A Window to Our World: Moments from My First March

STORY BY Bianca Nieves FOR THE STYLE LINE – Photo by Bridget Badore for The Style Line via our Women’s March Meet Up

On Saturday, January 20th, 2018, as I was approaching

the end of the Women’s March, I took out my phone, and wrote this down (typos no longer included):
‘For how long we have been marching
stampeding over
those who have made the pavement we currently walk on
Who have lead the way through
Barricades, borders, and closed doors
Today I march,
become part of a body.
I occupy a space as an individual; I march as a whole.
Is this how it feels to have phantom limbs
To do, to feel, to move
All while missing
those who have done, felt and moved (us) the most?’

Rewriting and rereading these notes now, I truly believe it encompasses what this march meant to me. Here’s why:

Ever since I read excerpts of Sarah Ahmed’s Willful Subjects in college, I became a self-proclaimed killjoy (my best friend would say, it’s a full-time job). Ahmed defines being a killjoy as, ‘to be willing to go against a social order, which is protected as a moral order, a happiness order is to be willing to cause unhappiness, even if unhappiness is not your cause.’ You see, it was my first march and the Women’s March was one of the platforms I tended to dissect and ‘kill’ the most — since marching for some is the perfect performative act of ‘practicing what you preach’ while still hiding behind deeply rooted racial biases, pussy hats, and white feminism.

However, after meeting the intimate group that The Style Line put together with women of different backgrounds and interests, but overall willingness of maintaining an inclusive, open and difficult (but very much needed) conversation going, my stride picked up with more intention and force as we reached our starting point. We all had our own intentions to ‘kill,’ and go against everything that made us unite for a second time since the election of 2016 while highlighting: intersectionality, healthcare, black lives matter, LGTBQ+ rights, DREAMERS act, etc. I realized we were going to cause unhappiness in our own ways.

We entered at 64th street on 9th avenue and all the way down to 43rd street; the weather was in our favor, I contemplated my mood and experience. As we immersed ourselves in a sea of signs, slowly walking across the avenues towards the march, the shade between the buildings towering over us made our different chants a bubbling roar waiting to explode. And after sneakily dashing through the crowd and finally landing on 8th avenue, the sun welcomed us, showering us: an open invitation to chant, dance, manifest, and claim our space. From Columbus Circle onwards, the shade received us once again as our shouts became more subdued, and the signs became the primary means of communication. Shadows seemed to recreate the weight of the signs that meant the most to me: “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit” and “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Yes, I continue to see the march as the performative table of the bigger table that is society. However, I now experienced firsthand what makes this table (that extended itself between streets and avenues of NYC and across the country) so vital: it allows us to question and further expand the idea of what a woman’s issue is. Sure, the Women’s March still meets the standards of public comfort, a mass of bodies that choose to go along with it, but when zoomed in, it is willfulness embodied. As Sarah Ahmed would state, [it’s] a refusal to look away from what has already been looked over.

So, when I hit the crossway at 43rd St, briefly forgetting if I should head east or west, and as the signs whispered and sighed in both directions, I asked myself: Where would they go? What would the people holding them do? What would I do? I decided I’d perform less, do more; make solidarity the baseline of all actions of discomfort.

You should too.

A Window To Our World began as space for commentary from our growing global community surrounding the events of the 2016 presidential election. As a result, this series now features stories and accounts from our interviewees on how they are changing the current political, social, and environmental climate for the better.