Chloe Smith is a unionist, feminist, student activist and spends her days smashing the patriarchy. Here she writes about the global fightback in a Donald Trump world.
For many women, Donald Trump’s election as president confirmed what a lot of us already knew. It told us that the standards set for women to succeed in public office are set immeasurably higher than they are for men, despite the influx of women politicians and leaders over the previous decades. It told us that the old cry that allegations of sexual assault will ruin a man’s career is a fallacy, as long as that man holds any sort of power or can turn a profit for someone else. And it told us that the women’s movement still has a lot of work to do to achieve our economic, social, and political freedom - and, in fact, that the victory we have fought for is much further away than we may have imagined.
Many of us couldn’t help but be shocked at how openly vulgar Trump was throughout the campaign in his attitudes towards women, amongst many others. Yet we repeatedly saw how people from his party, his supporters, and the media found excuses for his behaviour or dismissed his rhetoric as irrelevant: “What matters isn’t what he says, but what he does”; “it’s just locker room talk”; “boys will be boys”. Clearly, despite the progress that has undoubtedly been made, there are still prevailing harmful and derogatory attitudes that tell us that women don’t deserve basic respect, whether that woman is a schoolgirl, a journalist, a beauty queen, or a presidential candidate.
None of this is new: having a sexist old man in charge of the country accounts for most of our political leaders throughout history, both here and in the US. But what we can, and indeed must, learn from history is that these attitudes can be fought, resisted, and changed, wherever and whenever they show themselves. What history tells us is that this is not only a right but a civic responsibility, for women but also for those who want to live in a truly civilised, democratic, and equal society. After all, a society in which more than 50% of the population is not awarded basic respect, decency, and opportunity – in other words, equality – can’t ever achieve the true potential of its citizens and of itself.
The global Women’s Marches, protesting attacks on women’s health and reproductive rights, the increased impact that climate change will have on women, sexual assault and harassment, LGBTQI and Indigenous rights, police harassment and brutality, economic inequality, and cuts to social support and welfare, was an inspirational display of just how many people around the world do care about the rights of women.
But over the next four years of a Trump presidency, and beyond, and as people around the world face their own oppressive, bigoted, or reactionary governments and regimes, what we need to remember is that one march is not enough. Ten marches are not enough. To use the rhetoric of the United States, attacks on women’s fundamental rights is a war on women for being women. It’s a war being waged on all social, economic, and political levels and thus must be fought on them too: not only in the streets or on university campuses, but in our parliaments, our boardrooms, and our classrooms.
And it must be fought by all of us who oppose it, no matter that its impacts on us as individuals will change depending on who we are, where we live, who we love, and how much money we have. We know that the measures Trump and the Republican-dominated congress will enact will disproportionately affect women who are poor, migrant, LGBTQI, rural, young, and from minority communities. Far too often, these are the women who have been ignored in the struggle for women’s rights and women’s equality. But without them, any fight cannot hope to succeed and is not a fight for all of us: to quote Audre Lorde “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.
So, not only over the next four years but for as long as it takes, we must keep marching and taking to the streets. We must keep engaging with our political processes and representatives and holding them to account. We must keep debating with our racist uncles or our sexist colleagues, because living in an echo chamber will achieve nothing. We must keep donating to groups that provide the services and advocacy that support the women who need it most. We must keep engaging with the fight on all its fronts. And most importantly, we must do this together, in our communities, our countries, and internationally.
History tell us that no matter if it’s Trump, or those who paved the way for him, or those who will fill the void when he’s gone, when the people are united, we will never be defeated. And when women are united, women win.