Tales of a Reluctant Activist
“One of my goals in 2017 is to be brave.” This is what Bridgette Dutkowski told me when I asked if she’d be willing to write about her experience at the Women’s March on Washington. While you may or may not recognize her name from our Monthly Reading Edits, Bridgette lends her vast talents when mine fall short, with a methodical attention to detail and the uncanny ability to crack the whip when shit needs to get done. She’s been an invaluable sounding board for me in all aspects of the W&D brand and I’ve come to trust her gut almost as much as I trust my own. Thank you, Bridgette, for stepping out and sharing your story. – Kate
I’m a white, middle-class woman in my (gulp) late 30s. I’m very happily married, with two kids and I live in a nice neighborhood in the capital city of a progressive state. What in the hell do I have to complain about? These are the thoughts that raced through my head as I purchased my business class airplane ticket and booked my Airbnb loft in preparation for the Woman’s March on Washington, which happened January 21st, the day after the inauguration of our or new President.
I’ve personally had never had to capital “F” fight for any of my rights. I grew up with (somewhat) progressive parents that raised me to believe that I could do and be anything as long as I worked hard enough. While by no means wealthy, both of my parents worked at stable jobs in the medical field and made a comfortable living; we never had to worry about our next meal or if we would have a roof over our heads the next month. My parents worked hard, so my sister and I could have every advantage to succeed. Even after my parents divorced, my mother raised us without wanting or need, believing that the world was a fair and just place. That the proverbial glass ceiling was mine to shatter; that one day, we would see a woman president. But that was the 90s.
I was raised to believe that prejudice was going to be a thing of the past, that the marches and civil unrest of the 1960s were the beginning of lasting change. That the hard work that my parents and that their generation had put in would be enough.
We got comfortable, and history repeated itself. Or, more accurately, I was raised comfortable, and I allowed history to repeat itself.
By growing up with every advantage I had, I was blissfully unaware of the reality of others. I’m not naive to think that injustice didn’t still happen in the world, but I had believed that these were isolated incidents and not part of the day-to-day reality for a vast part of the population. Along with a penchant for hard work, I may have also inherited my mother’s rose-colored view of the world, along with my father’s tendency to ignore and suppress the bad things and experiences in life.
The election stirred up feelings of anger, frustration, sadness for me, and many others like me. These emotions are not about how my candidate lost, and another won. My feelings don’t stem from not having a woman president or sour grapes; these emotions are from watching the change that so many had fought for and the rights (that I had admittedly been taking for granted) being threatened.
I was frustrated and angry and didn’t know what I, as one individual could do to affect change. I was out of my element. For the entirety of my life, I could rely on having these rights, and progression and seemingly overnight, that had shifted. I could not longer guarantee that affordable healthcare will be available for my retired parents. I felt like a liar teaching my daughter bodily autonomy; that no one has the right to touch her if she doesn’t want to be touched. All the while in the back of my mind is a direct quote from our newly elected President: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” I can’t guarantee that my daughter’s body, and the decisions that go along with it, belong to her.
These rights that were confidently mine, to pass along to my children, are no longer assured.
All of these reasons are why I chose to leave my comfortable, little bubble and go to Washington D.C. to march.
I march to have my voice heard. I march to speak for those that can’t. I march to show my government that I will be holding them accountable for their actions. I march to assure the rights, which I took for granted, are there for not only my children but for all children.
I am only one person, but if I am one of many, my voice will be heard. I will not give up, and I will sure as hell not go quietly into the night.
Am I late to the party? Absolutely. But I’m here now, and I’m not going back.