Full disclosure: I am a feminist. For anyone who’s read my work before, this likely (and hopefully) comes as no surprise. In the year preceding the 2016 election, I found myself embracing that title with increasing vigor every day. It was not, however, until I found myself at a meeting for the Gainesville chapter of National Women’s Liberation that I fully realized just how deeply entrenched my desire to see equality had become.
For those who are unaware of NWL, they describe themselves as “a feminist group for women who want to fight back against male supremacy and win more freedom for women.” When I walked into the repurposed club the group had borrowed for the evening though, I remained unsure of what to expect. That is until I was warmly greeted by a group of women who encouraged me to sign in and find a seat. As more women piled in we began talking to each other, both nervous and excited, many having never been to one of these meetings before.
The room filled in and when I turned around and noticed the massive group of women that had assembled all around me as I took notes, I felt heartened. There’s something about being in a crowd of warm and supportive women that will always bring me joy. Maybe it is because we grow up learning to view each other as enemies—competition. Strangers embracing each other in light of our country’s current state will surely go down as one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
Most of the meeting revolved around sharing our reactions to this presidential election. Women of all different ages, races, sexual orientations and backgrounds went up to a microphone to share how they felt scared and guilty, but also how they grew hopeful at the sight of so many loving faces staring back at them—ready to fight for all of our rights.
This was not the image of the “feminist” I grew up with. The women who surrounded me on all sides were angry. But more than that, they felt scared and tired of being told that their rights and humanity were somehow lesser. We never hear about these things when our society derides the “angry feminists.” We don’t hear about their throats closing up and eyes welling with tears as they tell the truth of their experiences. We don’t hear about the love, support and collectivism that fills those spaces. Simply put, we don’t hear the truth.
In an effort to share this truth with you I am including below some of the powerful words I heard that evening. To protect the rights and privacy of these brave women who shared their hopes and fears in a safe space, I will not include their names.
“The most disappointing thing to me is feeling like black lives don’t matter to white people in this country…For the first time in my life I worry about being murdered by the police or by gun-toting white people.”
“I hope [Trump] is the last anti-person extremist that we vote into office.”
“I did this thing we all do as women: I let myself hope.”
“This election is widespread but I have definitely lost half of my family.”
“I am exhausted. And that means I put my boots on.”
“How am I supposed to teach my daughter her body is hers?”
“One good thing has happened—seeing all of you rise up.”
“Now I realize that I failed. I didn’t work hard enough. I had more energy, and I f–ked up.”
“I’m ready to fight. I know how to fight, and I’m ready to join you in this.”
“This country is not Trump. F–k that. This country is not Trump.”
“I was ready to build something positive and I woke up gutted.”
“What this election has shown us is how much misogyny is in our lives, and I don’t think we should back down, I think we should fight.”
“I’ve been way too quiet, because it’s easy…but I won’t be quiet anymore, not since the election.”
“I had a lot of hope on Tuesday, I think a lot of us did. After feeling the most hopeful I ever did, I was feeling really low.”
“Physical safety. I think we’re all in a stage of being physically afraid for ourselves.”
“We want to offer, we want to demand, and we want to build solidarity.”
“I told my kids, ‘Kids, mom’s going to be fighting fascism for the next four years so there’s going to be some changes around here.’”
“Anything you have to give, it’s enough…Whatever you’re doing is enough, if you’re doing something.”