One of thousands makes her march

To Victoria Lambert, age 8, it was like having a march to say the sun rises in the morning.

That’s what her mother, Valerie Lambert, told me as we marched together through the streets of Washington, D.C., as part of the World March of Women 2000.

Victoria was writing a current events report for her third-grade class, Valerie explained, and she had chosen to write about the march. But for Victoria, a brown-belt in tae kwon doe, it seems obvious that women and men are equal. Why bother to have a march about it?

In another 10 or 15 years she’ll understand, I said.

About 25,000 marchers converged Sunday on the Ellipse, an expanse of lawn in view of both the Washington National Monument and the White House, to rally for the eradication of poverty and violence against women, according to Rebecca Farmer, a media relations representative for the march. American female college students comprised the overwhelming majority of the crowd, but there were sizable minorities of men, middle-aged women and women from other countries.

I was among the majority. Ever since Patricia Ireland mentioned the march at her Northwestern appearance last spring, I desperately wanted to go. Here, finally, was a march about an issue that cut straight to my uterus. Since I entered college two years ago, violence against women, specifically sexual assault, has become for me the feminist issue.

We all agree women are equal, blah, blah, blah, but for some reason half the population still fears the other half. How equal can we be when our solution to men’s violence against women is to tell women not to walk alone after dark?

As if that would help, with 40 percent of women raped at home and 75 percent of victims knowing their attacker, according to government statistics.

One out of four women is sexually assaulted in college, read a sign carried by a fellow marcher. That’s a disgusting statistic.

As he walked by, I thought: one in four. If you’re female, that’s you or one of your three friends. No one wants to accept that, but the statistical reality is that one of your friends will be raped while you know her.

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” read one woman’s T-shirt.

Some in the crowd were clearly outraged… with us. Before the march started, a small band of people protesting the protest waded through the first curious, then annoyed crowd, bearing aloft large placards like Crusaders carrying crosses into battle.

“Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve; AIDS: judgement or cure?” read one. Another sign reading “God hates sin” floated through the sea of gay pride flags.

A man on stage grabbed the microphone.

“Surprising as it may seem to some people here today — GOD LOVES EVERYBODY!” he yelled.

The crowd roared, and the march began.

It was the perfect day for rocking society. Warm, but not hot, and no hint of rain. I couldn’t see the beginning or end of the train of protesters. The line seemed to stretch for blocks. There were women in wheel chairs, lesbians holding hands, marchers drumming on water coolers. And everywhere were placards, slogans, T-shirts and flags.

“I asked God, and she’s pro-choice!”

“Stop violence against women!”

“The length of my skirt is not an excuse, f*$#rat!”

I was in my element.

What surprised me was the march’s truly international character. I knew it was named the “World March,” but I didn’t realize until I saw other countries’ delegations that women from India, Mexico and Japan would actually be present.

I started talking with a woman wearing a chadari, the body-enveloping drape Afghan women are forced to wear. Because of the heat, Rohina Baser-Panah of Virginia had pushed the veil back from her face. But her relatives back in Afghanistan have no such relief, she said.

“Imagine the 12 million women in Afghanistan who have to wear this whenever they go outside — if they’re allowed to go outside,” she said.

After the rally ended around 4:45 p.m., my thoughts mainly focused on the soreness of my feet. But I also recalled a conversation from last spring where I had tried to persuade a friend of mine to attend NU’s Take Back the Night.

She told me she didn’t want to go because it wouldn’t accomplish anything, and she didn’t like thinking about sexual assault.

Her comment still irritates me. Ignoring sexual assault won’t make it go away. True, marching on Washington won’t make it disappear tomorrow either. But I do know the first step in any 12-step program is standing up and admitting you have a problem.

Our world has a problem with sexual assault, and 25,000 people turned out Sunday to admit that. Hopefully, that action will help to change attitudes and laws concerning sexual assault, so that when Victoria Lambert grows up, a march denouncing violence against women really will be pointless. nyou

Medill junior Claire Bushey is an nyou staffer.She can be reached at [email protected].