For custodian diana Mackin, the Women’s March that occurred this past Saturday, Jan. 20 provided an opportunity for her to display activism in Galesburg, something she doesn’t get to do very often. Having grown up near Seattle where many noteworthy protests have taken place, Mackin got her start with political activism when she was just 14 years old. She remembers smashing scales and protesting beauty pageants, recalling a specific instance of a protest during International No Diet Days, which she said started in 1984.
“A friend of mine dragged a scale chained to her leg up and down the street, talking to people driving by in cars,” Mackin said. “And I pretended to lop off body parts soaked in red tempera and throw them out in the street.”
Mackin did and still does consider herself a “feminist-fat activist.” The tendency to stigmatize and hurt people, especially women, who do not fit societal standards is an issue that she feels is important to combat.
Though not as eventful and demanding of attention as some of her protests in Seattle, Mackin is satisfied with the outcome of the Women’s March in Galesburg and emphasized her neighbor Cuqui Frau’s speech as being empowering and impactful.
During her speech, Frau held up signs taken directly from her elementary school classroom, each consisting of a phraseÑ a lesson she hopes to instill within her students. She called out to the audience, asking if Trump and the current administration are following the simple lessons she has set for her students. Signs included phrases discussing the importance of respect and truth, which were all met with a collective “No” as they were held up.
During Mackin’s own speech, she deemed herself an “old feminist” and spoke up against the abuse and corruption that has plagued the pornography industry. This issue is one she dedicates much of her time to fighting. According to Mackin, pornography has always objectified women, but it has become more brutal and degrading. She noted the increasing rate of child-on-child sexual attacks, as well as the drugging and raping of wives by their own husbands. This, she feels, needs to change.
“If we could intervene somewhere in pornography and get the idea that women deserve respect from the get-go, and teach our children this and reinforce this for men and have men step up, then we could change the culture,” Mackin said. “But right now we are going [in] the wrong direction.”
Like Mackin, Knox sophomore Ezra Schley marched in support of his friends and family members who are female-identifying. Having attended marches in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa as well as the Knox Anti-Trump rally the day after the election last fall, Schley is no stranger to political activism.
Wanting to get involved in activism that extended beyond the Knox bubble, he and senior Lily Sronkoski decided to march along with Galesburg locals. Both Schley and Sronkoski feels that Knox students often forget that they too are citizens of Galesburg.
“I think there’s a disconnect with not thinking we’re part of the Galesburg community and just thinking we’re part of the Knox community,” he said.
While the turnout was overall higher than Schley and Sronkoski expected, they noticed a lack of Knox students at the march. They feel that Knox faculty should have done more to advertise the march with posters or tabling. While there were a handful of students and other young participants at the march, the majority of participants were older Galesburg locals. Schley also noted the mostly white audience and feels that some of the speeches were perhaps meant to target a different audience.
Sronkoski agreed with this statement, and said that, while the speeches were not necessarily wrong, some of them did not feel right.
“When you’re talking to a predominantly white audience, I think we need to put more pressure on ourselves,” she said. “The way that we were talking was as if there were more marginalized people in the audience, which there weren’t.”
Sronkoski attended the Women’s March in Chicago last year on the same day, which she estimated consisted of 250,000 people in comparison to the small group that marched in Galesburg this past Saturday. Along with the size difference, Sronkoski noted a change in morale.
“It was kind of mournful last year. I don’t know if it’s mournful anymore,” she said. “I think it’s more like, lets go, let’s really get something moving. We’ve had our period of being sad for the crumbling state of our world. But now maybe there’s more urgency.”
Galesburg local and attendee of the march Janet Tolle thinks that the march was a good way to bring people who have similar ideas together and hopes that they remind participants of what the country needs. She feels that people are fed up and that they don’t intend to stop making their voices heard anytime soon.
“We’ve seen a year of this president and [I think] we’re even a little more determined,” Tolle said.
Like Sronkoski and Tolle, Mackin feels a renewed sense of energy among those fighting for change. While people have been demoralized for the past year, the time for grief is over for Mackin.
“I think it’s a period now where people are really pulling [from] inside and I’m seeing signs of rebuilding,” she said. “I’m seeing signs of more determination. People are coming out of the woe, the depression, the exhaustion and focusing more on where they want to fight and how they want to fight.”
To Mackin, the next step involves people figuring out where their skills, abilities and passions can be most useful and effective. She wants to continue engaging with the community and uniting in order for women to make their voices heard. Until conditions start to improve, however, she doesn’t see an end to the protests coming soon.
“I can’t see it stopping. Things are just getting more and more horrible,” she said.