Why I Marched: Thoughts on the London Women’s March

by Brenna Holeman

Women's March London 1

Women's March London 10

On Saturday, January 21st, I walked over 10,000 steps with approximately 100,000 people in London – millions of people when you include the entire world. Together, we marched for women’s rights (for all women’s rights), for LGBTQIA rights, for worker’s rights, for immigrant rights, for disability rights, for reproductive rights, for civil rights, for environmental justice, and for ending violence. I don’t need to tell you what event prompted this march.

It was a cold but beautiful day, the sun coming out to cast light on our route. I showed up alone, but from the moment I stepped out of Oxford Circus tube station – Bond Street was already overcrowded and closed – I felt a sense of unity, of solidarity.

Thousands of us walked down Oxford Street towards the American Embassy, but the streets were already so crowded that we were soon brought to a halt. We didn’t start marching for at least an hour or so, but it didn’t matter; we were all talking to one another, cheering, singing, and making new friends. I saw people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all walks of life.

From Buzzfeed, describing the march in Washington, D.C., “At the march, women reappropriated the colour pink, meant to shoehorn us into a specific understanding of docile femininity, as a symbol of organizing power, and the word “pussy,” intended to denigrate and objectify them, as a call to arms. And they also used the skills in which they have been forced to become adept — skills of organization, of forethought, of listening and detail-mindedness and getting shit done — to protect women’s rights, protest any attempt to denigrate them, and push for actual equality, not just the semblance of it, and not just for those who are white, or privileged, or cisgendered, or straight, or Christian, or born in this country.”

We marched from the embassy to Trafalgar Square, walking down some of the biggest streets in all of London. To look ahead and to see thousands, and to look behind and to see thousands, and to look all around me and see passion, and support, and strength… no march I’ve ever been a part of felt this electric before. I am so incredibly happy that I could be a part of it. And yes, I wore all pink.

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Women's March London 6

As a white, middle-class, able-bodied, educated, heterosexual woman, I am one of the most privileged people in the world. I like to think of myself as open-minded and culturally aware, but I have a lot of learning to do, and a lot of listening to do. And while I had an amazing day on Saturday, I asked myself some questions, too: Would I have marched for women’s rights if Hillary Clinton was elected president? Will I be joining the next Black Lives Matter march? What will I do today, now that the march is over?

While the march was an incredible, inclusive force of solidarity, and we should be so proud of ourselves for coming together around the world, it’s imperative that I, and everyone else who marched, continue to support, defend, and use our voices to propel our message. It’s imperative that we recognise all forms of feminism, and that means intersectional feminism. It’s also imperative that we recognise that not all feminists supported the global march on Saturday, primarily some women of colour – it’s only through these kinds of dialogues that we will collectively learn to do better and be better. It’s imperative that we listen.

Personally, I didn’t march solely for myself. As a woman, I have felt sexism, misogyny, sexual harassment, and even sexual assault. But as a privileged white woman, I can never know what it feels like to be someone in an even more marginalised group. On Saturday I marched to show my support for these groups, to show my belief that all women should have the right to choose what’s right for their bodies as well as have access to the health care systems that support it, and to show solidarity with people around the world who are frustrated with the way things are.

Sure, you could argue that it’s “trendy” to be a feminist (for the record, everyone called me Brenna Holeperson instead of Holeman in high school, because I was annoyingly quoting Simone de Beauvoir and Gertrude Stein any chance I got), but I believe that if it spreads the message and it gives an even stronger platform for communication, I’m all for it. Hopefully Saturday’s march encouraged many people of all backgrounds and all ages to get involved, even if they are first-time activists. If fighting for equal rights for ALL women is becoming the next bandwagon to jump on, well hell, I say let’s ride this as hard as we possibly can and hope that enough people realise fighting for these rights is for life, not just for a four-year presidential term.

Women's March London 2

Women's March London 3

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And yes, I’m a Canadian living in the UK, so one could argue that this isn’t my fight. To that I say: I don’t want to sit idly by until something affects me directly. No, right now I do not personally feel threatened or marginalised, but, as there are millions of people who do, I felt the need to show up and stand up in solidarity, just as I have at other marches.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve cared about civil rights; I have gone to numerous marches, donated to various charities, volunteered for rights I believe in, and I try to call people out when it’s necessary (or call people in, depending on the situation). I have been told, many times in my life, to “loosen up”, “chill out”, or “stop being so politically correct” because I won’t tolerate casual racism, misogyny, or pejorative terms that are loosely presented as jokes. I’m not saying any of that to brag or to sound sanctimonious; I believe what I’m doing is the bare minimum of what any human being should be doing, and that I can do even more. I think we should all be doing more, especially those of us who live lives of privilege.

It’s something I think about a lot – how can I justify travelling the world, especially travelling through developing countries, if I then go home and do nothing to support the communities I visit? Our privilege is wasted if we do not use it for good. I also think it’s important to point out that it’s only the most privileged who feel threatened by equality for others, or who get defensive when confronted with the possibility of equality. I live in a democracy, one where I can vote and one where I can express myself through protest, and I think it’s important to exercise those rights. So many people in the world, especially women, do not have those rights.

So what will I be doing now that the march is over? I’m going to continue to educate myself by reading as much as I can about the topics at hand, especially when written by women with different backgrounds than my own. I’m going to continue to donate to organisations I believe in. I’m going to join another march in February that supports immigrants in the UK. I’m going to continue to use my voice, and to listen to the voices of others, because I understand that I am only beginning to scratch the surface of this often conflicting, confusing topic. The modern feminist movement needs work, but there isn’t going to be a next step until we take the first step. To me, the march felt like a unified first step of supporters from around the world.

Stronger together, indeed.

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Women's March London 9

I found friends Gabriella, Abigail, and Deividas!

So why did I march on Saturday? Sometimes, when you’re feeling helpless, useless, or just downright awful about something, it helps to be around others who believe in the same things that you do. Sometimes it’s just about coming together as a unit, walking and singing and laughing together. Will anything change after the march? I’d like to think that yes, things will change – if anything, I hope that a lot more individuals are more impassioned, more eager to learn, and more willing to stand up for what they believe in. As for whether the powers that be will listen to us, I don’t know. What I do know, marching the streets of London on Saturday, is that we heard each other.

Further Reading:

Seven Things You Can Do to Keep Up the Women’s March Momentum in London (by TimeOut)

Women’s March on Washington official website, including a list of actions to take now that the march is over

Scenes from the Women’s March on Washington 

The Three Very Symbolic Things People Carried to the Women’s March

7 Things Feminists of Color Want White Feminists to Know

Hey, White People! If You Really Want to Help End Racism, You Need to Invest in Other White People (“We have a responsibility to cultivate a deep well of patience and compassion for working to change the hearts and minds of our people, just as our hearts and minds were changed somewhere along our own journey.”)

Why I’m Conflicted About the Women’s March (I don’t agree with everything Oneika has said here, but I really respect her opinion and think it’s an important topic to discuss. I highly recommend checking out her Facebook page, too, as she just did a great live video on her thoughts.)

The Pussyhat Project (Because women weren’t wearing them to look cute. It’s a movement, not a moment.)

How These Six Women’s Protests Changed History

Women's March London 8

Did you march on January 21st?

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Cate January 23, 2017 - 10:42 pm

This post competely summed up my thoughts! I participated in a sister march here in my home town, and we had 10,000 more attend than was expected. It was an inspirational, hopeful, and electrifying experience for me as well. Nasty women unite!!!!

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 1:05 am

I’m so glad that you had a positive experience, too, Cate! Thanks for sharing. 😀

Amber January 24, 2017 - 12:57 am

Thank you for this article! I think what happened on Saturday was really beautiful. I like how you provided links for us to find out more, I will be reading a lot tonight. 🙂

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 1:06 am

Thank you, Amber! I’m glad that you enjoyed the piece.

Paige January 24, 2017 - 1:00 am

As always, a wonderful post on a complex subject. I planned to attend Boston’s, but then had a major bout of large crowd anxiety (and an extremely large crowd it was!), so I opted to stay home, watch the coverage of the speeches in DC, and made donations to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU in honor of the day. (In hindsight, I wish I’d marched–and was also painfully reminded of a time I wasn’t afraid of crowds and went to Obama’s inauguration as a 17-year-old in 2009, one of the most incredible days of my life.) I’m so glad you had a positive experience marching in London, and agree it is important to acknowledge privilege and consider other points of view on the day. I personally felt a great sense of pride and peace watching all the sister marches unfold–a strong first step.

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 1:08 am

I get that, Paige – I get overwhelmed in crowds, too, but I have to admit that I never once felt suffocated or anxious. Everyone was very considerate of one another and gave each other space. I’m so glad that you found your own way to participate, though, and that’s amazing that you donated! And wow, to see Obama’s inauguration… what an experience.

Rebecca January 24, 2017 - 2:26 am

Thank you for sharing this thoughtful post and for marching. I marched (well -stood because of the large crowd!) in Washington DC. It was amazing and uplifting to learn there were so many citizens of so many countries who joined in around the world. Here’s hoping the energy and desire for change translates into action. I appreciate all the links at the end too.

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 12:25 pm

Thank you so much, Rebecca, and so glad that you had a positive experience in Washington! I really hope for action, too.

Camille January 24, 2017 - 2:43 am

“Sometimes, when you’re feeling helpless, useless, or just downright awful about something, it helps to be around others who believe in the same things that you do.” So well said! I was in D.C. on Saturday and the energy was so hopeful despite everything.

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 12:32 pm

I agree, the march had such a great energy. So glad you felt it, too. 🙂

veena January 24, 2017 - 4:23 am

As always, your post is such a great summation of everything I have been thinking and feeling these last few days. I had the privilege of participating in a sister march in Memphis, and it was amazing to see so many people turn out in solidarity. I, too, am hopeful that there will be real action and involvement that come about as a result of Saturday, and I look forward to educating myself more about what is happening on a local level and creating change within my city. Thank you for marching and for showing your support, and thank you even more for articulating so well why I feel it was so important. Your eloquence is always appreciated, and I will be quoting your line about using our privilege for good in my own write-up about the march. Thank you, thank you, thank you xx

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 12:37 pm

Thank you so much, Veena, and so happy that you got the chance to march in Memphis. I look forward to reading your post about it! I agree, it’s so important that we now push for action, no matter where we live or where we’re from. There’s always something we can do to help.

Katie January 24, 2017 - 2:52 pm

Go Brenna Holeperson! Haha. I love that. I marched in the small southern town nearest to where I live that was hosting a sister march. I’m only a 3 1/2 hour drive from D.C., but I’ll admit that I really don’t do well in large crowds. As one of the privileged white women who’s only begun to get “woke” over the last few years, I know I have a long way to go and much work to do. The march wasn’t everything, but it was a start. And seeing the rest of the world march right along with us gave me a hope I haven’t felt since last November. So thank you!

Brenna Holeman January 24, 2017 - 3:23 pm

I was nervous about the large crowd, too, but it ended up being totally fine. I agree, I feel that I have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I also agree that the march is a great start for women worldwide to come together in solidarity. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the day, too!

Linda January 25, 2017 - 4:04 pm

You’ve written an important and beautiful post, Brenna. I’m proud of you and all the sisters (and brothers) who marched. Your face, in these photos, is the face of hope. It radiates the belief that issues important to the health and safety of all women, everywhere, will be recognized, and that women will be free in their choices and supported in decisions important to them, to their partners and their families. Thank you for your role in demonstrating the importance of strength and unity – march on, Brenna!

Brenna Holeman January 25, 2017 - 8:40 pm

You are amazing. Thank you so much!!

why i marched, and what comes next. – the wonderful world of veena January 26, 2017 - 11:44 pm

[…] and encourage them to work together to find solutions for the problems in their communities. as brenna put it so succinctly, “our privilege is wasted if we do not use it for […]


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