Firmly entrenched in the backseat of her mom’s mid-2000’s Honda Accord sits UW-Milwaukee graduate student Anna Burant. She has spent the week mentally and physically preparing for 20-hour drive that traverses roughly half of the continental United States laterally. Burant will be joined by her mother and aunt—three strong matriarchal figures in a large Midwestern family—on this long journey. The drive will only have one brief couple-hour stop in Detroit to pick up Burant’s aunt and nap for a bit. That is it. The trio will then have to replicate the drive just a couple days later so Burant, a graduate student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program, can get back to start classes on Monday. But she isn’t at all intimidated by the trek that lies ahead, she has done drives of this nature many times over the course of her life. Burant took many long road trips with her family growing up, but this one is a little different. Unlike all trips of similar distance and time on the road that preceded the one present, this is not for recreation. This is what she considers a call to action.
Burant is heading to Washington D.C. to join many thousands of women and allies in the ‘Women’s March on Washington’. The march– and its around 300 ‘sister marches’ around the country and world– are taking to the streets to bring further awareness to the battle for women’s equality. The main march in Washington is set to fill large stretches of Independence Avenue, so much so that there’ll be several large jumbotrons around the area for those who cannot see the stage. Burant felt she did not have an option to sit this out and stay on the sidelines; the stakes are just too high.
“You’ve got to make noise and rock the boat to inspire change,” Burant said.
As to why now, to Burant and the organizers of the march, the 2016 election cycle and its eventual outcome made actions such as the ones that will take place all over the world on Saturday a necessity. Saturday, specifically, because it is the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration…a person that those protesting feel to be a major enemy to the fight for women’s equality. Below is an excerpt from the website that organized the march: www.womensmarch.com.
‘The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.’
The website also lists a set of issues that the organization hopes to bring awareness to and eventually address through legislative means. The site’s ‘Unity Principles’ include: ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, disability rights and environmental justice.
Burant’s beliefs fall in line with those of the organizers on all of the above listed topics, but she feels more impassioned by those most relevant to her currently.
“The most important women’s rights issues personally are reproductive rights and the rights of women in regards to rape culture,” Burant said. “I know equal pay is a big issue in women’s rights but it doesn’t effect me as much currently.”
When those fighting for women’s equality look at President-elect Trump with all of the scandal around him relating to treatment of women at the end of the election cycle, they’re infuriated and worried by what the new head of the executive branch may do in regards to women’s rights. But for march supporters, the fear and anger merely starts with Trump. His vice president, Mike Pence, supported and signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as governor of Indiana. This bill allows discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA community by businesses on religious grounds. Beyond this bill, he has long been an opponent to gay marriage and rights in general over the course of a career that has taken him to congress, the governorship of Indiana and now, vice president. When it comes to women’s rights, Pence sat atop of a state government that has drained so much funding from Planned Parenthood that rural clinics all over the state have been forced to close. One particular closing in Scott County, Indiana was said to be the primary cause of an HIV outbreak in the area, as the PP clinic was the only location in the area that offered HIV testing and treatment. Pence also signed a bill last spring that made abortions even more difficult to obtain in a state that already had strict restrictions. Indiana is also a state where women make 75 cents to one male dollar, and two-thirds of those on minimum wage are women. Lastly, he voted against fair wage bills as a member of the U.S. Congress three times: once in 2007 and twice in 2009.
With the pro-life pairing of Trump-Pence at the top, a Republican-held congress and the likely soon to-be injection of a new conservative Supreme Court justice, the desperate-necessary-imperative nature of the need to act for women, based on what seems to come, is the reason many thousands of women and allies like Burant are taking to DC and streets around the world this weekend. Because, to them, the stakes are too high to ignore this call to action.
When asked what this weekend meant to herself, her family, and the many thousands protesting worldwide she pointed to this:
“…we must stand against tyranny, oppression and misogyny because of the immediate threat on people’s lives. We march for each other.”