Missing the March
On Saturday January 21, millions of people around the world marched and protested in their respective cities in support of women’s rights. I didn’t, though. This was a conscious decision I made for a handful of reasons, none of which I feel are necessarily justifiable. In the office the following Monday, I responded, “It’s not really my thing,” to any coworker who asked if I’d marched, but that was an oversimplified answer I used to avoid explaining why I had chosen not to participate. I didn't want to discuss my internal conflicts that rub up against my feminist pride, including my aversion to public political statements, and the anxiety I feel when immersed in large crowds. In my fluorescently lit cubicle, I didn't want to turn small talk into an awkward, seemingly defensive monologue. I avoided listing all of my personal hang-ups that kept me from participating in the march. Instead, I’ve chosen to sort out all of these conflicting emotions now.
I do consider myself a feminist. I believe in equal rights, opportunities, and pay for women. I think women may even be capable of more than men because it seems we have to work harder to be taken seriously. Often I become frustrated with double standards and male privilege, even in the female-dominated publishing industry. Recently, I found myself in a fratty basement bar in the East Village, catching up with my college ex-boyfriend. Not more than five minutes into the conversation, we arrived at the topic of job salary. Granted, he chose to work in finance and I became a writer, but the fact that he makes more than double my salary bothered me to no end. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “I’m smarter than you!” in his face. Regardless of my brash delivery, he didn’t even try to contradict me. He just sheepishly said, “I’m good at what I do.”
I’m not sure that proves I’m a feminist. It might just be an example of me being a filterless jerk, but I would like the record to show that I consider myself a feminist.
That said, when I first heard about the women’s march, the idea of it made me squirm. Thinking about it now even makes me uncomfortable. I’m not quite sure why, but the thought of posting an Instagram photo of myself in a “future is female” t-shirt holding a sign that says “girls just wanna have fun-damental rights” makes me want to hide in my bed underneath the covers. Bashful is not a suitable adjective to describe my personality, but I’ve recently found myself becoming suddenly shy whenever it comes to any issue that is even remotely political. Whether my opinions are popular or not, I prefer to mull, over-analyze, and debate internally before sharing my views with others.
I also experience what I call people claustrophobia. I am just fine when tucked into a small place like an MRI machine, but if I am surrounded by masses of people in every direction, I get really anxious. I don’t like being squished or pushed. I have a nausea-inducing fear of being trampled to death and I always worry that I won’t be able to get out whenever I find myself in a large crowd. I once took too many hits of a joint at an outdoor music festival before John Mayer even got on stage. I had a minor panic attack because we were in the center of a very large throng of concertgoers. My friend Becky helped me push to the outskirts where I sat sweating and huddled on the ground in a ball while John Mayer sang Daughters. Thus, I tend to avoid situations where I might find myself encircled by people. A march, for example. And I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind that individuals who commit terror and hate crimes often target such populous events. It saddens me that I had this dark thought, but unfortunately this is a realistic scenario.
These two reasons—my disinclination to express my political views and my enochlophobia (yes, there is an actual name for this fear)—were the forces that drove me away from energized people protesting in Midtown and toward an afternoon of drinking at Spring Lounge.
Despite my deliberate decision, I did feel a pang in my chest that stemmed from a combination of guilt and FOMO. The coverage on social media was very inspiring and made me question my decision to sit out the march. As I scrolled through dozens of Instagram posts, mostly pictures of people I know and celebrities marching in cities across the country, I double-tapped each photo in solidarity. They were all making history, participating in something monumental, and here I was just sipping on beers in Nolita.
I know I might have acceptable reasons for why I didn’t march, but I still don’t feel great about my decision. Are my own anxieties and aversions valid excuses to allow my fellow women to fight for my rights without me? I don’t know. Probably not. But on the other hand, is marching the only way to support women’s rights? No, it’s not. In a time when America’s political climate does not guarantee equal rights for women, I should probably spend more time thinking about what I can do and acting upon it, rather than analyzing what I did not do.
Morgan Goldberg lives in TriBeCa and works as an editorial assistant at Food & Wine magazine. She spends most of her time eating dumplings, or wishing she were eating dumplings.