How the Women's March in Washington Changed My Life

How the Women's March in Washington Changed My Life

Kate Nash—the London-born, LA-based singer—traveled to Washington to march and this is her experience.
January 24, 2017, 2:26pm

Being part of the largest protest in US history was a life changing experience for me. My mother is a feminist and a nurse and she's not afraid of much. Growing up I remember my two sisters and I would go red with embarrassment when she complained in hotels or restaurants, when she stood up for us at school, when she argued with the TV, and called the BBC make an official complaint. She rallied for the Labour Party before it was New Labour and has worked for the NHS for over 40 years. Politics and justice were simply a part of every day life for our family. As I grew up I understood what my mother was fighting for and teaching us. I have never been afraid to speak my mind and that is because my mother is never afraid to.

On Saturday my personal feminism progressed over night. I had the opportunity to go to the Washington march with a friend I have known since school, Emilyne Mondo. Emilyne—that's Mondo to her friends—is an actress, model, and social activist. She's also the founder of the Soma Library, a program that sends books to rural areas of Uganda and we have been debating the world, politics, and social justice since we were 15 on the train to Selhurst on the way to the BRIT school back in 2003.

We both happened to be in New York this week and managed to snag a space on the Refinery29 bus leaving at 1:45 AM the night before. We woke up sick and had quite the dramatic back and forth over whether we were going to the march. I felt it had to be Mondo's final decision. As a black woman our concerns for safety if things turned for the worse with riots or police would affect her more than me. At 1:07 AM she called me to say we were going. We expected traffic, but ran into none, our Refinery29 organizers were authoritative and precise with our routing, schedule, and safety. We walked from the stadium that all the buses were parked in, about a 40 minute walk to the first morning rally. The roads were lined with army, police, and military vehicles. We were welcomed, even thanked for coming! There were pink beads hung on the side mirrors of the vehicles and many of the officers were also wearing or holding pink beads. We were quite shocked by this as we had read and been warned about Trump debriefing police and police cameras being removed for the day. Although we were relieved to experience this, when talking to our American friends of color about it post-march, it was extremely frustrating for them; this would most certainly have not been the case had there been POC marching in the majority.

As we arrived at the rally, walking towards all the iconic buildings of DC, I felt something heavy in the air, it was as if the weight and intensity of the city and why we were there was over hanging in the thick, white, purgatory sky above. We walked alongside thousands. We talked to strangers, took pictures of their signs, asked them why they were there. The atmosphere was exciting, emotional, exhausting, and invigorating. We sat and watched performance protests… and were told to fuck off by a girl that looked distressed and almost possessed holding up a "Real feminists are pro life" sign. Extreme right wing Christians also blasted us with threats of burning in hell, but in total I think we experienced just three anti-marchers. Nothing became aggressive. I looked to the women around me as we marched as a cue to how we were responding as a group. We weren't. The march plodded on, stomping peacefully, chanting for black lives matter, water, muslim women, women's bodies, and the LGBTQ community.

Kate Nash with friends @rubykean @minniekemp @emilynemondo @albie_alexander @claire_fitzsimmons

One of the aspects the march underscored for me was this notion that white women must recognize their privilege, their responsibility, and the frightening reality that 52 percent of white educated women voted for Trump. A woman's body is whatever she decides it is. What she does with it is her choice, and how she feels about it. A woman is not defined by her genitals, a woman's identity is her choice. Feminism must be intersectional to be progressive, and as a white woman with a platform, I apologize for any ways I have not realized that, any ways I have excluded anyone from my feminism, and for ignorant mistakes in the past. This is not radical, this is merely inclusive—the only way to create change and move forward. To me the march felt peaceful and accepting of all.

We all have the right and the choice to feel feminine, or masculine, or neither. Recently, I came out on Twitter as sexually fluid. Not something that has ever felt like an identity to me before. I have always felt sexually fluid, but it's never been something I've felt the need to express publicly before because in general I try to be private about my personal life, and it's also not a conflict in my mind. I am also lucky in another respect: the sex of my partner is immaterial to my parents. Nevertheless, in the last week I felt it was important to put this out there because basic civil rights are at threat, and not realizing that is dangerous and irresponsible. I want my fans to know that they have a safe space at my shows and in my music, if they don't have it in their home and if they lose it in their country.

Post march, Emilyne feels "no regrets and pure joy" about participating. She spoke to a lot of women of color (specifically before attending), and was surprised to discover that most of her friends of color were not attracted to the march because their initial feelings were "this is not for us." She herself vetted the official organizers before attending and felt they'd made it clear from the offset that it was inclusive, that their team was extremely diverse. We spoke of fears and anxieties we had because of our knowledge of the police brutality that has been exposed so clearly and violently online over the past few years. Mondo has a lot of feelings regarding "the psyche of fear" and how important it is to "march through fear with a peaceful heart when it is about something bigger than ourselves." She says that we must "accept some hard truths… if white women can understand how much more powerful you become when you accept that the old ideals of feminism, that only served one group of people, was not helping all women, it can only make you more empowered and make being stronger together a reality rather than a slogan."

I cried when I got home and read that people marched in Nairobi and in Antarctica and many more far-flung places inbetween. My sisters shared images and their experiences of London with me. My older sister made posters. She hasn't drawn in such a long time I actually forgot she was an artist. She said she's never been more motivated and inspired in her life. Millions of people worldwide feel this way, they have been shaken to their core. I left the march feeling hopeful and feeling proud of the world, a feeling I don't know I've ever felt before. The global connection we have online has made it possible for responses to fascism to be instant and for us to see parts of the world we wouldn't normally have access to. Online we can continue to learn faster than ever and ask the questions, who had a different experience to me? Who was excluded from this march and why? And how do we continue to bridge that gap and support all oppressed people and empower them?  I am grateful to be alive in a time when this kind of communication is possible. I think it makes real change a possibility. Thanks to everyone who stepped out and supported the planet and all people. I am so impressed with the grace of this historical moment. Now let's make it a movement.

Here are two actions to take in the meantime.

1. If you're in New York I'm hosting a panel tonight at 172 Allen Street, Bluestockings Bookstore 7.30 PM, live streamed 8.00 PM via @katenash Instagram Live.

2. Volunteer forMIND on my upcoming UK tour dates starting February 6th. Get a free ticket to my show, a meet and greet, and help fight the stigma surrounding mental health. I believe the first and most important step to changing the world is loving ourselves, understanding our brains and learning how to cope with our chemistry.

_Kate Nash is a singer and actor based in LA. Follow her on Twitter. _