Women hold up half the sky

By Marguerite Jill Dye

“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise,” said Maya Angelou, an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

The day after the inauguration, women’s marches took place in 673 American cities and towns in what turned out to be the biggest protest in U.S. history and in 66 countries worldwide. The Women’s March in Montpelier drew over 10,000 demonstrators and was named “a great communal hug” by Madeleine Kunin. Simultaneously, about 3,000 Vermont women participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

As my husband and I marched with 10,000 people over Sarasota’s Ringling Bridge, we carried two signs stating: “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights” which I heard Hillary Clinton first proclaim at the 1995 U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, and Chairman Mao’s quote, “Women hold up half the sky.” Other signs carried other important messages, such as: “If you are not outraged you are not paying attention.” “Respect my existence or expect my resistance.” “Woman’s place is in the resistance.” “I support equal rights, equal pay, quality public education, affordable health care, diversity, and dreams.” “Silence is consent.” “Science is real.” “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.” “Men of quality do not fear equality.”

When I asked Claire Zitzow, a Millennial artist, director/curator of Sediment Gallery and adjuct professor of fine art, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, why she marched in Washington, D.C., she responded: “I attended the march because women’s rights are human rights. I attended to also be one body and soul among many who want to show the world and our leaders that we will continue to stand for equality and justice for all people. This includes the right to make healthy decisions for our bodies and our families. It includes the acknowledgement of the responsibility I have as a white woman with privilege to stand up for people of color, LGBT and transgender people, and immigrants when we see injustice and discrimination.”

Zitzow continued: “The women’s march was the most peaceful march I have ever been a part of and we showed the world that feminism is about inclusivity and seeks to change the political dialog from one of having power over others with an ‘I, me, mine’ mentality to one of the compassionate ‘we, us, ours’ approach that recognizes the intrinsic right for all people to live without fear. I marched because I believe the new administration must know that we are watching, and we will demand accountability, that we will not stand for hate speech against women in all its forms, and that we are profoundly aware of the attempts made to divide us and these attempts will not be tolerated. I choose to be a part of a historical moment because I knew the energy would motivate me to do more, to work harder with others to achieve these goals, and it has.”

Another Millennial artist friend, Kate Austin-Avon, grew up in Killington and lives in Glens Falls. “When Bernie Sanders lost the primary, his message was that it’s our turn now. We need to get involved if we want our government to represent us. My sister Erika Austin said back then that I should get involved in politics. It got me thinking that American government needs a voice that isn’t there now or isn’t strong enough. If we want our politicians to truly do what we want, we need to become them.”

Austin-Avon is planning an Arts Trail, organizing tourism/marketing discussions, and is part of the Glens Falls Downtown Revitalization Initiative and Collaborative as owner of Advokate, a marketing/design firm.

“I feel like I have some good ideas about how to bring people together and make things better. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to run for or even whether I’m going to run, but I’m interested in learning more about what would be a good fit for me, so I’m having more conversations,” she said. “The march in Glens

Falls energized me! I was feeling very dark the day of the inauguration, despairing for what this new regime means for all of us, especially feeling defeated about climate change. Close to 1,500 women, men, children and pets turned out to march in our little town of less than 15,000. I’m so glad to realize I’m among like-minded people, and that we are resolved to take care of ourselves, our women, LGBTQ friends, friends with disabilities, minority friends, and our planet. It gives me hope. Things went from gloomy to hot pink!”

Austin-Avon is the mother of two young children. When asked how she explains and engages her kids in current politics, she said: “I’m not holding anything back from my 4-year-old son Henry. I explain it in simple terms and try not to scare him, while being real. I figure he’s inheriting this world, and the earlier he learns about it, the sooner he can decide what he will do to help. I’m terrified about what he will see in his lifetime. We have destroyed this planet. Kids are smart – smarter than we are! You’re never too young to do good. He made a sign that says, ‘Don’t take away my health insurance!’ But he wouldn’t put pants on, so he didn’t march in the parade. He’s smart, but he’s still 4.”

I was heartened to find caring Millennials and other generations younger than most of our leaders who are stepping forward to take positive action for change. I most eagerly look forward to the results. As Jimi Hendrix famously quipped: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

Marguerite Jill Dye is an author and artist who is grateful to live in the Green Mountains of Vermont and on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband, Duane. She recently created a magical paper cut world to illustrate “Where is Sam?” Sandra Gartner’s hide and seek story celebrates the loving bond between a grandmother and her grandson.


Photo by Jill Dye

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