Coffee Shop Observations II - The March

September 8, 2017

"Coffee Shop Observations 2" are writings created over an afternoon on 08/03/17


5 - 5.25pm 


If I felt I could add something to the situation, I would. I sit across from the Women's Day march gathering in City Square by the coffee shop. I'm aware that it's a place I 'should' be. I am a feminist by definition I think. But are thoughts enough? What about my actions? I am not doing the required amount by my perception of what an active feminist is. I know that this is subjective, you do what you can to represent your beliefs. But here I am, 100 yards from a gathering of like-minded people, and the only reason I'm not "standing in solidarity" is that I don't want to. The only thing I would be adding to the situation is a number, a body. And I don't want to be just a body. You either feel part of a crowd or you don't; I don't. I consistently feel non-belonging to a group, even if our beliefs align. I don't think it is shyness or embarrassment or shame.

 I feel stupid shouting and chanting. It sounds ridiculous in my ears. I understand the purpose and reasoning, and I am in favour of marches, protests and acts of unification, but I feel like an impostor being there. I don't feel a part of it and I try to justify this feeling to myself when I know I don't actually need to. It's just not my thing, not something I feel comfortable in, even if it is a women's march. I don't feel good being there - Are you meant to? I saw someone I vaguely know, making placards and signs in the coffee shop with a friend and a huge smile on her face, before rushing out the door to join the group. They seemed excited. 

 Is part of their actions selfish? I don't mean this in a bad way. I mean, if you make a sign, and you join more people with signs and you read each others statements and chant a shared message, I guess it can make you feel good about yourself. You took part in something, you contributed to a cause and you can add it to a list of good deeds. I am not an activist, this is clear. I used to think I was and I definitely wanted to be, but all my imaginings of breaking into animal testing facilities and facing off against loggers or bureaucrats were hypothetical and idealistic. They suit some people, but I'm not confrontational. I'm not a shouter, a chanter, a rebel or a marcher. I hate the turbulence of clashing opinion and I definitely don't want to stand out in a crowd, especially when the crowd itself has the goal to stand out, to be noticed and to draw attention to the cause.

 When I took part in a Reclaim the Night march in November, I walked at the front, holding a banner of the organisation whose services I use. I wondered if everyone else in the march felt a change in perspective, not of political message or something conceptual, but a literal shift of view of your physical surroundings.  I have walked the streets of Dundee for years, including all the spots on the route of the march. Now, in the role of Activist for one night, the streets looked different and even walking felt bizarre. I felt like a tourist on a guided bus trip, viewing the city in new eyes. It wasn't this part which bothered me, but rather the physiological adaptation back to reality after the event was over. The panic attack symptoms hit me when we stopped walking, and while the crowd was buzzing with the excitement of empowerment and justice, I had to leave. That's how I know, it's just not for me.

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