by Erin Arizzi
Last week, we published an awesome post by NARAL NC volunteer Joey Honeycutt. Joey wrote about her experience at the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, and how it shaped her commitment to pro-choice activism and advocacy. After reading Joey’s post, I couldn’t stop thinking about the significance of the 2004 March, not just for Joey, but for myself, and for all the other young women who happened to be there.
I don’t quite know how I heard about the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. It was before Facebook or Twitter, and long before I had a consistent daily practice of reading the news. But I know that I read about it somewhere, and was determined to find a way to get there.
In the Spring of 2004, I was a freshman at a Catholic University that was far more conservative than I had gleaned from the glossy brochures at accepted students weekend. More conservative than the church I had grown up in, my family, or my high school. During the activities fair in the fall of that year, I had signed up to be part of the campus’s “Feminist United” chapter, but I never received any emails about meeting times or activities. All I had to show for it was a sticker I proudly placed on my desk in the dorm room I shared with a roommate who was not sympathetic to my cause. I tried to find outlets for my political outrage, but mostly I found myself getting into heated debates with pro-lifers over frozen yogurt at the after-hours convenience store attached to the freshman dining hall. I was desperate to find a community of young people who were as enraged about the Bush presidency as I was, and who could help me to get better at articulating my rage in ways that were smart and well-reasoned, because at the time, I was mostly screaming and yelling.
When I read about the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, I decided this was my big chance. My campus was sending a van full of anti-choice students to DC to protest the March (of course), but as far as I could tell, there was no coalition going to actually participate. I was not brave enough to take the trip all by myself– I was not a particularly street savvy 18 year-old– so I sent an email to a pro-choice organization at UPenn, and asked if I could tag along. The leader of the organization sounded pretty horrified that my school wasn’t sending a bus full of students, and she invited me to pile onto the UPenn bus to DC.
On April 25, 2004, I woke up bright and early and boarded the commuter train to Philly, where I followed my mapquest directions to the UPenn office where I was to meet my new friends. They gave me a T-shirt and off we went. I had never been to a political rally before. I had never even been to DC. Needless to say, the experience is a bit of a blur in my memory. What I remember is not the speakers or the musicians or the celebrity guests, but the feeling of walking through the nation’s capital in solidarity with over one million women. In the background of all of those people marching on behalf of women’s rights to healthcare, I remember seeing the national monuments for the first time.
It was an incredibly formative experience. I did not transform into a different person, but I felt for the first time that I was part of something bigger than myself, a movement that stretched beyond my own memory, and my own individual experience as a white kid from the suburbs of NYC.
I don’t think that you can get that feeling from reading articles on your laptop, or from emailing your senator through change.org. It’s about being there, in the flesh. That’s why it’s so important that we take time out of our hectic schedules to show up when it counts. That’s why I hope you will join me, my friends, NARAL NC, and all of the other members of this coalition effort* at the Not In Her Shoes Rally next Wednesday, March 20 at noon. Politicians don’t walk in women’s shoes, and they shouldn’t be making medical decisions for them, plain and simple. Join us next week at Halifax Mall in downtown Raleigh to tell lawmakers that we oppose legislative attacks on North Carolina women, and it’s time they start listening to us. Here’s to hoping our collective action helps invigorate a whole new generation of pro-choice feminists:)
*ACLU of North Carolina, IPAS, Lillian’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, NC NOW, NC Women Matter, North Carolina Women United, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, and Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina
Erin Arizzi is the Communications Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. She is a PhD student and teaching fellow in Communication Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric from UNC-CH, and a BA in English from Villanova University in Pennsylvania.