Folio — From the April 2017 issue

The March on Everywhere

The ragged glory of female activism

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I was at a Maryland travel plaza just off I-95 when I finally saw them, en masse and outfitted: the women. They were emerging from the fog like visions, their bodies spectral and streetlamp-lit, walking alone and with friends, with canes, with glowing cigarettes between their fingers; with boots over their jeans, with their daughters and mothers, with paper cups of coffee in their hands. They were headed into the rest stop, its vertical windows rising from the mist like church spires. They were holding doors for one another, asking, “Did I just cut you in line?” They were buying sodas and bananas. They were going to the bathroom. They were letting pregnant women go first. They were in utero, they were in wheelchairs, and they were all headed where I was headed: to the corner of 3rd Street and Independence Avenue.

At the Women’s March on Washington © Lucas Jackson/Reuters

At the Women’s March on Washington © Lucas Jackson/Reuters

When I arrived at that travel plaza — with my friends Rachel and Joe and their eleven-week-old baby, Luke — it felt like a mythical village of Amazon women had been transplanted from the jungle to the harsh fluorescent lighting of a highway rest stop. That night on I-95, arms full of licorice and chips, we didn’t yet know the statistics of our surge. There would be half a million people in Washington, three times the size of Donald Trump’s inaugural crowd, and more than 800 demonstrations on seven continents, with an estimated 4.2 million people marching in this country alone: probably the largest protest in American history. But already, we were made of nerves and excitement. We were buzzed on coffee. We were breastfeeding babies. We were part of a creature with 4 million faces. We were a bunch of strangers intoxicated by our shared purpose, which is to say: we were a we.

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is the author of The Empathy Exams (Graywolf Press). Her essay “Giving Up the Ghost” appeared in the March 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

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