Women's March - now what?

On a crisp January morning, groups of people gathered around Green Park underground station - just one meeting point amongst many. Some wore face paint, hats, bandanas; others held home-made placards and posters, or carried flags. 

As Republicans in the States were still sleeping off their hangovers from the inauguration party, thousands of people across the globe began to prepare for one of the largest demonstrations ever seen.

Women, men, children and pets of London emerged from the tube, squinting into the uncharacteristically bright January sunshine, many looking around in some sort of post-hibernation bewilderment. And indeed, this really was an awakening of sorts: for many, this was their first ever protest. A response to a global calling, disseminated primarily across social media.

They located friends, assembled into groups, and made their way to their starting point. In under three hours' time, they would pass Green Park station again, this time in unity with thousands, in one of the largest protest marches London has ever seen.

Historians of the future will pore over the details of how we all came to be in this place, but the question on many people's lips right now is: what next? How can we continue to live our daily lives in a way that rejects the forces which have brought us here? What action can we take at the micro scale, within our own homes and families, to keep the momentum going in the right direction? 

What now? 

One of the most striking elements of the recent protest marches was the diversity in the people that were compelled to come out and make a stand. Men, women, boys and girls were united around a powerful message of tolerance, equality, and respect.

It is well known that discrimination, fear and hatred of others stems primarily from lack of contact, connection, a feeling that certain groups of people just aren't like you. Psychological studies have, for decades, shown how easy it is to insult and even injure those whom one psychologically labels as 'other.' Unfortunately, this othering process is hardwired into modern British society. We are female precisely because we are not male, we are black necessarily because we are not white, and so on.

But does it have to be this way? Do we really need to teach our young children, from birth, what it is to be a boy or a girl? Or should we focus, instead, on teaching them how to be a human - and answering the other questions as and when they arise? In a world where our laws broadly support the notion of equality, shouldn't we be equipping all of our children with the skills necessary to thrive in such a context, rather than splitting them off into blue and pink and underexposing their hungry minds of certain skills, perpetuating the existence of separate male and female realms, that lead to so much conflict?

As products of our environments, too, we won't always get it right. But by being mindful of this, having had this wake-up call of just one of the consequences of divisiveness in our societies, we can make choices that will allow our children equal opportunities to develop the skills necessary to become well-rounded human beings, free to discover their own strengths and passions.

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