THE WOMEN’S MARCH: A WAKENING OF GLOBAL FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS?

Organized on the day after the US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March was meant to be a “grassroots effort of independent coordinators” to protest against the new President’s agenda regarding female condition, LGBT rights and environmental issues. Indeed, Donald Trump has always made his opinion quite clear on those matters, and he has recently proved the feminists’ concerns to be justified by reintroducing the global gag rule, an executive act that cut all funding to pro-abortion NGOs, putting the life of thousands of women in danger all over the world.

trump-signing-global-gag-rule

23rd January 2017, President Donald Trump signing the global gag rule, surrounded by white men

The Women’s March: an international movement

The Women’s March was initially planned to take place in Washington D.C., but the protest spread beyond the United States borders, and became a worldwide movement as more than 20 other countries had their own Women’s March on the same day. In addition to the approximately 500,000 who marched in D.C., sixty thousand people gathered in Toronto to express their opposition to Donald Trump’s views on women, twenty thousand in London, seven thousand in Paris, but also many other more in Sydney, Berlin, Brussels, Seoul, Mexico City, Tokyo, Rome… The list goes on and on.

A new life for global feminism?

It is agreed that modern feminism is experiencing a period of confusion and dislocation. The so-called “Third-Wave” of feminism is having trouble defining itself and explaining its goals[1]. Third wavers tend to claim themselves as non-judgemental, apolitical and inclusive, and they put a special emphasis on the notion of choice, meaning that there is no good or bad way of being a feminist, and therefore, every feminist is entitled to express her feminism in her own style. And so, third-wavers recommend micropolitics as a mean of action, they call for immediate direct actions on the local level, led by individual organizers. Those actions are called by Zakia Salime “personal revolutions”[2], and can take many different forms from a country to another.

This new approach to feminism has led to a plethora of uncoordinated actions, making very little sense on the international level, and contributing to this feeling of confusion. That is why the unexpected worldwide fervour around the Women’s March can appear as a new hope for a unified global effort for the feminine struggle to the eyes of many, like Eve Ensler, who sees in the Women’s March the renaissance of resistance.

A movement nonetheless controversial

Nevertheless, some aspects of the march were controversial and have risen many interrogations, and that is why I doubt that the movement will generate any important changes, in the US or elsewhere.

First of all, the movement has only found repercussions in the Western world. There has been no Women’s March in the Middle-East or in Africa, exceptions be made for Kenya and South Africa. It could hardly be defined as a truly global protest, especially when one takes into account that those unrepresented countries are the ones where the feminine condition is the worst. Second of all, there has been many disputes within the organization of the Women’s March, especially regarding the issue of race and religion. Indeed, some people have criticised the movement to be directed towards black, brown and Asian women only, and some white women have complained that they felt unrepresented, and even unwelcome to the protest, whereas coloured women were wondering if the protest would truly be inclusive or if “white feminism” would once again stifle their own claims and views. Regarding the issue of religion, one organization (CAIR) called for women to wear an American flag as a hijab, as a sign of protest against Trump’s opinions on both women and Islam. This left many liberals perplexed, and some have even argued that this was in fact promoting women subjugation. Finally, it has also been argued that the Women’s March has more been an Anti-Trump protest than feminist. This point been raised by Asra Nomani, who found that the billionaire George Soros, one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s largest contributor, had been financially supporting 56 of the march’s partners. The Women’s March was therefore clearly tinted of a certain political colour, and it implicitly excluded pro-Trump women from the protest.

At the end of the day, the Women’s March has been the theatre of feminism’s most divisive disputes (what being a feminist means, the issue of race, of religion, the political line, means of action, male participation…)–the same ones that have been antagonizing feminists since the 1980s, and those disputes are, so far, what makes a truly global feminist effort impossible.

REFERENCES

Ensler, Eve. 2017/01/21. ‘The Women’s March heralds a renaissance of resistance’ in: The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/21/womens-march-donald-trump-inauguration

Nomani, Asra. 2017/01/20. ‘Billionaire George Soros has ties to more than 50 ‘partners’ of the Women’s March of Washington’ in The New York Times. http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/01/20/billionaire-george-soros-has-ties-to-more-than-50-partners-of-the-womens-march-on-washington/

Redden, Molly. 2017/01/23. ‘Global gag rule reinstated by Trump, curbing NGO abortion services abroad’ in: The Guardian.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/23/trump-abortion-gag-rule-international-ngo-funding

Salime, Zakia. 2014. ‘New Feminism as Personal Revolutions: Microrebellious Bodies’ in: Signs, Vol. 40, No. 1 (p.14-20)

Snyder, R. Claire. 2008. ‘What Is Third‐Wave Feminism? A New Directions Essay’ in: Signs, Vol. 34, No. 1 (p.175-196)

Stockman, Farah. 2017/01/09. ‘Women’s March on Washington Opens Contentious Dialogues about Race’ in: The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/09/us/womens-march-on-washington-opens-contentious-dialogues-about-race.html?_r=0

Terkel, Amanda. 2017/01/23. ‘Donald Trump Signs Anti-Abortion Surrounded by men’ in: The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-abortion-men_us_5886369be4b0e3a7356a7910

Tolentino, Jia. 2017/01/18. ‘The somehow controversial women’s march on Washington’ in: The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/jia-tolentino/the-somehow-controversial-womens-march-on-washington

Vella, Erica. 2017/01/21. ‘Tens of thousands attend Women’s March Toronto’ in: Global News. http://globalnews.ca/news/3197235/60000-people-attend-womens-march-toronto-organizers/

Venner, Fiammetta. 2017/01/23. ‘Porter un Hijab pour lutter contre le machisme de Donald Trump, une manière de légitimer l’oppression des femmes’ in : Le Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/fiammetta-venner/marche-femmes-trump-hijab/

Wikipedia article: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marche_des_femmes_(2017)

Women’s March website: https://www.womensmarch.com/event-details/

[1] Snyder. 2008. ‘What is Third-Wave Feminism? A New Directions Essay’

[2] Salime. 2014. ‘New feminism as Personal Revolutions : Micorebellious bodies’

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About School of Politics and International Relations

This blog has been set up for the students of PO665, Advanced Topics in Politics and International Relations: Global Gender Justice, which is a course for final year Honours students in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent. As part of their participation in the course, students submit blog posts that examine issues pertaining to gender justice within the family, the community, the state and global society. We aim to explore the extent to which gender inequality within the state has an impact on state behaviour, with a specific focus on state development and state security, and further aim to analyse the effectiveness and limits of international organisations, international human rights instruments, NGOs and activists to bring about greater gender justice.
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