The Women's March War Cry
By: Felicity Edwards
Standing squeezed, elbow to elbow, in a heaving, bustling throng of people in Alexanderplatz would normally be my idea of a screaming nightmare, or just a Friday at 5:30 p.m. (17:30), but this time held some significant improvements. Firstly, I was sipping a cold beer. Secondly, despite Berlin’s sulky tantrums with the weather, the sun was flirting with the idea of coming out, and thirdly, I was amongst some of the most badass women I knew and about to march in support of one of the most important days of the year: 8th March, International Women’s Day.
It was my first time attending Berlin’s Frauentag (Women’s Day) march. Coincidentally, this was also the first year that the city had made the day an official state holiday, the only state in Germany to do so. This move contributes to the long list of reasons why I love Berlin. The decision symbolised a lot more than just an extra day off for people: it declared recognition, movement, empathy, solidarity, and progress.
As the march began snaking towards the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, there was something rather magical in the atmosphere. Music thumped, drums beat, and the crowd vibrated with power. In the midst of purple and rainbow hues, I saw that whole families had turned out, pushing buggies and holding their children’s hands, painting faces and waving flags. Placards and banners were being waved above heads with inspiring slogans (one in particular: Viva la Vulva. Inspired!). Couples kissed, friends hugged, groups chanted, strangers danced with one another. My mind became lost in a cheery reverie as I danced, shouted, and sang along with everyone. The sun eventually did break through the clouds, but the march was already beaming and glowing.
Feeling hot and slightly overwhelmed, I worked my way off to the side, out of the march to get some air, and stood aside on some steps with my eyes shut and body reverberating with the thumping beat of the drums. In that moment, something searingly hot coursed through me. I thought back to last year and what had been endured by my gender. Every inappropriate advance, every instance of workplace discrimination, every story of harassment and abuse I’d read on Facebook groups, every patronising, clueless, and misogynistic comment, every news headline about a sexual predator, every crappy and offensive tinder date my friends and I had been on, every woman who had been made to feel inferior, or less than, just for the fact of her gender. I felt goddamn angry.
But then I saw another side to this movement, this revolution. I thought back to every small gesture of kindness a woman had shown me, every outpouring of supportive comments and messages sent to the women who had shared their stories, every strengthening call from my mother, every awe-inspiring TED talk delivered by a female entrepreneur, every man who had shown support and sought to help, not hinder, women, every inspirational woman pursuing her dreams and projects whom I’d met in Berlin, every incredible show of a woman’s strength that I’d learnt of, and every person supporting this day around the world. I opened my eyes and smiled at the sight before me. I stepped back into the march and, once again, fell in time with the resounding beat of the drums.
As we gathered together in Oranienplatz for the finale of the march and beginning of the evening’s celebration, I paused and revelled in the momentum of International Women’s Day and the journey that had been made. The fights, the losses, the victories, the strength, the solidarity, the grit, the companionship, the love, and the unparalleled strength to change the status quo. There’s still a long way to go to reach equality, but I’ve seen through all the trials of this year that women are warriors and we will never stop fighting for our futures. Viva la Vulva!