• Kristina Bergsten

Why I March

Why do I March at the 2018 Women's March in Denver? As a good friend of mine said, I march every day.

As a young woman in a male-dominated field, I march every day when I walk into the court room and get asked, "sweetie, is your attorney here?" I often joke with the offending person that they must be mistaken because I look so young (I'm not), or because they did not think my suit looked expensive enough. Inside, however, I am insulted and angry. If I were a man my age, I would not experience this same discrimination. And that is exactly what it is: discrimination.

I march every day when I enter a courtroom and the Judge assumes I do not know what I'm doing because I am a woman.

I march every day when I receive emails from male opposing counsel, copying my client and/or staff, containing condescending, holier-than-thou comments attacking my youth, experience, skill-set, and knowledge just because I'm a woman. Whenever I call him out, he balks and says that it was just meant as friendly advice, and how dare I accuse him of misogyny. He will then go on to say how he was raised by strong women and he could not possibly be sexist because he has a wife or daughter. Sorry, but just because you're married to a woman or you have a daughter does not mean you are not sexist. Just like having "a black friend" does not mean you are not racist. This man will then go on to accuse me of having privilege because of where my office is located and attack the home that I came from because he assumes that because my office is in one of the most prestigious areas of Denver, that someone must have paid my way in.

The reality for me is that I was in an abusive relationship for 11 years. I gave up all my rights to my marital portion of our shared monetary life just so I could get away from him. My abuser left me with nothing - but I've worked with less. I built myself up from the ashes like a Phoenix, and now I work to carry my life story and my experience, strength, and hope to others who are suffering or have suffered. It is only through sharing our stories and coming together in solidarity as women that we will raise each other up.

To the woman out there still suffering in your abusive relationship: GET OUT! You can do it; you can make it on your own; and you will be something greater and better than you are now or ever will be if you stay with him. I promise you.

So, that is the home I came from that these men attack.

I march every day when potential male clients call me "sweetie" or "honey" and then ask me to represent them.

I march every day when a male attorney offers to be my mentor, and then buys me roses or asks me out to dinner. I march every day when a male attorney hires me as an associate and then make comments about how my legs look in my dowdy skirt-suit, or how my hair looks good *this* way, or how that shade of lipstick is attractive on me.

I march today because I had to open my own law firm in order to get paid what I am worth - and to avoid the sexual harassment I've experienced working for men.

I march every day when I get on the bus or train, or drive my car, or walk on the street, or buy groceries, or go out with friends for lunch, or be polite to a man and get cat-called, harassed, asked for my name or number, or have something lewd and lascivious said to me.

I march every day when someone finds out I am an unenrolled Lakota Souix and then asks me what my "spirit animal" is, or if I went to college for free.

I march every day when someone finds out about my sexual assault and asks what I did to deserve it. #Metoo

So, I march today in solidarity with all the women and men who know my story because they have lived it or are living it. I march today for those who cannot march because they are living my story, walking in my shoes. I march today for those women who are shackled by economic disparity in income and cannot take the time off work to march.

I march today because it is time that the (white) men who abuse their power and privilege, who institutionalize it because it serves them and only them, who reinforce it in their every day behavior and words, who stand by and do nothing when they see injustice, who claim that they become "better men" because they now have daughters, who treat their wives and mothers and daughters and secretaries and colleagues like objects because they do not view them as people - I march today because their time is up. #Timesup

I am with you and you are with me, and together we can achieve anything.