being made. We were there to document it, photograph it, write about it – and yet here we were hiding in an alley.

Why were we doing that?

I’ll tell you why

Because it was hard up there.

It was, man. It was hard.

It was terrifying even.

It is a scary thing to put yourself in a situation that you’re not sure you can get out of. We were both asking ourselves why we were there. Why we had subjected ourselves to this flood of people. How were our two little faces in the crowd even going to matter?  Why hadn’t we just stayed home?

And then suddenly, I had an idea.

Our little alley was positioned behind a row of portajohns, and behind that row of portajohns was a metal railing. After studying it for a few minutes, I wondered if it might just be possible to climb up there and snap a photo from up above. It wasn’t going to be easy, I knew that, and we might even hurt ourselves (or her fancy camera) in the process.  But how were we going to let people know what we saw if we weren’t even seeing it ourselves?

We had a job to do.

And by god, we were going to do it.

So, between the two of us and some awkward maneuvering, we managed to ‘scale the wall’ (take that however you’d like) and rise above it.

And when we got there, this is what we saw:

hats

Photo by Cassondra G. Photography

From up there at my vantage point – on my “high horse” if you will – I could see what I couldn’t see while I was down in that pit. I could see hundreds of thousands of people in every direction you look. A sea of pink hats representing a common goal. Men, women, black, white, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim…you name it. They were there.

And what a sight it was to behold.

Here’s the thing about climbing out of a pit and seeing what you couldn’t see before. It’s addictive. You get up there and you realize that is where you want to be. You realize that hiding down in the pit is not going to get you anywhere. You’re missing it. You might feel like you have room to move down there, but the truth is – you don’t. You’re stuck.

You have to climb out. You have to get up on that high horse and take a look around. Be proud. Be commanding.

Make a difference.

And then come back to tell people about it.

“Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
– Alejandro Jodorowsky

Don’t be like that, okay? Don’t think that flying is an illness. Don’t think that rising above the situation that surrounds you is going to be a bad thing. Are people going to talk about you up there? Sure they are! Why? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they think it’s not fair that you got to be up there and they didn’t. Maybe they think that you’re trying to be better than them because you took the time and initiative to climb out of the status quo.

And you know what?

They’re right.

You are better than them.

You took the time to look around for yourself. You took the time to break out of that cage and see what flying really feels like. And when you got there, you realized you weren’t alone. There was a whole sea of people out there waiting to fly with you.

In conclusion, to the next person that tells me I’m up on my high horse, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for the reminder that yes, I am up here. And I’m not coming back down because I can’t.

Can you possibly understand that?

I just can’t.

The view is way too nice from up here. I can’t imagine climbing back down.

But you know what?

There’s plenty of room up here. I’ll slide over and let you on too if you want.  I promise.

All you have to do is ask.

***

“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”
– Dorothea Brande

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