What a couple of days it’s been.
On Friday, I was taken over by so many mixed feelings – sadness, nostalgia, incredulity, anger, fear – while watching the inauguration on TV.
I never watch TV during the day with Louise around, but I made an exception this time. Since my teenage years I have always followed the American elections and on Friday, for the first time, all the events were not happening while I was asleep, at school or at work but in my time zone. Honestly, the main reason I turned the TV on was to have a chance to catch a last glimpse of the Obamas, to keep them on the fore line just a little bit longer. Until the moment they got into that helicopter, it felt like things were not that bad, they were still there, like a shield of hope, kindness, intelligence and class which was protecting us all. The image of the new president, vice-president and their respective spouses waving from the stairs as the helicopter was flying away is when reality sunk in. Yes, shit just got real.
Thankfully, looking after a toddler is the best distraction and I soon had to turn the TV off again and spare myself watching the rest of the ceremony.
On Saturday, we went to join the Detroit Women march. I did not think long about joining it or not – I just checked the details and asked my husband if he was up for it. I just knew we needed to be there, even for a short time. It could not be a normal Saturday.
It was a very family friendly march, full of colours and good humour, starting in the heart of Wayne University campus in Midtown. The day was too warm for January – a perfect March/march day! Lots of women were there, of course – all ages and skin colours mixed – and lots of men too– fathers pushing prams or holding their daughters ‘hand, husbands, grand fathers, some even holding signs.
As I stood there, in the sun, reading the signs around me, I suddenly started crying. I think until that moment, I had not fully grasped how bad the situation was, how terrible it was to still have to stand outside in protest to protect not only women’ rights, but also the rights of anyone not fitting the mould of traditional white male. I thought about my grand mother, who during her lifetime saw so much progress in terms of women’s rights and was so fiercely independent and proud of it. To give an idea of the changes she saw, she was older than I am today when for the first time in her life time she was allowed to take a job without her husband’s or father’s consent! That sounds like the Middle Age, but it was actually not that long ago, back in the mid 1960s in France, a bit over a decade before my own birth.
I grew up never feeling I was not as good as or not entitled to the same opportunities than boys. I was allowed to study in the same schools than boys, to chose the same careers than them. I knew we were not there yet in terms of women’s rights, that a lot was left to do to get to equality with men but at least I could say was so lucky compared to what my grand mother had experienced, and things were evolving, in the right direction.
And yesterday brought to light in such a powerful way that I was wrong or naive to feel so safe and confident. I was out in the street, like so many other people around the world, with my grand mother’s great grand daughter in my arms, for a fight that I thought was an old and dated one, one we had already partly won. That what made me feel so sad. We actually can never take our rights for granted. I saw a girl holding the sign “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit” and waved at her. That summed up, more than any other sign, how I felt. This sign has been seen in a few too many marches recently. Too many because every time this sign is used, anywhere in the world, it is bad news for women and for minorities. It means someone feels the need to take it out because rights we take for granted are under threat.
In 2017, I cannot believe I have to protest to ensure women, the LGBT community, minorities, people with a skin colour that is not pasty white, people who speak with an accent, people who were born in a different country, children, the disabled, anyone and everyone who does not fit the traditional white male mould, have the rights they are entitled to, are treated with love and respect.
Today I took my daughter (and my husband!) to the march with me. She’s 14 months old, she’s smart, funny, adorable. She had no idea what all of this was about. I showed her the signs and the colours, took her out of her pram so she could see better. She smiled and waved at some people, hid her face in my neck when people were waving back. We took some pictures, to remember the day. When she’s a grown up, I’ll remind her she was out with us on that day. And I hope that she will just look at the pictures as the memories of something that may be mentioned in history books, a day of protest that would not be relevant anymore. Because hopefully society will have evolved in the right way. Because hopefully the election of Donald Trump and the hate rhetoric from GOP will only have been a hiccup. Because hopefully, when she’s a grown up woman, we won’t need to protest that shit anymore.