Mapping A Movement: Ohio Women Won’t Go Back!

By Carmen Rios
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Mapping A Movement is a series of Feminist Campus Trip Diaries. Our organizers travel the nation to help feminist student leaders on college campuses – these are the tales of their adventures.

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Maddie and Carmen just back from a follow-up trip to Ohio, where they eventually screamed their brains out about women’s rights at the statehouse in Columbus! They spent four days there supporting amazing student leaders in their efforts to mobilize and prepare for the We Won’t Go Back rally. Groups from Ohio University, Bowling Green State University, Kenyon, Ohio State University, and Denison University have been working hard the past few weeks to spread the word about the regressive legislation passed by the Ohio legislature and the We Won’t Go Back rally at the Statehouse. Some groups traveled as far as 2 hours, carpooling with other progressive students, to attend the rally in Columbus.

This is their trip diary.

Sunday, 9/29: Leaving on a Jet Plane

Maddie: At this point I consider myself a professional at navigating the airport. I filled my backpack with snacks from the dollar store so that I wouldn’t have to spend money on airport food (you know you work at a non-profit when…), took my shoes off halfway through the security line  to speed things up, and had my license and boarding pass in my back pocket at all times.

Carmen: Maddie sailed through security right past the seating area without realizing that I was standing there, one sandal in hand, on the phone with Supershuttle. Despite having made it to and through check-in before her, I was stuck because I realized at the TSA stop that I’d left my keys in my shuttle. I immediately suffered a severe emotional breakdown because I once went to Las Vegas and got a big Flamingo Casino keychain – and getting it back was my utmost priority. Eventually, I figured it all out and trailed Maddie to our terminal. We got coffee and I grabbed Chex Mix and we were ready to board!

Maddie: As I mentioned before, I’m pretty proud of my snack purchases that I brought with me to the airport… especially my Big League Chew. However, our flight attendant was not as proud: after singing show tunes to himself for the first 30 minutes of the flight, he told me that I was chewing “children’s gum” and placed his own pack on the seat next to me insisting that I try his “adult gum” instead. I kindly declined.

Carmen: Note to all human beings: never hand someone a mint and say, “I promise it isn’t poison.”

Maddie: Other than this interesting interaction with the flight attendant, the flight went pretty smoothly.

Carmen: I’d never been to Ohio before, so on the flight I sat in the window and took stock of the scenery. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I got were bird-eye views of various corn fields. Who knew?

Maddie: We arrived in Columbus at around 5PM, picked up our luggage – Carmen was very excited to take a suitcase off of the luggage belt for the first time ever – hopped in our rental car that closely resembled a small spaceship, and were on the road to our guest house in Columbus.

Carmen: After the airport, Maddie and I headed straight to an adorable bed-and-breakfast in Clintonsville where we were greeted by two lovely men and their two equally lovely dogs, whom I petted and could not stop loving. It was mutual, despite the fact that they were too well-trained to be tricked into sleeping in my bed.

Maddie: Everything about the bed and breakfast was adorable. Not only were we greeted at the door by two puppies, but the two men who hosted us gave us a tour of their home, a list of great recommendations for cafes and restaurants, and made us coffee and breakfast every morning. Let me repeat…they made us coffee and breakfast every morning.

Carmen: The free entire pots of coffee in the mornings. This was the stuff of legend.

Maddie: Since we had yet to eat real meals, Carmen and I took the bus downtown for some local food at Betty’s in Columbus. Our waitress was amazing and put up with our relentless questions about the menu, her favorite Columbus spots, and the likelihood that we would actually be able to finish all of the food we ordered. She was very impressed with Carmen after she finished a plate of nachos the size of her head. If there isn’t an award for this already we need to make one.

Carmen: Betty’s was decorated from floor to ceiling with pin-up girls, which I felt was a testament to sex-positive feminism. I reveled in it whenever I was taking a break from said nachos, which was frequently since they were so overwhelmingly delicious in my mouth. Also, I was mad full but unable to stop eating because I mean, who eats reheated nachos. Let’s be real.

Maddie: After dinner we headed to the bus stop (pretending not to be tourists) and texted Next Bus to find out our wait time. The next bus wasn’t until 5am…a little jarring when you are standing at the bus stop at 10pm. Luckily, we were only staying a few miles from the restaurant and the weather was great so we took a nice stroll through Columbus to get home.

Carmen: A new thing in my life is that I keep accidentally walking 3.5 miles at a time. This has to be some sort of sick joke or something, but I’m okay with it for now. Plus, it helps you fall asleep at the end of the night in your big, fluffy queen-sized bed – in case you were wondering.

Monday, 9/30: Take Me Home, Country Roads

Maddie: On Monday we woke up bright and early to get ready for our drive to Athens. I didn’t sleep very much because I had convinced myself that my room at the Bed and Breakfast was haunted. I woke up several times during the night to the sound of a door slamming in my room and my sparkling water fizzing and foaming out of the bottle – this ghost was obviously just messing with me for entertainment.

Carmen: I ignored the looming threat of ghosts in exchange for brewing coffee and toasting a bagel to eat in the breakfast nook. I scheduled a bunch of tweets before we left, got ready to hang out with college students all day, and left my charger at home – because that’s obviously how I do.

Maddie: Ghosts and all, there’s nothing that a little coffee (5 cups a day) can’t fix, so we left for Athens around 10am. Turns out that Carmen makes a pretty good road trip DJ.

Carmen: Maddie was the official driver because I have no license, and so I was the official navigator / DJ (a role I am very used to having). But navigating becomes nearly impossible when your Maps app shows you driving through a large grassy field while you’re actually driving on a main road. We averted said navigation crisis as we neared Athens by switching to my phone and listening to songs that featured both Ja Rule AND Ashanti. To be honest, there’s a lot of truth to the idea that during my trip I wasn’t always there when folks called but we were always on time.

Maddie: We got to town just in time for lunch at Fluff before tabling at the Baker Center for the afternoon.

Carmen: Having tabled for four years as a Professional Angry Student, I took charge of decorating and organizing our table at OU while Maddie ate a rice bowl. We put materials everywhere and had little flyers people could easily take with them. Our best decision was putting the candy in the furthermost back end of the table, in one long row: this way, people felt awkward taking it without signing up or talking to us about the rally, and if that’s what they were trying to do, they eventually became invested in what we were doing and promised to show up at the Women’s Center at 7 for sign-making and pizza.

Maddie: It took a few pieces of candy and some aggressive sticker advertisement but we had great conversations with students both about feminism on the Ohio University campus and all of the restrictive legislation passed in Ohio – several of the students we spoke to even came to our meeting later that night in the Women’s Center!

Maddie: The Feminist Equality Movement President Grace Schoenberger joined us at 2PM in the Great Hall to help us spread the word about her group and the We Won’t Get Back rally. It was her first time meeting Carmen!

Carmen: I’d heard so much about her! (All good things.) She was just as wonderful as Maddie promised, and she’s an extremely skilled student activists – constantly reaching out, running around, and taking charge. She was legitimately an inspiring presence in the Union.

Maddie: We had some free time after tabling before the FEM meeting so we headed to Court St Coffee to recaffeinate. At Court St I ran into my favorite feminist barista, FEM member Mary Bline, who chatted with us about our trip and her senior year at Ohio University.

Carmen: After tabling, Maddie and I took a break at Court Street Coffee, and once my computer had officially died we headed over to Casa Nueva, an awesome co-op Mexican restaurant, for dinner.

Maddie: Casa Nueva is an environmentally friendly and socially conscious restaurant in Athens that actually pays their employees a living wage (gasp!). Plus, any restaurant that has a design your own enchilada option is okay in my book. I sprinted back to the Baker Center after dinner to the embarrassment of everyone on Court St, just in time to pick up the pizzas for the FEM meeting at 7:30.

Carmen: I stayed behind at CVS to pick up poster-making supplies for the feminists of OU!

Maddie: There were 35 students at the meeting, many of which were new to the group. After some quick announcements and introductions we dove into poster making for the rally (and the pizza).

Carmen: As much as I loved these human beings from OU, I gotta say: there was this one slice of pizza left that no one wanted. I didn’t even know that could happen. Eventually, I was left bloated from all the sodium in an OU feminist tee-shirt, which Grace was kind enough to gift one of to Maddie and I both.

Maddie: If you ever wonder why I love spending time in Athens, OH just look at some of the posters my OU student leaders made for the rally – they are hilarious.

Carmen: Photographing them was possibly the highlight of the trip. That, and the ghost stories.

Maddie: After the poster making party, one of the FEM leaders, Mackenzie Bentley, told me ghost stories about Athens and the OU campus. I didn’t mention Mackenzie in the last trip report but she is a fierce organizer and student leader who works with both the OSU Student Senate and Feminist Equality Movement. I don’t know how she has any free time in the day with all of the work she does on campus but I’m glad she does it!

Carmen: Mackenzie could totally take on a ghost. Me, though? I don’t think so.

Maddie: We got back to Columbus around 10:30 pm and I may or may not have slept with the light on – although I am happy to report there were no ghostly interactions that night.

Carmen: Just so nobody is curious about my safety and well-being, I experienced very little paranormal activity throughout the trip but was still so spooked from the stories that I refused to leave my blanket coccoon until sunrise. I also may or may not have awoken every hour on the hour terrified to see a ghastly figure sitting on my bed. It is these moments which make me wish I could travel with my puppy. You know, for protection.

Tuesday, October 1: So Wait, Are We Actually Getting Old Then

Maddie: I was able to sleep in a bit on Tuesday morning while Carmen spent a few hours working on FMF social media. We were staying only a few miles away from the OSU campus and after packing up our space ship we said goodbye to our temporary home and left around 11am. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Phat Wraps and then hopped across the street to the student union to meet Grace Ellis, a feminist Buckeye and intern for Autostraddle. She saved the day when the union staff couldn’t find the confirmation for our table and helped us to get set up in the Great Hall.

Maddie: Tuesday happened to be the same day as a high school leadership conference at OSU. I could instantly tell the different between high school conference attendees and OSU college students because all of the high school students would laugh and run away when they saw our table.

Carmen: I just kept making that Marge Simpson noise in response to the high schoolers. An extended growl reflecting my anger at the kyriarchy and the shaming systems put in place to discourage all people from considering women human beings. Typical. Eventually, we made a rule: no candy without a signature on our pledge.

Maddie: Over 20 college students passing through the union signed up for information on the rally and the feminist club on campus, FemUnity. We also handed out FMLA and rally fliers as well as “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and “Vote as If Your Life Depends on It” stickers to those students who didn’t have time to sign up while passing by.

Carmen: After two days of tabling, we still had a full sack of Snickers at the end of tabling. COME ON, Y’ALL.

Maddie: We finished tabling around 3pm and went across the street to Starbucks/WiFi to get some work done before picking up the poster making supplies and pizza for our meeting with FemUnity. Before this meeting I had been doing really well navigating in Ohio without asking for directions, but OSU is a gigantic campus and I had to ask 3 different students for directions before we made it to University Hall for our 6pm meeting.

Carmen: The fact that students at both OU and OSU couldn’t always tell me where buildings were was completely alien to me as a campus life experience. I went to American University, which has 6,000 students tops and about 10 main buildings – all of which are within eyeshot of the others. I spent a majority of these campus visits gawking at the sheer size of each school’s neighborhood. A school that takes up an entire street! WHO KNEW! Nonetheless, we arrived safe and sound for a second round of Pizza Appreciation.

Maddie: On my last trip to Ohio I was only able to meet with the two FemUnity leaders, Maria Merrill and Jess Masagara, because the rest of the group was in a feminist film discussion. This time, we were able to chat with the whole group about ideas for sexual violence awareness and prevention events at OSU. After our brainstorm the group made some fierce posters for the next day’s We Won’t Go Back rally.

Carmen: OSU students were crafty, and a couple of them made two-sided signs so that nobody would ever be mistaken about their desire to protest the world.

Maddie: Jess had to lead Carmen and me back to the parking garage on the other side of campus so that we wouldn’t get lost and then we drove to our gracious host Grace Ellis’ house for the night. After unpacking the car, we all walked to dinner at Bodega in Short North. I ordered hummus since I’d already eaten 4 pieces of pizza at our FemUnity meeting and Carmen ordered garlic fries that could be smelled 3 miles away.

Carmen: I regret nothing, despite still tasting garlic on my breath 24 hours later on the plane.

Maddie: We chatted about what it’s like for Grace and Carmen to write for Autostraddle, interrogated Grace about living in Columbus, and pressed her to tell us about student life at OSU. Dinner ended a bit early so that we would be rested for the rally the next morning. One of Grace’s roommates even called me an “old lady” for falling asleep while he was talking to us.

Carmen: Someone called me ma’am once. I’ll never get over it.

Wednesday, October 2: WE WON’T GO BACK!

Maddie: On Wednesday we packed up the car for the last time during our trip and drove into uptown Columbus. By this time Carmen had become a pro at helping me park our rental car – and by parking I mean directing me as I inched forward a centimeter at a time and panicked. We found a great spot a block away from the Statehouse and had just enough time to grab coffee and a bagel from Tim Horton’s.

Carmen: I insisted on drinking a large iced coffee to remain caffeinated all day: a break from my usual five small cups each day. The bagel was just what I needed, and then I grabbed a sack of our last Snickers bars and two huge rolls of stickers and WE WERE OFF!

Maddie: The rally was a huge success! Over 60 of our student leaders came, all carrying great signs. My personal favorite was an underwear shaped sign that said “I Draw the Line Here.” The leaders from each school were able to meet each other before the rally began and get some feminist stickers from Carmen’s supply.

Carmen: I spent the rally juggling a huge pink Feminist Majority sign, two rolls of very in-demand stickers, and my iPhone. My job was to Instagram everything, but eventually I just became everyone’s resident sticker-giver. I think the entire state of Ohio was well-decorated after the rally with “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like” stickers.

Maddie: The speakers at the rally were inspirational, ranging from Ohio women telling their stories about healthcare access to political leaders discussing the effects of the legislation. The audience was extremely diverse and even included physicians standing against the restrictions this legislation will place on them. Our group was loud and proud when Ellie began the final speech of the rally and asked if student leaders were in the audience. I may have some residual eardrum damage but was so proud of my student leaders for their great turnout at the event.

Carmen: Ellie gave a shout-out to the student activists, saying that young feminists were “the backbone of the movement.” I was yelling pretty loud at that point. It can be inspiring to be at a rally, but it’s extra special to feel like you’re finally being recognized. We’re here! We exist! Feminism is alive! And side note: we wear really nice rally outfits.

Maddie: After the rally we took pictures with all of the student leaders before they gathered their carpools to head back to campus. There was just enough time before our flight to grab some lunch at Elevator, although I felt a little underdressed in our feminist tee shirts.

Carmen: I spent lunch and the rest of the day in a skimpy white tank top. It was so hot in Ohio, y’all! Who knew?

Maddie: When we headed back to the airport to fly home, it was a bit of an adventure to find a gas station to fill up our rental car. But once our bags were checked and we had settled in at our gate we were able to start writing about our Ohio trip before we were even back in DC.

Carmen: I was navigator again, but the gas station the Maps app directed me to had been shut down for what appears to be a quarter- to half-century. Seriously. There weren’t even old pump stations standing. Who updates these databases?! I asked a man for directions and then cleaned out the car while Maddie filled the tank. I’m from Jersey. We don’t pump our own gas. We spent time in the terminal doing work (surprise, surprise) and I read an entire book of poetry on the plane.

Maddie: There were some Super Shuttle difficulties (surprise, surprise) but we made it back to DC around 9pm. I slept 12 hours to make up for all of the traveling we had done and woke up excited to write about all of our adventures in Ohio.

Carmen: I was totally late to work the next day, and I’m still sort of exhausted. But it was worth it. The rally was inspiring, the student activists were awesome, and the adventures were one-of-a-kind. I wouldn’t change a thing looking back. Not even the ghosts.

To keep up with our organizers while they’re traveling, follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

By Carmen Rios

Carmen splits her time disparately between feminist rabble-rousing, writing, public speaking, and flower-picking. She is currently Communications Coordinator at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Straddleverse and Feminism Editor at Autostraddle, and a writer with FORCE. Carmen is a SPARK alum and former Managing Editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. She's part of an oncoming anthology about girls' activism.

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