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From the Far Margins

A message from women

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I can't speak for every woman, just a large swath of us who are fortunate enough to have exited the shelter of limited expectations built for us at a far too early age. We might have been the ones called "pretty," "quiet," "unladylike"; might have been the ones who studied parental power dynamics or borrowed the boys' erector sets. We're the larger, often more durable half of the species—the glue of communities and nations, a force for justice, compassion or just what is more gray than black-and-white. We can be fierce in the defense of the ideas or people we love. Many men are like us, too, for gender is not binary. People aren't born all one thing and none of the other.

Some wouldn't give those of us who walk the world as women the full menu of options in education, employment or parenting roles, or the liberty of hair, dress, speech or bodily autonomy. We have laws against physical violation or discrimination that are meant to protect our freedoms; but, in America, we leave a lot to the internal moral compass of the individual. This means one can still incite violence or cruelty against whole segments of American society from places as low as the sidewalk or as high as the office of the president.

But to be clear: American women are just not going to accept being peed on. We brace ourselves for the inauguration and—respectfully—so many of us say:

Whip that out, orange man, and you'll lose it. We'll Bobbitt your hobbit, sever your cocktail sausage. Just step up and test us. Test our dignity. See how brave you feel with your pants down.

Women are not your porn flick fantasy. We do not exist for your gratification, ornamentation or amusement. We occupy half the world and, without our full cooperation, any plan you lay out for America will suffer.

Notice women at the communications hub of even the most male-dominated organizations, corporations and even military regiments. Sometimes, these are the only jobs we've been steered toward—anywhere else we had to be a 10-times smarter, more hard working and persistent than men before we would have been allowed a seat at the table.

If you think of our organizing and presence in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21 as anything but a warning notice, perhaps you should pause in your frenetic talking and tweeting long enough to look around you. We're not just Democrats, but Republicans; not just old, but young; not just white, but brown, black and everything in between. We're not just those born under the banner 'feminist,' but many radicalized by the idea of living in a nation under a president who boasted of sexual assault as if it were something all men aspired to.

From Idaho to Mississippi, women are coming to stand together in every state to register this new reality with sisters by our sides. We want to stand where we don't have to explain what is burning inside us like an oil fire on the ocean. We're not a nation of Barbie dolls, not ashamed of age, or folds or gravity. On our best days, we wear these like badges of honor and want a nation that does no less than expect that pride from us.

Many of us hoped the office of the president would be occupied by a woman. We watched the systematic efforts to humiliate her and all of us, and we took notes. No leader of a free nation will thrive believing he can lead when his tactics draw so heavily on humiliation and fear. Governance requires loyalty, and to alienate every constituency as a matter of daily speech and the maintenance of your own ego, is to fail to understand leadership and the consequences of rule by fear. People hate you. That is what happens. Those you demean do not simply become political opponents, they become people who fantasize about your utter failure, who conspire and work for your removal from office. If you make us fear too deeply for the lives of those we love or those we feel you've targeted for no other reason than their vulnerability, then you'll see us more deeply radicalized. You'll find yourself at the helm of an ocean liner, engines roaring through freezing water on the verge of trapping you by turning to solid ice.

Do not take us for granted. We vote, and we more often vote for feminists—humans who treat us like human beings. Beyond political party or gender, it is a radical notion this thing called respect, and it's not optional.

Remember we're everywhere and listening, organizing and preparing to wield the power that steers this land of our children and grandchildren, our mothers and grandmothers toward the future. It's a future that felt within our grasp—one in which our daughters wouldn't live being told they'd need knowledge of lethal force to protect themselves from rape; one where fathers and sons taught each other not to rape; one where job evaluations no longer feel like cat calls; and one where old white men no longer vote to cut our health services to score points with voters who believe our lives and health should be expendable if we do not behave the way they want.

All over America on Jan. 21 women are sending a message, listen or not but we're here and there are millions of us, just waiting for your move.

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