As you know, I was raised in Rochester, New York, an early home of the women's rights movement. I know quite a bit about women's history.
Besides knowing not being allowed to vote, divorce or stand up to abusive husbands, choose when to have children, or have jobs outside of the home once married, anti-women initiatives were much deeper and much sillier than that, in ways that were such a daily part of life it could not be seen.
I know that until after my parents were married, it would have been impossible for my mother to have her own credit card. I know that when my grandmother was my age, she would have been unable to serve on a jury. I know that until World War II, women weren't even allowed to wear pants.
The strides women have made in the last 70 years shed light on how long we have been seen as ridiculous, ignorant and unworthy. And there is still so much holding us back.
To see the way our new president treats women, even his third wife, is a reminder of a dark part of American history that we are still not free from.
It was an incredibly empowering experience for me to feel that solidarity in Washington this weekend. But when I returned home I was surprised to see remarks by fellow women on social media sneering at the incredible show of solidarity that happened not just in our city, but every major city around the country and on every continent.
This especially hurt when I saw a relative my own age making comments against the march. The one thing she could latch on to was, essentially, that the protest wasn't polite. She couldn't disagree with anti-rape sentiments or the other myriad issues brought up.
So instead, she vehemently disagreed with the use of the use of the word “pussy,” which she called "the P word." She was blaming the women for using it. I don't understand, why not blame the men who started sexualizing us in the first place?
"The P word" makes us uncomfortable because it diminishes us as people. It made us all sick to our stomach to listen to the way our president used it.
It has made me feel personally uncomfortable when I have been exposed to men in my own life using it to objectify women around them. It makes me feel small when I hear men catcall my friends.
It makes me feel foolish and embarrassed when I am evaluated wholly by whether or not someone finds me sexually attractive, something I don't even think about with most people I know.
All too often, women are defined by our genitals. That's what happens when laws are passed against family planning opportunities: our whole lives are being determined by our sex organs, what happens to them, and not what may be best for us as complex individual people.
We know that's not how we see ourselves. We know that's not how we want to be seen. But if you look all around you, at the media, at government, at casual conversation between people, that it is.
The visceral feel of the word reminds us what we are dealing with. It reminds us that when one of us is marginalized or objectified, we are all diminished.
When marchers use the word it is to make you feel it. It does not feel good, and we don't feel good either. But when you are surrounded by women you admire, who have your back, who are doing brave and amazing things every day, it begins to take on a new meaning. A meaning we chose.