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On January 21, 2017, men, women and children from across the globe took to the streets en masse. Thousands of demonstrators, armed with placards carrying messages of defiance and female empowerment, took part in Women’s Marches happening everywhere from Alaska to Osaka. Organisers of the Women’s Marches called for people to join them ‘as part of an international day of action in solidarity’ aimed at promoting women’s and human rights. It also happened to be Donald Trump’s first day as President of the United States.
Some have characterised the march as an ‘anti-Trump protest’, but to me, this doesn’t accurately reflect the array of reasons that compelled so many people to join the rallies. In Trafalgar Square 100,000 participants waved homemade signs carrying messages on race equality, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, climate change, abortion rights, immigration and refugee causes - the list goes on. A spectrum of political views, opinions and causes was represented, with the crowd as diverse and interesting as the array of strong sentiments and witty puns emblazoned on the placards.
Some have asked what exactly people were marching for. Many question what the point was now the election is over and we are slowly realizing that the Trump presidency is a reality we will have to live with for at least the next four years. Admittedly there was no defined aim of the demonstration and while most of the sentiments were rooted in an anti-Trump message, the broad cause of ‘women’s rights’ is one of the main reasons it gained such momentum. Many of the demonstrators have completely different attitudes and perspectives on how to define this important issue, but they all found common ground in being offended by the US President’s comments and behaviour.
I certainly wasn’t under the impression standing in the cold on a Saturday morning, waving a placard and chanting along to “who runs the world? GIRLS” was going to make Donald Trump suddenly realise the error of his ways. Women were not marching to overthrow the President, nor were they protesting against any particular piece of legislation – nothing had actually been passed yet. Moreover, it is clear from the measures Trump has subsequently enacted, that he clearly hasn’t taken much notice of the views expressed by the marchers.
The movement stated on its website that the US election "proved a catalyst for a grassroots movement of women to assert the positive values that the politics of fear denies’. Seeing a man that has been so blatantly misogynistic voted into the highest office in the Western world, is both isolating and ominous for those he offended and ostracised. The march was an overwhelming physical expression of solidarity, reminding many women, men and minorities that they are not alone.
Those who voted for Trump didn’t feel that his boasts of sexual assault on women made him unsuitable to hold the role of President. But the resolve and energy of those that came out on the 21st January, helped remind the whole world that women’s rights are not a forgotten cause. It sent a message that there is no place for ‘locker room talk,’ in the 21st Century and that it is not acceptable for anyone to objectify women openly or behind closed doors.
I doubt the inauguration of another democratically elected individual will evoke such a worldwide feeling of discontent and indignation in my lifetime. Yet, the atmosphere was not one of anger, but of hope and positivity. For many it was an emotionally overwhelming day - the powerful realisation that so many others share the same feeling of helplessness and exasperation at world politics was hugely reassuring and empowering for many who marched.
The important question is what comes next. It is one thing to rouse emotion through a march which embraces such a wide range of issues but channelling the outrage and determination necessary to create a cohesive movement is another challenge. I believe if the momentum generated by the march is sustained it has the potential to make a real impact. The urgency of Trump’s presidency should remind us that we simply cannot afford to sit back and fail to speak out against the dangerous attitudes he espouses.
Kingsley Napley are proud to support the #BeBoldForChange campaign and are publishing a series of blogs to promote discussion around gender parity and the continued relevance of International Women’s Day.
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