Before the Women’s March on Washington, The Bitter Southerner photographed and interviewed almost 200 Southern women (and a few men and children). We traveled via bus to D.C. with them. We did it so you can look into the faces of Southerners and let them tell you why they took to the streets.
Photographs and Interviews by Kaylinn Gilstrap
I feel like everybody's walking around in the dark, wanting to find somebody else who feels the same way, kindred spirits that they can touch. This is the first time ever that so many people have even cared about politics.
The group of women we are going with are people who I respect a lot. I saw this as the beginning of really being in community with people intentionally, rather than participating in things kind of one-off or by myself. Really making that part of the practice of being politically active — in community with others, rather than based on what I just want to do.
Mary Rose Mindock
I want to go on the march because, as a young woman, I think it's very important to band together right now. There's just a lot of scary things happening as far as women's rights go, and I want to go for the women who can't go or maybe don't have a voice.
I'm marching because I'm a Muslim woman raised here in the United States, in the South. I want to represent the best part of who we are, the fact that we don't necessarily support all of this, but also that we firmly stand for people's rights, everyone's rights from women, to disabled, to the LGBT community, and everyone who needs to be stood up for. If we don't stand up for other people, there won't be anybody left to stand up for us. I'm really hoping that it's a reminder of decency and hope.
Big picture, I am marching for minorities of all colors. I'd like to see the conditions in this country improved, and for it to see us treated better.
Living in Georgia, oftentimes you kind of feel like your vote doesn't count. It doesn't seem to matter how many people go out to vote, we're traditionally a red state. So I really wanted to do something to make my voice heard.
Lori D. Jones
I tell my kids every day to stand up to bullies and stand up for what's right. I knew I was going to do this. I can't not do that for them. Also, I work with immigrants, and they're scared. I can't look at them in the face and tell them in all honesty that they're OK here. They're doing great things, and they're brilliant. I work at a university that you've heard of with a lot of foreign nationals, and they are uncomfortable.
I remember being in college and hearing an artist speak about her work. She talked about participating in abortion protests and how difficult it was, and how much they faced resistance. I remember being so grateful and thinking, “How wonderful it is that this woman did that so that we don't have to.” Well, here we are, and we still have to.
I am hoping that we can take this feeling and extend it to do more things together, to do things like fight for our rights, fight for our womb, fight for equal pay, fight for equal treatment. I'm hoping, after the march, that a new crop of women emerge — our next generation, our fifth wave of feminism, which I've already coined the Coochie Power 5.0 era. I'm really wanting to see that next generation of women leaders crop up and take us to that next level, because that's what's required.
I'm a mom of a 6-year-old daughter. I'm really worried that the things the women in the ’60s did for us are being torn apart and being taken apart. When a party and when a president is more worried about regulating what's between my legs, as opposed to regulating what's done to the environment, I get really nervous for my kid.
Ellen Schornstein Williams
I hope that all of our elected officials will listen. They need to tread carefully, and they need to listen to us. We are the boss. Mr. Trump has never had a boss before, but now he does.
Trudy Loper, with daughter Carys Barr
It think it's important for Carys to come with me because she needs to understand that our voice matters no matter where we are and no matter what age. It's important for me to show her that she even as a child can have a voice in our political system.
I'm marching to support all the women in my life. I think it's just not their battle. I have two daughters. I want them to know what took place in the last election is not normal. It's not OK. I was born in Iran, and I lived through the revolution. I watched many similarities during the revolution and what's really taking place here today. One of the first things we lost was women's rights, which was always followed by human rights. I'm hoping that we can shed a light on seeing beyond our skin color, beyond our gender. We are the same people. There's not a whole lot of difference between us.
My family, my parents, came to the United States, and they had left a suppressive dictatorship. They told me the stories. My grandparents told me stories. Our family, anytime we had dinners or parties or anything, the conversation always turned to what life was like in Cuba. I know how terribly ugly things can be. While I've always felt like the United States had a really long road ahead in the fight for civil liberties and for just gaining equality for everybody, I just feel like this election has so much potential to set us back, and kind of dismantle any progress that the United States has ever made. That's why I'm going.
There will be enough of us there to show that women are not going to go back. We will not go back to the kitchen. We won't go back to being the sweet little things that bake cookies and all of those sorts of things, and that many women never even had the luxury to be. In the longer term, I hope this wakes up the consciousness of younger women who haven't seen the negative effects of some of the dynamics we see now, that they will be awakened and understand that they have to be involved, as we older ladies have.
Leo Rose Powell
Interviewer: Do you think it's too early to start voicing your opinion?
Leo Rose: No.
Interviewer: When should you start?
Leo Rose: Now.
Interviewer: How old are you, Leorose?
Leo Rose: Seven years old.
Here is more information on the march and future actions.
I decided to go on the march to feel the strength in a group of people. Strength in community. To feel less like an “other,” which is what this election has made me feel. I've been in this country for 35 years, but I haven't felt like an “other” since I was a kid. This is the first time I've felt that way, because I've been really shocked by what has happened in our country. I just want to feel like I belong.
I am a lifelong Republican, actually. I am ashamed of my party, what they have done in the last year and a half, who they have chosen to stand behind, the way that they have changed the party and their principles. It's not something that I can condone or stand behind. I want to fight it every single step of the way.
Amy “Dillon” Norm
I'm hoping it will pull me out of my hole of despair and grief about this process, to realize that I'm not alone and that we are in the majority. I probably don't have an actual sense that anything will get accomplished, but I think that marching in general is seed planting that manifests way down the road.
Scotty and Courtney Spriggs
Scotty: My wife said that she was going on the march, and once she said that, she asked me if I would be interested in going. I told her absolutely I'd go with her. I love where I've been, I love where I'm going, and I love where I'm at. Every part of that, there's a woman behind it, my mom, my grandmother, and my wife, and my daughter, so I'm very proud to support her do.
Courtney: Now more than ever, women from the South need to be represented everywhere. They need to be loud, and they need to show that they're not going to be quiet, and they're not going to get over it. They're not going to deal with aggressions, micro-aggression, sexual assault, all the things that they've been forced to put up with. I think they're the strength of the nation, and we have to show that.
As a modern American woman living in 2017, I have the freedom to speak up, act up, vote, have children if I want to, get married to the person of my choice, drive, own my own business, invest my own money, buy a plane ticket with my own money, reserve a hotel room in my name, and go to D.C. on the weekend to protest. I've worked for the past 30 years, and I'm at the top of my industry, the financial industry, which is male-dominated. I've worked very hard to get there, and I will not allow us to go backwards.