I don’t know when I became a feminist. I used to say that it happened as an accident, that I stumbled my way towards it, but I’m not altogether sure that’s true any more.
I was raised to believe that I had the same rights as any man or boy I encountered. I was told I could do whatever I wanted, regardless of my gender. My parents instilled in me an innate sense of feminism – so much so that I didn’t realise I was a feminist until I gained a proper understanding of the word. That probably only happened a couple of years ago. And at first, I was embarrassed to call myself a feminist. The word had gathered a number of negative connotations – that we were rabid manhaters who believed in women gaining superiority. That we were angry, shouty women who resented men for all they had achieved. For a long time, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say, I referred to myself as an “equalatist” because I believed in total equality – regardless of gender, religion, race, sexual preference. Hey, past Alice, that is not a word. That which you’re describing there is feminism.
I don’t know when I suddenly realised that I was a feminist. I guess, it was when I started reading around the subject more. When I began finding articles by strong and intelligent women who had proclaimed themselves as feminists and found myself nodding along vehemently. Or when I sat down with my pal Sara (who now works at Buzzfeed and who you should follow because of her innate skills for keepin’ it real) to chat about feminism over our Sainsbury’s lunch. She said to me “Alice. Do you believe in equality for men and women?” to which I replied “of course.” And she looked at me with one of her knowing looks (she’s actually the smartest person I’ve ever met) and said “dude, that makes you a feminist”.
Now, I don’t hesitate to say I’m a feminist. I stand with my white, cisgender privilege and declare that I’m a feminist who tries damn hard to make sure my feminism is intersectional – that it applies to all women. I KNOW that my battles are different to those of women of colour or transgender women (who, incidentally have as much right to declare themselves as women as I do, regardless of how we were born), and I try hard to fight ableism too – but I’m still learning every day.
So when I made the mistake of looking at my phone at 5am the morning after the US election and discovered my heart in my mouth as I read that Donald Trump, a proven misogynist, had become President Elect of the USA, and held back tears for women across the globe – I knew that no matter how small it was, I wanted to add my voice to the cacophony of those who were shouting about women’s rights. That’s why I joined the Women’s March on London on Saturday afternoon.
I marched to proclaim that Trump’s treatment of women throughout his lifetime is not OK with me. I marched in solidarity with the women whose needs were overlooked and ignored by white, middle class women in America when they voted into power a man who is fundamentally racist. I marched with the people who are scared about their future under the tyrannical reign of Donald Trump. I marched with the LBTQ population to help remind the world that love is love, whatever shape or form it comes in. I marched because women’s rights are human rights. I marched because we can never move forward if over half of us are held back. I didn’t march to speak for any of these people, because I can’t speak for every person in the world, but I marched alongside them, with them, to let them know I’m behind them.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism about the Women’s March movement over the last few days, but from where I was standing (admittedly the crowd was so big, I didn’t make it out of Grosvenor Square), this march was about solidarity. It wasn’t calling for another election. It wasn’t claiming that Hilary should have won (that’s a whole other can of worms to open and digest). It wasn’t about decrying women’s rights as fundamentally more important than men’s. It was about saying that what happened in the US election wasn’t ok with us. It was about humans, regardless of gender, standing together and saying that they way Donald Trump treats people is not the way we believe people should be treated.
I live in the UK, so I’m not directly threatened by Donald Trump but I am threatened by his opinions and his attitudes. We all are. These scare me. What they mean scares me. And as my friend Linzi just said on Facebook: “Dear any women saying they do not understand the women’s marches because they do not feel PERSONALLY threatened by Trump. Firstly, that he could be elected even after the misogynistic, racist, hateful rhetoric he spewed is a threat to everyone, worldwide. Secondly, intersectionality always.”
So what was my personal motivation for marching? Because I know women who have felt threatened by men throwing “locker room talk” around. I marched because this kind of behaviour is a gateway to domestic violence. I marched to let the British Government know that I believe they should be addressing all of these issues when exploring the “special relationship” with the USA over the next four years. I marched because women have been battling against the stream of misogyny for years and it’s time this shit stopped. I marched because I can not believe we live in a world where Donald Trump has become president. Or rather because I absolutely can believe it, and that says more about the world we live in and the horrifying reality of what that means for US citizens. I’ll be honest, I’ve been sleepwalking, consistently assuming the best of people. But with Brexit and now Trump’s election, I’ve had a massive wake up call, and it’s significantly less pleasant than being woken up by foxes banging in the garden at 2.34am (you’ve all heard that noise, right?).
Truth be told, I’m still figuring out where to go next from here (but I’m starting by reading threads like this one). I don’t want this to be where me adding my voice to the cause ends. I want to keep working to make a difference and I want to keep standing in solidarity with the 4 million people all over the world who stood up on Saturday and said “not in our name”. So this isn’t over yet. It’s far from over.
I will keep shouting for the next four years in the hopes that it will make a difference. I will be a nasty woman and I will be proud of it. I will strive to be kinder than ever. I will strive to keep adding my voice whenever it matters, not just when everyone else is doing it.
Because we are all in this together. And we’ve got to look after each other.
Now, more than ever.
Great things I’ve read about the March
This is why I’ll be marching – Marisa Bate on The Pool
The Women’s March heralds a renaissance of resistance – Eve Ensler on The Guardian
Pictures From Women’s Marches on Every Continent – New York Times
Why Londoners are standing in solidarity with the U.S. at the Women’s March – Rachel Thompson on Mashable