Marching, Swiss style

Hello, and happy New Year! Apologies for the long break in posts (I was enjoying time with family and friends in Australia, but I’m now back in France, so let’s get cracking).

You have no doubt heard about the Women’s March that happened on 21 January 2017. When a friend mentioned it, I was happy to join her.

The closest march was in Geneva, and I was under-prepared. I had no pink hat, no sign and no idea about the march, but my American friend did. So, armed with comfortable shoes and not too many warm layers (marching would warm me up amply in the below-zero temperatures), I met her in Annecy along with two French men, and we drove to Geneva.

Before the march, we listened to inspiring speeches and songs. Amusing and powerful signs were everywhere — even on dogs.

My feet were freezing and I regretted my choice of shoe, but they would thaw during the march, right? “How long is the march?” I asked my friend. “It’s only 700 metres,” she said. Seven. Hundred. Metres. This must have been the shorted march ever organised! I started marching on the spot as the organiser explained how the march would work; this was, of course, Switzerland, where rules are made to be kept and embraced. To ensure the march was a success, we were asked to respect the police, avoid walking on the road, and acknowledge that we’d be released in groups to cross the bridge. Given the bridge was about half of the walk, it was probably an important announcement.

Our French friends were dumbfounded. One said: “If this were Paris, we’d be taking over the entire bridge and climbing up the lamps”. The other one remarked that respecting the police wouldn’t be high on the agenda. I was relieved we weren’t in France.

As we approached the bridge with feet warming up, the march slowed down. A group started chanting “This is what democracy looks like” over and over again. We were swaying in time to their chant and started mouthing the words with them. This is what democracy looks like, and we felt it.

And then, a steward said: “Next fifty onto the bridge” and we obediently walked on, without question or chanting, staying on the footpath at all times with banks and shops like Dior all around. This is what Swiss democracy looks like.

Addendum: Jokes aside, I’m proud to be one of the estimated 3,000 who attended the march in Geneva, and I will stand up for women’s rights in whatever country I live in.


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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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2 comments on “Marching, Swiss style
  1. Emily says:

    Brilliant! I think that, like you, I would have been glad not to have been in France. Mind you, the fact that there was any march at all in Switzerland, however well-encadre-d, signals that people were pretty worked up about it, whereas in France marching is just something that you do once a month, out of habit…

  2. Wendy says:

    Indeed, Emily. It was the *only* march in the whole of Switzerland. which I think shocked me more than the extreme shortness of the march. I do love that students last year protested about full-time wages even though they weren’t even working full-time at the time. As a French friend explained, they’re getting a proper French education!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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