Monday, April 26, 2004

More March Chatter

Unsurprisingly, there's great coverage of the March on Washington over at Ms. Musings - particularly this post about the post-march press coverage. Elsewhere, World O' Crap reports on some very special March coverage - including one blog which makes the breathtakingly clever argument that feminists don't need abortions because we're all too ugly to get a man.

One thing I've noticed, reading the press coverage, is how wildly the March counts vary depending on who's estimating. Utne Reader accepts the organizers' count of more than a million. The Washington Post leans towards the high side of the official Park Police estimate of 500,000-800,000, quoting police officials saying that the marchers might have exceeded their 750,000-person permit. The Christian Broadcasting Network places the crowd at 500,000. The American Spectator thinks that 300,000 would be a "generous" estimate. tops them all, reporting under the headline "March For Abortion Attracts Lower Numbers Than Expected" that "some estimated that only 'tens of thousands' participated," of whom many were actually anti- abortion protesters. (Yeah, this picture shows just tens of thousands of people. They're, um, moving around really quickly, so it looks like there are more of them.)

I had a wonderful time at the March, myself. Except that, next time, someone should remind me that it's possible to get sunburned even when the sky is overcast. I was so excited and energized that I didn't even notice my nose and the back of my neck burning until it was far too late.

It's hard to explain how big a crowd of a million people is. (I'm taking the organizers' count because I know they were collecting names and passing out "count me in" stickers, so their count is based on something tangible.) Actually, it's hard to understand how big a crowd a million is even when you're in the center of it. I know that when we left the Mall four hours after we started marching, people were still finishing up - and we were nowhere near the front. I know that I sat down to rest in an open lawn in the middle of the route and watched a column twenty women (and men) wide, hundreds of yards long in its visible portion, passing ceaselessly before me. I know I saw people from Texas and Montana and Alabama and Canada. I know that only unceasing vigilance kept my little group of eleven from being separated and lost in the endless throngs. But I don't really know what a group of a million people looks like. I wish I could've seen it from the air - except that then I would've missed all of the faces.

Some of the things that moved me most: Medical Students for Choice, in scrubs and short white coats, carrying signs that read "we are tomorrow's abortion providers." They've got a lot of courage. The woman who marched next to me briefly, her baby in her arms, wearing a T-shirt that said "proud abortion provider." "Three generations for choice," grandmother, mother, and daughters. My Significant Otter, putting a "this is what a feminist looks like" sticker on his Atlanta Braves baseball cap. Older women saying they wanted to spare their daughters the suffering they went through. Unitarian-Universalists everywhere I turned. "Don't mess with Texas women." "Ask me about my abortion." Looking around at the friends I was marching with, and realizing that none of us remembered the days when abortion was illegal - and hoping that would always be true. Hoping that this would be the last time that women and our allies would have to march for the right to control our own bodies.