Liberty, Equality, Sorority

Saturday March 9th, 2019

Today, I marched. I held my ‘liberty, equality, sorority’ sign up for hours even though my arms hurt, though the wind was blowing and the rain was pouring down. I marched for women. I marched for my sisters, not my ‘cisters’. We were thousands but I felt connected, supported, united with all of these people.

In that march, I am taken back to the memory of how it all began for me.

It was my last year of primary school, I was ten. At lunch time, I ran outside to enjoy a well-deserved break. The school yard was divided in two: in the centre, the field where the boys preferred to play football and on the sides, the covered areas where the girls stayed. My friends and I decided to play witches, as fighting imaginary monsters is easier when you have magical powers. However, you were not allowed to run under the covered areas: a little problematic when trying to escape monsters.

So we decided that maybe today the guys would let us run in the middle, or play football with them. However, their answer was clear: You cannot play football, you run like girls.

That bothered me very much. I didn’t really want to play football, but some of my friends did. One ran faster than the wind, and the other lived for football, so I didn’t understand these reactions. I stood there and asked my friends: why is it always the guys that play in the middle of the schoolyard? Why can’t they play something else for once? Why did they say we ran like girls as if it were a bad thing? Why did they sound so superior?

I did what any confused child would do: I went to my teacher for answers. I insisted it was not right. That it was unfair that we could be pushed aside like this, that my friends could not play football.

My teacher declared that I had a case and that I should present it to the class: I froze. I would have to speak in front of people, which terrified me (that has not changed since). However, my will to defend my friends was stronger than my fear of speaking in front of my classmates.

I went before the blackboard and started by saying that the issue was related to all the girls in our class. To my surprise, my teacher asked them to join me. As I was standing there in front of all the boys, with the girls standing beside me, I felt invincible.

My fear was gone: Because I knew they had my back.

I made my speech, saying that we were tired of the guys looking down on us. That being a girl did not mean that we could not play sports and that they should share the space with us. That beyond giving us our space in the schoolyard, they should give us our space in discussions too: my friend had a lot to say about football, regardless of her gender.

I did what I thought was right, without even knowing what it meant to be a feminist.

This feeling of invincibility I felt again today, at the Women’s March in Amsterdam. I marched because people long ago marched to earn the rights I enjoy today, and I marched because I want more. I want equality. I want equality in representation. I want equality of opportunity. I want equality of rights, and more. I want this for women, for the LGBTQI+ community, for refugees, for sex workers: the list goes on, because all oppression is connected.

The crowd today was a little different than when I was 10. Indeed, it was not just 15 girls and a teacher supporting the same cause I did. Today, I saw all kinds of people: women, men, queer, young, old, Black, White, Asian. Thousands of them, all unique. That is how I now understand feminism: as intersectionality and inclusivity.

Today, I screamed and I marched, and I will continue to do so until no ten year-olds get confused about gender norms and sexism.