After the March

All photos by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

At the Women’s March, a year ago this Jan. 21, the number of protesters who filled public spaces across the country roughly matched the three million votes by which President Donald Trump had lost the popular vote in November 2016.

The Women’s March was a watershed moment for those who opposed Trump and his policies, a statement of solidarity to those of all marginalized identities. To mark the anniversary of the March we decided to ask some of Somerville’s female entrepreneurs, who are creating their own positions of power in the community, about their experience of the Women’s March, what they think a more woman-led society would be like, and what they’d like to say to women in America today.

Erin Heath

ERIN HEATH is the co-owner of Foret Design. “My partner Rose and I started our floral and event design company six years ago. We saw a need in the Boston market and we wanted to walk into work every day loving what we do. And we’ve opened a second business connected, literally, to our studio—a shop called Queen of Swords focused on ethically conscious, beautiful goods. Many of our makers are female.”

What was your experience of the March?

I went to the Common with my business partner, Rose, our boyfriends, and a group of other girlfriends. There were about eight of us. I had a sign, but I felt like being there was the most important thing, to be a body there, to stand up. The March was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced—an inspiring, invigorating sense of time, place, history, as well as community and unity. It’s hard to put into words, but the word “powerful” comes to mind. It was so large, something beyond me that I can’t express, that this means something important not just now, but down the line. Something larger than myself. I was glad it was happening in our city. That it was happening not just in D.C., but all over, at the same time, around the world, was pretty inspiring.

What would a more woman-led society be like?

Less chaos, more listening, more compassion, more working through ideas, and less ego-driven stances. I’m not saying that men aren’t capable of many of these qualities—they are—but that’s not how our society as whole throughout history has trained our men. The typical qualities associated with women, to me, are generally frowned upon and thought of as weak, and looked down on—the emotional, nurturing, and caretaker qualities. Our society could benefit greatly from an acceptance and appreciation of the traditionally classified “feminine” qualities.

What would you like to say to women in America today?

Be brave. Be you, don’t be what society expects you to be.

 

JJ GonsonJJ GONSON has been serving locally sourced food through her catering service Cuisine en Locale for 13 years, and also operates the music venue ONCE Somerville. Gonson is passionate about supporting local farmers and about being part of Somerville’s small business community.

What was your experience of the March?

It was such a rush of emotions. The first thing—I was there with my son, who was wearing a T-shirt saying, “The future is female.” It was great to be there with this amazing, feminist child I’ve raised. The T was so crowded, people pouring in, and it felt so safe. People were happy, laughing. It felt inclusive. And nothing could have prepared me for that moment when I got to the top of Beacon Hill and saw all those people, a sea of people. I burst into tears. And it felt so safe—in hundreds of thousands of people. It was wonderful, amazing, magical, electric. In this time that is so full of anger, it was amazing to feel so safe. And I support the mayor of Boston, the attorney general. I feel we are represented by like-minded people in this area. That’s why I live here.

What would a more woman-led society be like?

Safer! Safer, frankly. And I’d like to think there would be more listening to women. Recently, an outsourced company I was working with failed. I had paid them. My instinct was to pick up what they’d left behind—then I got in touch with them, told them they had to finish the work. A friend said, “You actually put your foot down. Other women might not have.” I would love to see women feel more empowered.

What would you like to say to women in America today?

Stop apologizing. You rock.

 

Katrina JazayeriKATRINA JAZAYERI is the co-founder, with her partner Joshua Lewin, of Juliet in Union Square. “Josh and I wanted to create an all-day space that helps foster a welcoming, diverse community in Union Square, where you can meet your neighbors. I love being the host to my community.”

What was your experience of the March?

I experienced the March as a very eager bystander. I was at work—we were open that day—and I’m not typically a social media person, checking my phone all the time, but I was happily, and proudly, living vicariously through my sister and her friends, and my mom and her friends in Texas. It was really cool seeing the mobilization, especially across generations. Since college, I’ve been very much an activist. It was part of my coming of age, and it was beautiful to watch my sister, who hadn’t been very vocal before, getting so involved. Now she’s hosting fundraising home parties, getting involved in canvassing and the political process here in Somerville. The Women’s March was a catalyst for a lot of those feelings and actions. Something like the March is very invigorating, inspiring, but it can just be morale building. It’s been great to see it be a call to action for women in Somerville and around the country.

What would a more woman-led society be like?

As a female business owner, I get asked a lot, what’s the difference between men and women. Which can become an easy, predictable explanation that leads into biological stereotypes. I’m hesitant to go there. I recently had a conversation with a male member of my staff, and he helped solidify for me that it’s a legacy thing. For millennia, women have been an oppressed class of citizens. That’s the big difference. That history of struggle, of breaking away entitlements, and with every accomplishment and setback, you see that things change slowly. Which doesn’t mean it’s not important to work every day at breaking away oppression. It’s a long game—not everything will be better tomorrow. But it’s important to keep thinking about tomorrow, to not tolerate failure, to keep going. So the difference would be, not just because it’s women, but that it would be an oppressed class coming into a position of power. I think with that comes a certain resilience, tolerance, compassion and empathy. For me, it’s a central tenet of activism that it’s advocacy. That’s another challenge, addressing someone else’s oppression, to advocate for someone whose position is different than yours. The question is, do we have collective interests? Can I take up the interests of another? That would be my ideal political system. More advocates, not just self-interest. An oppressed class has an understanding of struggle—like women fighting for voting rights—and you can extend that, extrapolate that, to any number of other issues that people are struggling for. And bring to that a sense of persistence, resilience, empathy, and advocacy.

What would you like to say to women in America today?

Well, it’s a little cliched, but I love this quote—every time I see the bumper sticker, it inspires me: Well-behaved women don’t make history. So, I would say, continue to stand up and make history. Stand together and make history.

 

Emily ReichartEMILY REICHART is the CEO of Greentown Labs, the largest clean technology incubator in the country. She chose Somerville as the location for her business because of Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s willingness to work with her on financing and finding a location.

What was your experience of the March?

My experience started at Alewife Station. It was amazing to see the hordes of people descending from outlying areas, mobs of people, women and children, all the pink hats, they were so creative and clever. It felt big and important, like stepping into a movement. There was an incredible intensity, people laughing, talking, smiling. The sense of solidarity was amazing—we all agree, this is not OK. is is a democracy. We can and should raise our voices. When we got to the Common, we couldn’t move, there were so many bodies. There was such a sense of solidarity, and warmth, the sense that it’s not just me. We can stand up and say something. I’d been on a news blackout, and the March brought me out of a funk. Also, it was amazing to see so many men too. So many people coming out on a cold January morning to make a stand. It was powerful, memorable, empowering.

What would a more woman-led society be like?

There’s lots of ways we are currently underutilizing 50 percent of the talent of our population. Not having a diversity of viewpoints around the table is detrimental to us all. Studies show that when you have diverse points of view, businesses do better. Women and men have different things to offer, not all the time, not everyone’s the same, but different points of view make for better decision making. In my industry, women are passionate about many different causes, nonprofits focused on the environment, or education. They show it’s possible to live that passion in work and life. That could be brought more to the business world, not just the nonprofit world.

What would you like to say to women in America today?

Stay active. Use your voice. Your voice is important. It really matters that you stay engaged in politics. Last year taught us women need to be involved, to raise their voices, to help make decisions we can be excited and happy about. As we’ve seen, voting matters. I tell my generation, and the generation behind me, to get out there, show up on the polls, run for office yourself. Don’t just be active on Facebook or Twitter, but out in the world where it really matters.

 

Jessie BanhazlJESSIE BANHAZL is the founder of Green City Growers, which transforms unused space into urban farms. “I’m from the Greater Boston area, and I was living with my parents in Wayland when I went to a local food meetup in Cambridge, and met Wednesday Jane of Metro Pedal Power. I ended up renting in their office, I had a desk in the corner, and as I got established, I loved the community of businesses and people in Somerville. I’ve been here ever since.”

What was your experience of the March?

I didn’t go. I was out of town. We did have a bunch of our staff go. What I felt was excitement, and also fear, of what’s to come. I had a feeling of wanting to be as supportive as possible to our employees—who are, in the majority, women. I wanted them to feel taken care of and supported as people out fighting for what they thought was right.”

What would a more woman-led society be like?

More like Green City Growers! We’re evening out, but historically our employees have been 60 to 65 percent women. Green City Growers is what a more equal society would be like, because everyone’s perspective is taken into account. I think fairness and equal representation is going to bene t everybody.

What would you like to say to women in America today?

There are support systems out there. If you think you’re going through something specific to being a woman, there are others out there for support. We’re all in it together. I went to Smith. I’ve been in the community of women throughout my life. There’s a lot of benefit in banding together and supporting each other, through our shared experience of being a woman. The support is there.

 

This story appears in The Wellness Issue Scout Somerville, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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