NEC graduate Daniel Miess traveled to Washington DC on January 21st for one reason: to make his voice heard. Miess, like nearly 1 million other concerned citizens, took to the streets of DC to advocate not only for women’s rights, but for the equal rights of everyone.
The Women’s March was in large part a response to the inauguration of President Trump, who was sworn into office the day before, and sparked a series of protests around the world.
“It was amazing,” Miess said. “It really felt like we were making history.”
The atmosphere was extremely positive, according to Miess, and he was met with no hostility, despite the few Trump supporters he came across. Miess believes Trump “provoked the ire of many feminists” because he had suggested that women who had abortions “should be punished,” but also because he has made lewd comments towards not only women, but many other groups of people (such as the disabled).
The protests, however, transcended President Trump and focused on the positivity of empowering the individual. “That’s what it’s about,” Miess said, “by empowering the individual, we as a society become stronger.”
While the march in DC gained momentum, Concord hosted it’s own set of peaceful protests that started the weekend before the inauguration. The March for Life protest, in response to the Catholic diocese’ Right to Life March, brought around 100 people to the streets of Concord. Two of those protesters were NEC Professor of Psychology Kittie Weber, and her daughter Emily.
The two have done the march the past few years, but this year it held more meaning because of all the things at stake.
“My daughter and my granddaughter, and my daughter-in-law, and all of my students here have the right to make their own decisions, and they’re intelligent enough to be able to choose what is best for them,” Weber said. “Nobody should ever tell anyone what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. It just is not right.”
Weber, who identifies as Christian, said that her Christianity doesn’t tell her that she does not have a choice when it comes to her own body, and that she “doesn’t think it’s anybody else’s place to make that decision, especially some white guy who’s never been pregnant and never had to worry about money, and never had to worry about what happens because they can walk away.”
In addition to attending the March for Life, Weber and her daughter attended NH’s version of the Women’s March. Weber’s daughter, who went to NEC for a time, was a big part in organizing the event and helped make signs for protesters to use. There were other faculty members from NEC as well, but there were too many people for Weber to see them all.
The atmosphere was very positive, and people were excited about standing up for what they believe in.
Not everyone, however, believed the march was entirely justified. Betsy Davis, Assistant Reference and Circulation Librarian here at NEC, felt she didn’t see any women who really understood what they were protesting: “I think it’s great to be able to protest. I think it’s also great to be able to protest when you know exactly why you’re protesting. I believe that was one of the issues that I saw.”
In her opinion, many women cannot give specific examples of what they are fighting against, other than the pro-choice or pro-life movement. She finds there to be too much ignorance on the topics being fought about and not enough dialogue. “When you’re with people who believe like you do you don’t have to [elaborate on your ideas], everyone will just embrace you,” she said, later emphasizing the intolerance she has seen, and personally experienced, against Trump-supporters.
“On campus, I find it interesting that we talk about embracing diversity, but I think there’s a limit on that. We’re not talking political diversity,” she said.
Though she doesn’t agree with some of the reasoning behind the marches, she maintains that advocating for what you believe in is essential for a democratic society, provided that belief is well founded and well researched.
Weber has similar sentiments, and said that students should educate themselves on the facts and learn the difference between “real news and fake news,” keeping in mind that everyone has their reasons for voting the way they did, and it is not for the individual to judge.
Whether or not these protests will cause change has yet to be seen, but both Weber and Miess emphasize that nothing will change unless the people demand it.
“I guess it is getting those of us that believe in equality to stand and act upon what we believe,” said Miess. “Perhaps, part of eliminating prejudice is through education. So, being a part of this movement will give us a chance to speak up more and not be silent.”
“It’s the squeaky wheel that gets oiled,” Weber stated. She urges people on all levels, students included, to get involved in whatever way possible. Even if students have no political affiliations, advocating for what you believe in is essential in any profession.
Writing letters to state and federal offices with your views is one of the easiest and effective ways to incite change, according to Weber. In addition to this, Miess said a good way to get involved is to donate money to companies and non-profits you believe in, or try starting a campus-wide rally. Even becoming a part of a club, like NEC’s QSA (Queer Straight Alliance), is a good start.
Because in the end, he said, “silence really equals death.”