News & Politics

I Attended the Women’s March in 2017. Here’s Why This Year’s Feels Different.

A photograph of a friend, Clara, who came up from Texas for the 2017 Women's March. Photograph by Hayley Garrison Phillips.

You couldn’t miss the Women’s March back in 2017, even if you wanted to. I remember checking my Facebook notifications and scrolling through a score of creative invites: poster-making parties, Nasty Woman-themed potlucks, pussy-hat knitting circles. The texts rolled in and the Instagram pictures poured into my feed in a steady stream of outrage. In the office and out at coffee shops, the question was on everyone’s lips: “Are you going? What are your plans? Where’s your starting point?”

I was a newly minted assistant editor at Washingtonian and new to DC. While capturing the zeitgeist of the movement was beyond my literary merits, I was determined to be a part of the moment that we all sensed even then would be a part of history. Back then the motley crew of fellow feminists and I preparing to march didn’t know how big or how successful the whole thing would become, but we knew one thing: we were pissed.

In the days leading up to the March, I got a barrage of requests from out-of-town friends, asking to crash on my couch. A college friend flew in from Fort Worth ready with a pussy hat, a bright pink knit creation with peaked “ears,” and a duffle bag of the coldest weather gear she could round up in central Texas. From Minnesota, a fellow writer packed up her old Prius and stuffed it with poster paper, markers, T-shirts, and, at the last minute, her 54-year old mother Laurel, who seemed just as angry as we were. So angry, in fact, she was willing at drove 20 hours just to scream it at the Capitol.

The day of the March felt like our entire household was suiting up for battle. I donned my Nikon outfitted with its big wide-angle lens. Across the city liberal women chanted, wrote punny demands for equality, donned hiking boots. We dressed up as giant vulvas because we didn’t want there to be any room for men to miss the point.  

Looking back, the pink pussy hats feel tinged with a counter-culture punkness—an adolescent symbol of a movement that, in its adulthood, would become #MeToo and eventually help to catapult women’s rights back to the forefront of a national conversation about equality. In many ways, haven’t we made progress? Isn’t it a continuing success? When, on January 3 we swore in a record number of women to the 116th Congress, was that the fruits of our anger, ripened into action?

If you walk by The Outrage on 14th Street, the female empowerment swag store that, circa 2017, was an off-the-grid bastion of social unrest, Women’s March T-shirts once again hang in the windows, but it feels as though the sense of urgency in the city is gone. Maybe the movement no longer needs to be shouted from the rooftops: it’s a testament to women everywhere that the movement has integrated itself into our everyday lexicon. We’ve matured and we aren’t giddy, but steeled, occupied with the thousand specific battles—battles with measurable, achievable results—that we are down in the trenches fighting, day after day. 

I still believe in the spirit of the Women’s March, but I probably won’t take to the streets again this weekend. The feeling of solidarity out in the crowds in 2017 won’t ever leave me, but the anger is gone. Instead I keep thinking of an old adage: don’t get mad, get even. If the woman next to you isn’t yelling, maybe it’s not because she’s forgotten the messages of 2017: maybe it’s because, like me, she’s nursing those lessons, fortifying her reserves and hunkering down for the long fight.  

I can’t summon the will to care if every male relative I have finds Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unlikable. It’s not an exaggeration to say I plan to retweet congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez until the end of time. I’m not just sick of men offering up uninvited analysis of what our clothing says about accomplished congresswomen, or attempting to slut-shame their bodies, I’m bored by it: it’s pathetic, it’s a distraction, and it’s all so incredibly predictable.

I wasn’t shocked when congressmen thought it was their job was to determine whether Christine Blasey Ford was adequately ‘pleasing’ enough to be believable as an assault victim, even if it did make me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I haven’t forgotten that though Harvey Weinstein is finally facing felony charges, waves of trauma are still rippling through generations of female Hollywood. I might even pick up Stormy Daniels’s perfume—not be cause I think it smells like anything I want to smell like—but because I don’t care what it smells like; I want it to stink up the room, to become unmissable, to waft into every board room and office where any man has presumed to put his hand on a bare leg and cleanse the air like a millennial sage-ing ritual. I want men not to be able to escape it, for it to follow them on their clothes like the scarlet letter of female-dom we’ve been donning far too long.

Does anyone really need a reenactment of 2017’s march to bring us together, or remind us what we are doing? It seems to me as though we are long past introductions.

What’s next on the agenda?

Assistant Editor

Hayley is an Associate Editor at Washingtonian Weddings. Previously she was the the Style Editor at The Local Palate, a Southern food culture magazine based out of Charleston, South Carolina. You can follow her on instagram @wandertaste.