I was okay until I saw a hand-painted sign that said:

We still need feminism

Because they still ask what she was wearing

And then I was glad I’d worn sunglasses.

It is an emotional thing to be in a women’s march with thousands of women, especially if one is your daughter and another is your daughter’s daughter. It can make one depressed that women still need to organize such marches and make such signs.

It isn’t over – the fight for gender equality. But a lot of things aren’t over. Racism isn’t over either even though the fight for civil rights has gone on longer and harder than the feminist struggle. What is historic seems to become genetic. It’s a wicked thought that these sexist, racist beliefs and reflexes are in our genes but I think it’s true. What else accounts for their mindlessness and durability?

As we were waiting in a light rain for the march to start, I saw a man holding an umbrella over his little boy who was sitting in a stroller and his wife who was kneeling next to the boy feeding him cherry tomatoes and crackers. The umbrella-holding man was Latino and he wore a shirt that said:

This Bad Hombre

Loves His Nasty Woman

He held the umbrella off and on as the rain started and stopped for nearly an hour. Stood in the same place, chatted sometimes with other marchers, but held the umbrella steady as a canvas awning shading a fancy storefront. His shirt wasn’t just for the march. I think he meant it. In his genes.

While we were marching, my husband and I held hands, something we rarely do. It makes me feel like a child to hold a man’s hand, a throwback maybe to a time when tiny insults fell in a constant thin drizzle on all us young feminists. Hand holding seemed subservient to me unless the position of our hands was reversed so my husband was holding my hand but that seems forced and ridiculous, this hand holding parsing, so we normally hold hands for a minute or two on every walk and then go back to sticking our hands in our pockets.

But we held hands on the march by hooking fingers, little finger to little finger and it felt like a completely equal arrangement so it lasted nearly the entire march. It’s how we live our lives. As equals. So it was good to figure out how to walk together holding hands, in our own way, but still connected.

The sea of people marching down Broadway from the center of downtown to the San Diego harbor was breathtaking. Roars and applause would erupt, once for three hotel maids standing on a sixth floor balcony waving to us. Dressed in black and white uniforms, they cheered and smiled at us, looking like they’d run down the fire escape if there was one to join us in the march. We loved them an enormous amount in that moment.

Several times, a long line of Indian drummers came through the crowd, snaking their way down the middle of the street through people walking almost toe to heel. We parted for them as they drummed by, their feathered headdresses signalling their coming. On the first go-through, they were burning sage or tobacco, I couldn’t tell, and the leader waved the smoke over us so we felt honored and blessed by them. Protected somehow.And I think they knew it because there was happiness and looks of knowing on their faces.

I reveled in it all, smiling nearly the entire way at the joy of it. So many women, so many men who love women, so much good humor, so much shouting out loud for justice, so much regained faith in the future, so much belief in our power. In my own power. I sang to myself at the end, a song my father played on his trumpet:

Oh, when the saints

Go marching in

Oh, when the saints go marching in

Oh, how I want to be in that number

When the saints go marching in