I Attended The Million Women March And It Triggered My Anxiety

I Attended The Million Women March And It Triggered My Anxiety

Only a few times in my life have I felt like I was about to faint from being in small spaces or been terrified by huge crowds of people--This time, I felt both.
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Only a few times in my life have I felt like I was about to faint from being in small spaces.

I was ripping insulation out from underneath a woman’s house after a flood in Louisiana with my AmeriCorps FEMA Corps team. Army crawling, chin-deep in sewage, breathing in scratchy pink particles, narrowly avoiding huge millipedes and using the wet, sinking mud beneath me to navigate.

Only a few times in my life have I been terrified by huge crowds of people.

Keene State College was almost nationally known for their Pumpkin Festivals, until 2014 when things got out of control. It was a quaint New England family event where Main Street shut down and rows of carved pumpkins lined the downtown, but that year was different.

There were thousands of people roaming the streets and the larger than usual police presence was apparent. Some groups ripped street signs out of the ground and formed small mobs chanting, “USA! USA!” collectively down the streets, but it was that night when letting loose truly turned into wreaking havoc.

I was in the apartment of my then boyfriend watching the lines of police surround the glowing flames that radiated from a car flipped upside down. From a few floors up, a block away and behind closed windows, we could hear bottles crashing and the undecipherable shouts from the rioters. Months after it happened I could still hear them when I slept at night, I could still see the Molotov cocktails being tossed into the night sky.

At the time, I was unsure why it had affected me so deeply, after all, I was near it, but never in the thick of it. Everyone else on campus seemed to get past it relatively quickly. It was still very much the subject of conversations with teachers and students alike, but I did not notice too many who were bothered by it the way I was. Then I was probably too caught up in my own thoughts to notice anyway.

I know now why it haunted me.

It stuck deeply in my subconscious because there was no great purpose to the destruction, it was rioting for rioting sake. It was mob mentality. It was large groups of primal young people seeing how far they could go. While there should be no appropriate time for riots to take place, often it seems that something happens politically or otherwise to cause the collective behavior.

This time, I felt both.

At the Million Women March, the million women, men and children were a pointillist painting masking the streets of D.C., not a speck of gray pavement to be seen. Touching me on all sides were strangers to me, except for my mother of course. The fear coursing through me was that at any moment the ripple effect could take over and things could cease to be peaceful.

When my mother and I were initially released from the packed subway onto L’Enfant Station we found more and more crowds forming, and once the mass we were in finally made it to the station exit, there was a stand-still. The crowds kept filing in and filing in, making the surroundings increasingly more compact. The station workers were deciding how to best let the masses get through out into the masses at street level.

“There’s no way out,” someone in the crowd yelled. At this point, I was already light headed from the compact subway ride and feeling the imaginary whoosh of the train making its stops pushing through me, even after we stepped onto the stationary platform. After I heard the man’s voice yell out perhaps the worst statement you could make to a large group of people basically underground, the fear set in. All those horror movies with absurd plots about what happens when technology fails and masses of people are left to their animal instincts, came to mind. My breathing became increasingly shallowed and my head, faint.

The thing that I believe kept me from passing out was a simple mantra: “don’t fall”. I knew that if I fell I could easily get trampled as people were shuffling through as quickly as they could.

I thought of the man who was accidentally stomped to death by the herds of shoppers rushing into Walmart on Black Friday in 2008, but little did I know: this crowd was different.

“Don’t fall, don’t fall,” I focused my thoughts.

Finally.

“Single file, one at a time,” a station worker shouted. He was letting us go through one by one, and at that moment I could feel the tension leave my body as people were moving and empty space around me appeared.

The relief was fleeting and would come in waves, but never truly left me. We found ourselves moving from one huddle of people to the next. I was a small dot in a sea of humanity, but outside it seemed less threatening. There was still the potential of something setting it off and creating a domino effect of disaster, but it seemed as though the crowds silently decided that it wouldn’t.

There were babies in carriages, people and families of all shapes and sizes. This had to be a peaceful movement and while it did cause anxiety in more than just myself, no fire was set and no hatred emerged.

There are few words to describe the unfamiliar feeling of at times paralyzing fear and ultimately real pride and hope I experienced January 22, 2017.


Check out my footage from the march:


Cover Image Credit: Hannah Sundell

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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To The Girl Who Believes That Feminism Is A Lost Cause: It's Unfortunate You Can't See How Infinitely Capable Women Are

You said I am being too hopeful. You said that there is no point. I say you're wrong.
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It was a seemingly boring day. Most of us had just finished our state-based EOC's, but there were bigger fish to fry: Advanced Placement Exams would be starting the following week. These exams would determine whether we got the college credits for the college courses we had been straggling through all year. A group of my female classmates and I were taking a five minute break from studying in our AP U.S. History class when we got into a deep conversation about the Indian culture.

One of my classmates was asking simple questions about what the Indian culture was like; things like marriages, different societal expectations and other cultural differences came about into the conversation.

The conversation eventually moved to focus on education and dream colleges. The girl sitting behind me asked another one of my classmates if she had heard anything from the Emory Summer Program. They started talking about certain residencies they planned on doing, and I tuned out of the conversation.

That was until I heard this: "Did you know they don't bring girls down to see surgery? Only guys."

I turned around, and scoffed.

"Are you serious? Why would they do that?"

They both explained to me that something had happened in which Emory had brought a girl and a guy down to a surgery, but both of them fainted — or at least that's what they heard. The girl sitting behind me went on to say "girls are just more prone to fainting."

What? Listen, I may not be a biology major, but —

"I thought you said the guy fainted too?" I countered. She shrugged her shoulders, and said one sentence:

"It's not like girls can become surgeons anyways."

Seriously? I took a deep breath and said slowly,

"I think girls and guys can both become surgeons regardless of sex. They're both just as capable."

She argued with me that "statistically" guys had more of a chance to become a surgeon. That girls have no chance because universities looked for guys. That not many girls even tried to go the surgery field. She said there was a reason why she chose to not become a surgeon. Again and again, she said that girls had no chance in a male-dominated field.

She insisted that I was being too hopeful. That "realistically" changes in women's rights would not come in our generation but rather in our children's generation. That there was a reason why in history, men were better known than women. That there was a reason why men and women had separate events in athletic competitions.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. But then again, it made sense, right? The reasons why women still have to fight so hard for things such as equal pay — it's because thoughts like these still plague our society.

I was left speechless. My APUSH teacher appeared from behind me almost two seconds later. He asked her:

"Have you ever heard the story of Billie Jean King? The famous female tennis player who beat a man — I can't remember his name — but he said awful things about women and how weak they were."

She shook her head and stuttered out a "no," and he simply replied,

"It's a really impressive story," before walking away.

So, "statistically," sure, men may dominate the field of surgery. But they also dominate the fields of business (did you know there are only 27 women on the Fortune 500 list?) law enforcement, criminal law, the military or any STEM careers, etc.

This does not mean women are not capable of doing those jobs; it's the part of society that still believes we live in the stone age who thinks women are not capable of arguing in front of a judge or saving someone's life in the ER.

My all-time favorite quote is something my mother said two years ago when Trump won the presidency:

"It's not the women who are not ready for America; it's America who's not ready for the women."

And yes, I am hopeful. I am optimistic. Because so much has changed, but there's still a lot more to do for women. You say that that change cannot come in our generation but rather our children's — that mindset is the reason why we still fall behind today. But let me tell you why you are also wrong. Change has been happening throughout all the generations whether you like it not.

Change occurred in 1800s during Elizabeth Cady Stanton's time when she and hundreds of other women published the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen."

Change occurred in the 1900s when Susan B. Anthony and thousands of women fought tirelessly for women's suffrage and won with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Change has occurred with the recent #MeToo movement, exposing years and years of sexual harassment and rape perpetrators, not just in Hollywood, but in other industries as well.

We can't keep pushing saying that "it's not my issue" or "it'll happen later." We can't keep ignoring the issue; we have to face it and fix it . You said to me that, living in John's Creek, you have never faced sexism in your life, and I envy you for that. That does not mean sexism does not exist.

I pity you for the fact that you remain so close minded about the future of women. Though currently the field of surgery may be male-dominated, there are still women who work in that field. There are women who ignore that fact, study their butts off and work, successfully, as surgeons.

Eventually it comes down to this: you can hide and ignore the issues that beset our community, or you can stand up for yourself and the women around you. Your choice.

But know this: feminism is not a lost cause. I am a woman. I can, and I will.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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