For the past two January's, I've attended the Women's March on Washington. In 2017, I hadn't wanted to go to anything more than I did that march. It was to be the day after the President's inaugural address, and as I sat there watching the speech unfold on my TV screen, I felt both utterly surprised and completely unfazed by who ended up giving that inaugural address. I called a friend, and without hesitation, we decided that we had to go to the march.
As I exited the metro station somewhere in D.C., I entered a sea of pink cat hats and fearless signs. Prior to joining the march, I thought that I was going to be greeted with a sense of empowerment and pride, but I was wrong. It was instead an overwhelming feeling of confusion that welcomed me. Nonetheless, I walked, I chanted, and I hoped. I hoped that at some moment I would suddenly understand why I was there, or what I was trying to achieve in being there.
A year passes by, and this time, it wasn't the inaugural speech I was staring at. It was a speech that I fell in love with; Oprah's Golden Globes speech. There wasn't a second in that speech that didn't make me feel inspired, not a word that made didn't make me feel empowered, and certainly not a speaker that made me fear my future. And I thought I have to go to the Women's March this year. I talked to another friend, and we decided to go and bring our own signs. Unsurprisingly enough, I wrote on my poster a quote I don't think I'll ever be able to forget; "there's a new day on the horizon."
I had high hopes for this march. I was younger last year and perhaps didn't fully understand the purpose of these marches, I thought to myself. I'd convinced myself that I became wise and mature enough to comprehend the importance of the Women's March. And so, I entered yet another crowd, hoping to be hit with the feeling that I was there for a reason. A reason that I felt deep in my heart, that drove every step I made and every chant I roared to that day. But alas, that reason never appeared.
I didn't have the slightest idea why I wasn't getting this feeling that everyone who was walking beside me seemed to have. I mean, I've always cared about equal rights and I certainly never wanted to be treated any lesser for my gender.
However, I did know one thing. I knew that I lied to my mother before I left my house that day. I knew that I told her that I was spending the day wandering the D.C. museums with a couple of friends. I knew that if I were to tell her the real reason I was going to D.C., she would tell me to sit right at home and forget about the whole thing. I also knew exactly why she would say that.
My mother never finished middle school. She grew up in a rural town in Saudi Arabia in a household of five brothers and one sister. She got an arranged marriage at 20 and found absolute comfort in spending all her time raising her children. She wouldn't have said no because she isn't a feminist, she would've said no because there isn't a single concept that would come more foreign to her. This was the one idea that didn't escape me during those marches.
It's a very odd feeling, knowing that the one person you were marching for didn't have a clue that you were marching, let alone why you were marching. My mother can't comprehend the idea that a large part of why her life unfolded the way it did is because of the deep-rooted misogyny in our society. And I know that there are so women out there just like her. They are women whose names we may never know and stories we may never hear. They go every day of their lives with the belief that life is just meant to be this way and that there's nothing they can do about it.
Perhaps this is the reason why I felt so lost during those marches. How privileged I felt knowing that I was taking part in something to ensure my rights while my mother went every day of her life with incredible patience and acceptance towards the way her life turned out. How ungrateful I felt that the rights that I already had and the kind of future that I was expected to have are both things that my mother didn't dare to dream of when she was my age.
My mother and the many women out there like her may never hear of feminism or understand it. They may never attend a march or continue their education or speak out against the males in their family. They may continue to live every day of their lives just hoping and praying that things will change one day. And to those women I say, there's a new day on the horizon.