The organizers of the Women's March in D.C. have planned a Day Without Women economic strike on March 8, International Women's Day. I attended the march and rallies since then but I don't feel comfortable participating in this one. I've decided that I need to show up.
I attend a university where undergraduate women weren't accepted until 1985. In the 268 years of its history, the school has only had male presidents. Last semester, all four of my regular classes were taught by male professors. This semester I only have one female professor, who teaches Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. My classes are male-dominated in the sense that even in classes like literature and communications that are typically viewed as "traditionally female subjects" (whatever that means), the few guys in the classes dominate the conversations. In a small-knit academic setting and with limited class sizes driven by participation and interaction, my voice is spoken over daily.
When I get ready for social events, I have to decide whether the fitted romper is really worth the number of hands or intense stares that will brush my bottom. At political meetings in town I'm conscious of buttoning up my jacket, if this small and necessary act somehow emphasizes my chest and if that's the reason the 60-year-old man keeps his eyes lowered the whole time while talking to me.
At parties I find myself scanning the crowded, dark room every few minutes, searching for girls too drunk to say no or guys too drunk (or sober) to care if they do. I always find them. I follow them with my eyes and make mental plans of action for how to intervene if necessary.
I'm constantly questioning if my voice is valid enough to answer in class, to propose ideas in the clubs and organizations I'm part of, to ask questions during my professors' office hours. I'm always tied between the belief that I as a woman should be able to wear whatever I want without blame or judgment and wanting to protect myself from the inevitability of unwanted attention.
My fight is not in skipping class or living off of Tostitos in my room instead of using my meal plan at the university dining hall on Wednesday. My fight is through aggressively showing up: making the most out of my education, making sure I'm heard, prioritizing other female voices.
So this is how March 8 will go for me:
I will start off the day by cleaning and working in the yard at the local shelter and resource center for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
I will attend my swimming class and feel confident and strong about my body and what it's capable of.
I will eat lunch and talk about our campus climate with my peers in a discussion moderated by an organization raising awareness for sexual assault.
I will attend my Intro to Reporting journalism lab and ask as many questions that come to mind.
I will attend my literary editing class and engage with the other students (all girls).
I'll do my homework and remind myself that my work ethic is valid and I deserve to be at this university.
I'll eat dinner with my (exceptionally feminist) boyfriend at the dining hall and catch up on each other's day.
I'll gather with my peers and professors to discuss reproductive rights over dessert.
And I'll end the day thinking about the women that came before me. Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and others unnamed, those who have lost their jobs, been thrown in jail, exiled, beaten, ignored, devalued. Those who have fought and resisted despite all of that. And those women who do all these things today: who can't miss a day of work, who can't walk outside at night, who don't have the opportunity to go to college, who have to focus on survival. I'll show up for them.