As a young transgender woman, Emme Goldman has a “complicated” relationship with gender. But that didn’t stop the East High School sophomore from walking out of class Wednesday along with dozens of her peers to participate in Madison’s “A Day Without a Woman” rally and general strike.
“I think it’s important that we’re all showing up for each other,” Goldman says. “This makes me hopeful.”
About 700 people of all ages and genders converged at the State Capitol around noon on Wednesday. The event, which coincided with the observation of International Women’s Day, was also billed as a general strike to demonstrate the impact that women have on the economy with their paid and unpaid labor.
Madison resident Grace Johns took the day off from her job at a local restaurant to participate in the demonstration. On her way downtown, she joined up with the students from East High who marched down East Washington Avenue to the Capitol. Johns says their energy was “totally inspiring.”
“It’s important to keep the movement going,” says Johns, who traveled to Washington D.C. in January for the Women’s March on Washington. “This is how we get stuff done.”
Johns acknowledges that she’s lucky to be able to take time off work without worrying about losing her job or struggling with a loss of income, but she rejects the notion that the women’s strike is for privileged women only. “Since when is solidarity a place of privilege?” she asks.
Though it’s been several months since President Donald Trump took office, many people are still reeling from the election, says Ann Stitgen. “Women especially have reached this all-time low of despair,” the Madison resident said. “This [demonstration] is a way to climb out of that.”
Tonya Prosser, of Madison, arrived at the rally just after noon along with her two teenage nieces, Emma and Lily Worgin, who drove in from New Berlin. Prosser works out of her home, but felt it was important to take the day off from her domestic duties to show solidarity and support for women’s issues. “We’ve seen women not celebrating each other recently,” Prosser said, referring to the treatment of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the election season. “Now is a time for us to show support.”
Plenty of men were in attendance too. Victor Jimenez, a sophomore at East High, showed up to help “spread the word” about the need for gender equality and to show women in the community that they have male allies. Carlos VanHook, a junior at East, says he’s a “hardcore feminist” in addition to being black and a member of the LGBT community. “This march is for women, but it’s about so much more,” he said.
Marie Treleven, a junior at East High, attended the rally in honor of her mother, who died unexpectedly two weeks ago. She made a sign bearing a quote from her mom’s favorite singer, Bob Dylan: “The times they are a-changin’.” She says the quote applies to the ongoing fight for women’s equality, too.
“My mother always supported me and encouraged me to protest,” Treleven said. “I’m here to pass her legacy on.”