(an excerpt from remarks at Women TIES Women Rising Weekend Event, 1.19.18)
Last January, I was on my way to the Women’s March in Washington DC. I was on a bus full of other women, and we were sitting in traffic on the Beltway around the City. It was full of vehicles, not moving – the regular traffic combined with buses coming in from all over the East meant things were at a standstill. Looking out the window, I saw some movement at the edge of the treeline about 50 yards away from the road. Several men were emerging from the woods. And then a few more. I recognized the gleaming from the sun hitting the barrels of the shotguns they carried and a chill went through me. They were advancing quickly on the stopped busses, some lowering the barrels, running toward us. I couldn’t shout. Other women on the bus were starting to notice them, too. We were trapped. I couldn’t scream.
I sat up, straight in bed. It was still two weeks before the 2017 Women’s March.
I told no one about that nightmare, including the friends who were planning to come with me from Ithaca – I was pretty sure none of them had previous protest experience and I didn’t want to frighten them. I certainly wasn’t telling my mother about that dream!
Instead, I sat with those images and vision, and how stress shows up in our subconscious. Some dreams are hard to decipher but this time, my fear was clear. That my country, that all I took for granted as my rights in this country as a woman, SHOULD be able to take for granted, might be taken away after the inauguration. Just like that. Like someone hitting a light switch. What were we going to find there, in DC?
Luckily the DC March was nothing like that. It was powerful, delightful even. And in the months between then and now, I have devoted a lot of time to a project to do the opposite of that nightmarish feeling of no voice – to give women a forum to use their voices. That is this book – NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology.
I worked with Nora Snyder, who writes for her website Illuminous Flux and convenes a writer’s group, the Writers Block Party, and with Cayuga Lake Books. We put it together quickly. With 2017 as the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in NY we wanted to have it out and done during the year. In all, it contains twenty-two women’s words in a variety of engaging essays, stories and poems.
A big part of the project is about making a forum for voices. The book contains contributions from previously published, known writers and also from women who had not been moved to reflect on the significance of the women’s movement, or current events, or even to share their voices through their writing much before. Nora led a number of creative writing sessions through the Writers Block Party, and a few of the pieces in the Anthology had their origins in those meet-ups.
And now, a year after the inauguration, the conversations continue. Voice has taken on a new turn because the Anthology has led to a number of interesting, important feeling discussions between myself and others, particularly men. Some of them have been pretty awkward but some wonderful and I believe that they have their place in moving things forward – it’s another way of not silencing, of finding words that can make things better for the girls and boys too in our lives. For them, we have to do better.