My mother never burned a bra.
Dignity embodied, physical or imagined, when I lean into hug her I subconsciously brace myself for the coolness of her pearls. As a little girl, I would watch her mow our front lawn in a dress.
An heir of 1970s radical feminism—but too young to ever be a practitioner—she is confident, loving, and intelligent. But perhaps most notably to me as a young girl, she is absolutely and unapologetically feminine.
And she would never burn a perfectly good bra.
My mother and the world brought me up with promises. When I came into the world in 1994, the clock of feminism had been set into motion and now moved along with quiet assertion.
At first I was distraught when I learned that we had never had a female president; enraged when I would hear men catcall me, but I would always be able to quickly calm down because I knew.
I knew what my mother told me.
I knew what everyone from the Spice Girls and my American Girl Dolls to my dad and my all-girls Catholic high school told me.
I knew that it was all a matter of time, that it would change, that we were on our way to a place where equality for women would not only be self-evident and acknowledged but simply innate.
Yet the older I got, the more furious I became as I saw the continued injustices following rape cases and endured the constant public debate over my body. The angrier I became, the more certain I believed that justice and equality had to be at hand. It seemed impossible to me that we as a nation could continue to react so publicly to every injustice done unto women, from Hobby Lobby to Brock Turner, without an eventual change.
Then Nov. 8 happened. I stood under a glass ceiling in Manhattan, in a perfectly tailored blue dress my mother bought for me, and watched Hillary Clinton lose to a chauvinistic relic that I thought we had left in the dust decades ago.
Weeks later, still reconciling with this broken promise, I watched President Obama’s farewell speech. He reminded us that the Constitution, though an enshrined promise of our freedoms gifted to us by our founders, is nothing more than a piece of paper. It requires work, participation, and maintenance.
Annoying? Yes. Right? Yes—I suppose. The progress of 1970s radical feminism had run its course. But now a new generation—the generation of girl power, lean in, and bossy—has to pick up the baton and continue the race.
Virginia Wolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Maya Angelou, and Gloria Steinem’s words can’t just be a museum of a previous generation, but the inspiration to recreate and reimagine a feminism for tomorrow.
Don’t worry Momma, I won’t burn my bra either. It’s too pretty.
But I’ll walk in The Women’s March. I’ll walk because this is not what I was promised. This is not a country that sees myself and fellow women as voices worth hearing in the boardroom. This is not a country that takes serious action against men for violently degrading women for being women. This is not a country where women get paid the same as men. This is not a country that respects my autonomy over my body. This is not a country run by a woman—or as of today, by a man that respects women.
But my mother is not a liar. I will march on Saturday to make sure that this country doesn’t make one out of her.