Millions of people around the world took part in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. With an estimated three million participants in the United States, the March wrote a chapter in American history. Christine Loriol travelled from Zurich to Washington to participate: “because I just had to be there.” A personal report.

  • Christine Loriol

    Christine Loriol war Lokal­radio­journalistin, als in Berlin die Mauer fiel. Sie hat später jahre­lang als freie Journa­listin für zahlreiche Print­medien geschrieben und ist seit 20 Jahren als Texterin , Kommunikations­beraterin und Coach selbständig.

The next day, the “pussy hat” was already an icon. Ever­yone I met as I left my hotel room that morning gave me a smile, and within minutes we were engaged in conver­sa­tion. Mabel and Bert from Miami said goodbye with a long, emotional embrace, as if we had been old friends. Amy, Kristen, and Ian from Port­land (whom I had met on the street the day before the March ) did the same, as did Melissa from Wisconsin, who stood by me for a while in the crowd of huma­nity. And then there was the little old lady who simply put her arm around my waist and steadied me (or herself ) after I said that I had come from Zurich, Switz­er­land. Abso­lutely ever­yone I met said: “Thank you for coming. Thank you for being with us.” We had touched each other. I had to think about the line from the National Anthem of Europe (and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”): “All people will become brot­hers” – and sisters.

Born in 1960, I was too young to have perso­nally expe­ri­enced Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. My know­ledge of the huge Vietnam anti-war protests came only from films I’d seen. And as a news­writer at Radio Zürisee in November 1989, I knew that history was being made in Berlin, but I didn’t think of going there myself to parti­ci­pate. I still reget that today.

Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!

Clinton vs. Trump. second dabate; source:

I followed the American elec­tion with great inte­rest from the moment Donald Trump became an offi­cial candi­date. The further he progressed, the more inten­sely I followed the procee­dings. My personal low came with the second TV debate against Hillary Clinton. Watching him stalk her, sniff­ling and scuff­ling uncom­for­tably close behind her back, I wanted to protect her. Ha! And the way he stood humping an empty chair obli­viously as Hillary spoke about poli­tics: this was someone who simply took whatever he thought was his. It was unbe­arable. And nobody said anything, not even Hillary Clinton. She should have treated him like a spoiled child or a small dog and said: “Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!” But who could have actually done that in such a situation?

Michelle Obama, 13.10.2016; source:

A tran­script of this debate became available later on the internet. This was a tragic docu­ment full of inter­rup­tions, asser­tions, mans­plai­ning and manter­rupting, contempt and inde­cency. I felt sick reading it. Much more of the same was to follow, on a nearly daily basis, leading to the infa­mous  “grab them by the pussy” scandal. Michelle Obama’s speech in response to that news thrilled me, moved me to tears, and made me thankful that some­body finally spoke for me too.

I had been invited to an election-night party at the home of the then-U.S. Ambassador to Switz­er­land, Suzi LeVine. I brought a female friend with me, as a gesture of female empower­ment at what we expected to be a histo­rical moment. But rather than rejoi­cing toge­ther as part­ners in crime, we became part­ners in tears.


Four days later, on the after­noon of Sunday, November 13, I bought my plane ticket. The idea of the Women’s March had surfaced on Face­book after the elec­tion. It was exactly what I needed to help heal my soul. No one expected it to grow to such dimen­sions. Throug­hout the elec­tion period and after the elec­tion I asked myself why I was so perso­nally affected by Trump’s sexism and mistre­at­ment of women. After all, I am not and have never been an American citizen. Now I know why. And I know I am not the only one.

Switz­er­land, 1971

Women’s Vote: No! Switz­er­land, 1971; source:

I was already born when women were granted the right to vote in Switz­er­land in 1971. In February 2016, shortly before Switz­er­land held a refe­rendum on the enforced depor­ta­tion of foreign law-breakers, I watched the movie “Suffra­gette.” The story pulled me in within the first 40 minutes, as I saw how the female figh­ters for women’s suffrage were mistreated and humi­liated. At some point during the movie it occurred to me that in Switz­er­land a similar struggle had taken place not that long ago. If it were 45 years earlier, I myself would not be allowed to cast my ballot in the upco­ming refe­rendum, while all my male colle­agues, friends and rela­tives exer­cised their right to vote. I cried tears of anger, because there had been a time when women were offi­ci­ally less valued than men, and because I had perso­nally lived though that time as a young girl. I left the movie theater without watching the end of the film. But the idea of “only a girl” stayed on my mind. My paternal grand­mo­ther had expressed her disap­point­ment when I, the first grand­child, was born a girl. My father (thank you Jules!) had always fought for me. Luckily I was brought up with the phrase “You can do it too”: my own personal “Yes we can!”

This personal expe­ri­ence reso­nated within me during the US elec­tion season. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. What did people accuse her of and attack her with? Likea­bi­lity! Stamina! Her husband, because she’d stayed with him. Her voice. Her ambi­tion. And not least, her compe­tence. Throug­hout the campaign and after the elec­tion, all of these were trig­gers remin­ding me of my own so-called “birth defect,” the short­co­ming I had not chosen, my gender as female.

That’s why I wanted to be there. This was my subject. It was the theme of my era. I espe­ci­ally did not want to look back in old age and say: “I saw it coming, but I missed the chance to react.” I grew up in the know­ledge that our demo­cracy is as self-evident and as indes­truc­tible as the Matter­horn. A given. Or, if you prefer, God-given. But I had seen recently that, even in Switz­er­land, we need to keep an eye on our demo­cracy (with a nod to the histo­rian Jakob Tanner). And that “we” also means “me.”

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Among hundreds of thousands

Women’s March, Washington, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, Washington, 21.1.2017; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

Between elec­tion night and Inau­gu­ra­tion day, Trump continued to cross the line. As the Women’s March approa­ched, more and more people, and espe­ci­ally more and more women, must have decided: “Enough is enough.” I followed the news on Face­book. The Women’s March had quickly became a professionally-organized event. It got bigger and bigger. Then I disco­vered the “pussy hat” project. I found it clever and conspi­ra­to­rial: poli­tical knit­ting! And it began exactly as the March itself had begun, as an idea by two women which quickly spread through social media. A sea of pink pussy hats was their dream, and it caught hold of me too. For the first time in about 30 years, I bought wool and knit­ting needles. The result was as stupen­dous as the March itself; pictures of “a sea of pink hats” were beamed around the world.

Women’s March, Washington, 21.1.2016; source:

Hundreds of thou­sands, perhaps up to a half a million women toge­ther with their male comrades surged in the direc­tion of the National Mall. Diffe­rent gene­ra­tions, genders, ethnic back­grounds, natio­na­li­ties, reli­gions. They were worried, angry, and all very deter­mined. And yet: they were all peaceful and friendly to each other. And funny! They were angry at the subjects that they were addres­sing, but they were always conside­rate and atten­tive. They excused them­selves when they coll­ided with someone in the crush, and lent a hand when someone wanted to step up onto the curb. The police offi­cers moving through the crowd were applauded and told: “Thank you for your service!” The crowd whistled and booed when a speaker mentioned Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Cabinet pick for the Depart­ment of Educa­tion. It was stirred up and inspired by America Ferrara and Ashley Judd. But the marchers looked out for the people that stood next to them. The list of spea­kers was very long, and the rally lasted more than four hours. The spee­ches were emotional, angry, intellec­tual, poli­tical, biting, moving. A 12-year-old Mexican girl spoke more eloquently than Trump; the promi­nent femi­nist Gloria Steinem and the bril­liant acti­vist Angela Davis deli­vered high-quality food for thought. Docu­men­tary film­maker Michael Moore presented his “resis­tance plan” for conti­nuing to the oppo­si­tion move­ment after the March was over. The lineup on stage was impressive:

In Los Angeles 750,000 people were esti­mated to have demons­trated, and not one person was arrested. It was the same in Washington. The only aggres­sion that I perso­nally exeri­enced was on the internet, in the user comm­ents on the media coverage of the March – written by people who had not been there. From people who found the pussy hats “pathetic” or dismissed the March as an unde­mo­cratic temper tantrum. “Get over it,” was their message. “Trump was demo­cra­ti­cally elected.”  “Get over us” was the impres­sive response in Washington. “This is what demo­cracy looks like,” chanted the crowd, along with shouts of “Yes we can!”

pussy hat; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

At the end, I joyfully wore my pink pusssy hat to the Capitol Buil­ding for one last photo oppor­tu­nity, happy that I came here, and thankful as well. The most beau­tiful thing was probably the sense of belon­ging. To be shown that I am not alone in the world and not a member of a mere fringe group – and to docu­ment this expe­ri­ence in unfor­gettable photos. To have the feeling of being right, and at the right place. In Washington I expe­ri­enced and learned a lot, and was given many gifts. And I may have been able to give some­thing back, because I went there. I had personal reasons for doing so, but it went far beyond my own indi­vi­dual moti­va­tion. I know that I am a privi­leged woman: it was important for me to support a move­ment that supports all women. Who will do this, if not us? When, if not now? Sister­hood. We women have written history. And we made a good start. “And now, let’s get shit done!” as one of my friends likes to say. Not only in Washington.

When I am back home, I will knit pussy hats for Claudia, Marcy, and Fran­ziska. Now I remember how.

Trans­la­tion: Chris­to­pher Hux, Editing: Marcy Goldberg

About the author: Chris­tine Loriol was a radio jour­na­list in Zurich, Switz­er­land when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She has worked as a free­lance jour­na­list for nume­rous maga­zines and news­pa­pers, and for the past 20 years has been a copy­writer, commu­ni­ca­tions consul­tant, and coach.