On a cool, crisp blue-skyed 21 January 2017, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, 100,000 people descended on the US Embassy in London to join a “Women’s March” to Trafalgar Square. Ostensibly in aid of women’s rights, with concerns they may be under threat in the US and beyond under a Trump administration, the march took place in solidarity with a Women’s March on Washington, and further “sister” marches across the world.
So what was the goal? Amidst criticism such events lack defined purpose and do little to prompt concrete change, I was eager to speak to attendees to hear from them what was driving their involvement and what they saw as the likely impact.
Though Trump’s inauguration was a clear prompt for many to turn up, what struck me was the plethora of issues people came to represent and the spectrum of attendees across ages, genders and political affiliations. Far from a dilution of a simplistic “defend women’s rights” message, this diversity appeared to become a strength, a rebuke to the divisive rhetoric heard throughout the US election campaign, as well as through Brexit here in the UK.
The supporters in their droves were keen to emphasise their desire to celebrate difference, hear different voices and strive for inclusivity rather than limit the movement to a specific section of society fighting for a narrowly defined goal.
Many cited issues beyond just those related to women’s rights, such as Angela from Dagenham who was appalled by suggestions of a row back on climate commitments.
Almost to ask what the point of the march was is to miss the point entirely – just the fact of bringing together so many people in a positive and collaborative manner, creating platforms for unheard voices and unaired issues to be shared.
More than a protest designed to achieve a specific goal this was the start of something, a statement of intent, a renewed vigour in non-violent protest and the initiation of a new movement in our times – not one to be defined as feminism or anarchy or socialism. In the same way we now speak of a post-truth politics, this felt like a post-feminist reality was also dawning. This was about equality and inclusivity in it’s broadest sense, a loud, proud and visual celebration of such positive values.
What also stood out was how Donald Trump really had got people’s creative juices flowing. In the sense that humour can be an effective way to “overcomb” adversity (sorry, couldn’t help it) if Donald Trump has given us nothing us else its an endless supply of material to laugh and bond over, his cross-sectional, multi-generational ability to offend becoming an unlikely binding force. Nothing like a lunatic in power to bring people together.
The London Women’s March took place on 21st January. For more information, visit this website.