Back in January 2017 I went on the frankly fabulous Women's March in London, which I left feeling fired-up and excited. It felt like change was happening. Now we're reaching the end of the year, and the momentum feels like it's still strong with the #metoo awareness 'campaign'. Last night was the Reclaim the Night march in London, and I was keen to attend. However, I'd learned some lessons from the first march.
Lesson 1. Take a sign. I'd felt pretty naked without a placard in January, so I ran to the art shop to equip myself. While marching at the start of year, we'd taken notes of the successful signs, and talked about how we'd make one. I'd seen signs that didn't hold up well enough, or looked hard to hold, so I was keen to give it a go myself. Turns out, I made a pretty darn successful sign. It was easy to hold, survived the wind and easy to read. My main tip is to buy really strong tape. Gorilla tape. That sort of thing.
Lesson 2. Wrap up warm. My feet froze back in January, so I layered up this time!
I had a few questions about what my sign meant, so if you're unsure of the reference, here is a short video!
My walking buddy has a crutch, and so couldn't manage a sign, so a balloon provided an ideal way of still having a voice, without the weight or a placard.
The march ended up with a few speeches and a disco (we sadly didn't stay for the disco!), but we heard from Stella Creasy MP, Nimco Ali, Becca Mordan, Justice for Women and the Not Buying It campaign. The Reclaim the Night call speaks to a variety of causes, and we heard about FGM, strip club licensing laws, women jailed for murdering violent partners and the Istanbul Convention. Fights that get labelled 'Women's Issues' are varied and wide, and we won't all agree with each other, and we can't all get on board with every cause. And all of that is ok.
As I was walking around London, marching with a sign, I reflected on why we should bother. I noticed how people stopped and looked at us. How they filmed us. How some cheered and clapped us. And do you know what? That's why we march. We're sharing a message, spreading an idea, and giving people a moment to stop and reflect why people would bother marching. Maybe a few will go home and google it. Maybe some people will decide to join a march next time. We turned up and said 'This matters to us. It should matter to you too."
I'm going to end with a discussion I had with one of the policemen who was chaperoning the march. I overheard a passer-by say to the policeman something along the line of "Hang in there chap", which I understood to mean the passerby saw us as annoying silly women, who the policeman had to waste time supervising. I had a bit of a loud moan about it, and the policeman told me about another passerby, who had commented sarcastically, "What a great use of tax payers money," and the policeman smiled when he told me his response. "Yes. Yes it is."