The Trump ef­fect on fem­i­nism:

The elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as Pres­i­dent of the United States has done more than as­tound the world – it has gal­vanised peo­ple into ac­tion. Wendyl Nis­sen re­ports on the re­sponse from New Zealand’s women’s move­ment and talks to dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions of fem

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - Contents -

Wendyl Nis­sen in­ves­ti­gates the re­cent surge of ac­tivism

Have you been on a protest yet? If you were liv­ing in the United States, you may have held a plac­ard sup­port­ing im­mi­grants, the en­vi­ron­ment or women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights, or you might have joined the many marches sup­port­ing the women’s move­ment that have been held fol­low­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

In fact, in the US, the protest is be­ing re­ferred to as the “new brunch” be­cause lib­eral Amer­i­cans now get up on the week­end, grab a cof­fee and

head off to one of the plethora of protests against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In his first week as Pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump sat at his desk in the Oval Of­fice and signed more than a dozen pres­i­den­tial ac­tions, which sus­pended af­ford­able health­care; put se­vere re­stric­tions on im­mi­gra­tion, which many say was a Mus­lim ban; re­vived con­struc­tion of two ma­jor oil pipe­lines, brush­ing aside en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns; au­tho­rised a wall be­tween the US and Mex­ico; con­sid­ered re­vis­it­ing the use of tor­ture; started in­ves­ti­ga­tions into voter fraud (but only in

Protest is be­ing re­ferred to as the “new brunch”.

the states where he lost); and, most sig­nif­i­cantly for many women, stopped fund­ing in­ter­na­tional planned par­ent­hood or­gan­i­sa­tions, deny­ing mil­lions of women abor­tions, con­tra­cep­tion and sex­ual health ser­vices.

Here in New Zealand, women turned out to protest Trump’s unique brand of misog­yny, and many of those women would ad­mit that it’s been a while. A while since the women’s move­ment felt it needed to put on a show of force, and as one plac­ard so aptly dis­played in the US – “I can’t be­lieve I still have to protest this f ...... s…”

For many New Zealand women, the ap­pear­ance of re­al­ity TV star Don­ald Trump in the race for Pres­i­dent of the United States started off as a bit of a joke, but then be­came a ter­ri­fy­ing re­al­ity. For me, it made me very con­cerned for my daugh­ters’ and grand­daugh­ters’ fu­ture. Would the women’s move­ment cope? As a fem­i­nist, I won­dered what ef­fect Trump would have on the gains we have made and is­sues we still have to ad­dress.

So I de­cided to write this story and put in calls to two lead­ing van­guards of fem­i­nism, Ger­maine Greer and Glo­ria Steinem. Part of me wanted th­ese old-guard fem­i­nists to tell me it was all go­ing to be all right. To map out a plan of re­sis­tance, to take con­trol and or­gan­ise women around the world. And part of me, if I’m hon­est, just wanted the priv­i­lege of talk­ing to two women I have ad­mired all my life.

But un­for­tu­nately it wasn’t to be. Ger­maine’s pub­lish­ers: “Many thanks for your email, but I’m afraid Pro­fes­sor Greer doesn’t grant in­ter­views for print pub­li­ca­tion.”

Which is fair enough. At 78, she’s been writ­ing books and col­umns and giv­ing talks and lec­tures for the best part of 50 years. Per­haps she feels it’s time to not be the go-to fem­i­nist for ev­ery jour­nal­ist around the world.

Glo­ria Steinem’s per­son came back with a shorter re­sponse: “Un­for­tu­nately Glo­ria needs to de­cline.”

Which, again, is fair enough. At 82, Glo­ria is still ac­tive in the women’s move­ment and spoke at the women’s march in Wash­ing­ton on Jan­uary 21, where she said: “We are here and around the world for a deep democ­racy that says we will not be quiet, we will not be con­trolled, we will work for a world in which all coun­tries are con­nected. God may be in the de­tails, but the god­dess is in con­nec­tions. We are at one with each other, we are look­ing at each other, not up. No more ask­ing daddy.”

No mat­ter. Right here in this coun­try we have women who have fought hard and long for the women’s move­ment dur­ing the sec­ond wave of fem­i­nism, such as writer, politi­cian and food cam­paigner Sue Ked­g­ley, who is in her 60s, and lo­cal body politi­cian, writer, his­to­rian, and women’s health cam­paigner San­dra Coney (72). They are ac­tive in lo­cal gov­ern­ment th­ese days. We also have some younger women who are part of what is now be­ing called the third wave of fem­i­nism – politi­cian Ch­löe Swar­brick (22), and mu­si­cian, writer and ac­tivist Lizzie Marvelly (27).

So I talked to th­ese in­spi­ra­tional women in a se­ries of in­ter­views that I found at times sur­pris­ing, some­times chal­leng­ing, but mostly em­pow­er­ing. Then I read Fight Like a Girl, writ­ten by Cle­men­tine Ford, an Aus­tralian in her mid-30s who is a writer, broad­caster and pub­lic speaker and also very ac­tive on so­cial me­dia (I’ve since rec­om­mended Fight Like a Girl to all my friends).

But first, let’s start in a pre-Trump world and find out how the women’s move­ment is go­ing.

All the women agree that we still have a long way to go on is­sues like the gen­der pay gap.

“I can dis­tinctly re­call,” says Sue, “when the 1972 Equal Pay Act was passed here and we all thought, ‘Well that’s great, we can tick that box,’ yet the pay gap just keeps get­ting wider.

“It’s lu­di­crous that nearly 45 years later women still don’t get equal pay.”

How can that be when it was made into law? “Se­crecy,” says Sue. “Un­til there is some kind of dis­clo­sure about who earns what, there will con­tinue to be sit­u­a­tions where we find that a woman will be train­ing up her male re­place­ment for her job and dis­cover he is be­ing paid two-thirds more than her.”

Women also leave work to have chil­dren and re­turn to find their male col­leagues have climbed the lad­der in their ab­sence, and many women work part time or in lower paid jobs such as care­givers.

The women also agree that vi­o­lence against women is still a big prob­lem.

“The level of vi­o­lence women ex­pe­ri­ence is a ma­jor is­sue,” says Cle­men­tine, “and it doesn’t ap­pear to go away even when crime rates drop. It’s not just ex­treme vi­o­lence, it’s the guy slap­ping your arse at a night­club and peo­ple say you’re over-re­act­ing and to toughen up.

“Gen­er­a­tions of women have been un­der­mined enough to the point where they can’t even com­plain about a ba­sic sex­ual ha­rass­ment is­sue, so who will be con­fi­dent enough to make a com­plaint about the se­ri­ous stuff?”

When work­ing as a jour­nal­ist, Ch­löe had cov­ered the Roast Busters story in 2013, where a group of young men based in Auck­land al­legedly sought to in­tox­i­cate un­der­age girls to gang rape them.

“There were peo­ple ac­tu­ally com­ing out and say­ing that ‘boys will be boys’ and I don’t think this coun­try ever re­ally had a grown-up con­ver­sa­tion about that. I think we have a big cul­tural prob­lem where women’s boundaries are not re­spected and that’s fright­en­ing.”

Sue be­lieves the sex­u­al­i­sa­tion of women is still a prob­lem, with five-year-old girls be­ing in­vited to make-up par­ties where the sole ex­er­cise is to prac­tise “putting on your face”.

Lizzie feels that most is­sues are women’s is­sues, whether they are about the econ­omy or ed­u­ca­tion, but her main wor­ries are af­ford­able child­care and marginalised peo­ple such as women of colour, trans­gen­der peo­ple or the dis­abled.

While some of the women I talked to point to a lack of women CEOs on boards or in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, Cle­men­tine be­lieves this is a “white mid­dle-class women” is­sue.

“That ad­dresses a very par­tic­u­lar kind of priv­i­leged women and if they get to be on the board does that mean that gen­der equal­ity is solved? Of course not.”

Then Trump came along. For most of the women, he first came on their radar when 10-year-old tapes were re­leased which had him skit­ing about how he likes to grab women “by the pussy”. He went on to say that when you are a star “you can do any­thing”.

“For me that was the point of no re­turn,” says Sue. “Here’s a man with ut­ter con­tempt for women boast­ing of his misog­yny.”

She said the best re­sponse to this was a woman in Canada who sent out a mes­sage on Twit­ter ask­ing women to fight back and ex­pose men who are sex­ual preda­tors. She went on to de­scribe her ex­pe­ri­ence as a 12-year-old with an un­cle in the back seat of a car.

“The re­sponse was as­tound­ing, as mil­lions of women tweeted about their ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Sue. “So ex­pos­ing this col­lec­tively was very pow­er­ful be­cause pre­vi­ously it had been a bit buried.”

It seems that with Trump in power, re­sis­tance is form­ing. The day af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion there were 700 marches in the US and around the world (even in Antarc­tica) with mil­lions of women tak­ing part with the clear mes­sage sent that “pussy grabs back”. It is thought it was the big­gest protest since the sec­ond wave of fem­i­nism in the 1960s. From the very Bri­tish slo­gan “I’m re­ally quite cross” to “We are the grand­daugh­ters of the witches you weren’t able to burn” to “Free Me­la­nia”, the plac­ards were both witty and demon­stra­tive.

Here in New Zealand we had marches in Auck­land, Welling­ton, Christchurch, Dunedin and In­ver­cargill.

Ch­löe cau­tions that 53 per cent of white women voted for Trump, but that wasn’t be­ing spo­ken about at the marches. “To de­clare all women are in sol­i­dar­ity doesn’t recog­nise the nu­ances and strug­gles dif­fer­ent women face, such as women of colour or transwomen.”

For Lizzie, the march in Auck­land was her first, and she de­scribes it as “one of the most ef­fer­ves­cent, sup­port­ive, happy ex­pe­ri­ences, at the risk of over­sim­pli­fy­ing the ter­ri­fy­ing sit­u­a­tion. The sense of sis­ter­hood and sol­i­dar­ity was amaz­ing but I also think it was im­por­tant that we didn’t all go home think­ing, ‘Well, I’ve ticked that box.’”

San­dra agrees. “It’s one thing to get out and march and sign an on­line pe­ti­tion… Those are one-off things that don’t re­quire any com­mit­ment or long-term or­gan­is­ing. You can’t just say we don’t like it and then over­turn it. There’s go­ing to have to be or­gan­i­sa­tion to do that and the abil­ity to fight for things one by one, and that will take peo­ple do­ing a lot more than post­ing things on Face­book in the mid­dle of the night.”

The sense of sol­i­dar­ity was amaz­ing but it was im­por­tant we didn’t all go home think­ing, ‘Well, I’ve ticked that box.’

San­dra has been on “mil­lions of marches” – her first in Pon­sonby Road, Auck­land, about a her­itage house that was be­ing pulled down. She was also a big fan of “em­bar­rass­ing peo­ple from the out­side” by putting up posters, protest­ing out­side peo­ple’s houses and once set­ting up a soup kitchen to em­bar­rass vis­it­ing roy­alty.

“There are too many women sit­ting pretty or too busy.”

Sue has been on a lot or marches too. Her first was at the age of 19 at univer­sity, march­ing to Par­lia­ment against the Viet­nam War. “Pres­i­dent John­son had made a fly­ing visit to New Zealand to pro­mote the Viet­nam War and thou­sands of us chanted in uni­son out­side par­lia­ment, ‘Hey hey LBJ, how many ba­bies did you kill to­day?’ It was a mem­o­rable event,” she says.

Cle­men­tine went on the women’s march in Mel­bourne and agrees that go­ing back to grass­roots forms of cam­paign­ing is im­por­tant. “We need to have meet­ings with each other and start do­nat­ing money to or­gan­i­sa­tions who are bet­ter pre­pared than us to do some­thing.”

Sue says huge marches are sup­posed to make gov­ern­ments ner­vous, but that re­mains to be seen. How­ever, for women who are feel­ing hope­less or alone, there can be a sense of sol­i­dar­ity. And she makes the point that in the days of so­cial me­dia, it is much eas­ier to be con­nected to a cause.

“The women’s move­ment in New Zealand came out of the move­ment in the United States, but it took about two-and-a-half years to get here. Th­ese days some­thing can hap­pen over there and two-and-a-half min­utes later we’re onto it.”

Cle­men­tine agrees it is so easy to con­nect with each other through Face­book and Twit­ter, but there are also some pit­falls.

“There is a lot of in­fight­ing on the in­ter­net be­cause we’re knead­ing out some of the knots in the move­ment, but peo­ple need to recog­nise that if the only thing you are do­ing on­line is call­ing out peo­ple who ex­ist in your move­ment in on­line spaces, then you need to think about what you are do­ing.”

In Cle­men­tine’s book she talks about the num­ber of men who go onto her Face­book page and post in­cred­i­bly vi­o­lent misog­y­nis­tic mes­sages that in­clude sex­ual vi­o­lence and abuse.

In many cases women who re­ceive such in­sults, in­clud­ing Ch­löe and Lizzie, will click on the man’s pro­file to see a pic­ture of him with a fam­ily – the kind of man who would never say th­ese things in pub­lic but feels that the in­ter­net gives him the right to do so.

In one case, Cle­men­tine con­tacted the em­ploy­ers of a man who was abu­sive to her and shared his mes­sage with them. He lost his job.

All the women have no­ticed an in­crease in misog­y­nis­tic abuse on their so­cial me­dia ac­counts re­cently. They all credit the sup­port of other women on those ac­counts to help them get through it and, as Cle­men­tine says, the abu­sive men “are pretty bloody pre­dictable and their pres­ence has re­sulted in women bond­ing to­gether to sup­port each other to be con­fi­dent and shout back.

“Now if you’re go­ing to hurt one of us, then 100 more of us are go­ing to come on­line and push back. That’s re­ally amaz­ing and very in­spir­ing to see in ac­tion.”

One of the things Ch­löe had to weigh up when de­cid­ing whether to en­ter the Auck­land may­oral race as a can­di­date last year was the on­line abuse she would re­ceive and still re­ceives.

“It’s a very odd play­ing field be­cause I’ve had all of this vit­riol on­line but never once have I

en­coun­tered it in real life.”

The in­creas­ing vis­i­bil­ity of trans­gen­der peo­ple has seen the rise of gen­der pol­i­tics as a new area of ac­tivism that has re­cently found a lot of aware­ness – some say to the detri­ment of the fem­i­nist cause. Ger­maine Greer, in par­tic­u­lar, told the BBC in ref­er­ence to Cait­lyn Jen­ner’s tran­si­tion from man to woman: “I think misog­yny plays a re­ally big part in all of this – that a man who goes to th­ese lengths to be­come a woman will be a bet­ter woman than some­one who is just born a woman.”

Greer was glit­ter-bombed in a protest against th­ese views at a 2012 book sign­ing in Welling­ton by a group known as the Queer Avengers. San­dra Coney was sit­ting next to her as part of a panel dis­cus­sion. “It cer­tainly is a very prom­i­nent move­ment – I don’t mind who goes af­ter their own rights, but what I don’t like is when they are piggy-back­ing on women,” San­dra says.

The younger fem­i­nists dis­agree.

“I am for in­clu­siv­ity in the move­ment for trans­gen­der peo­ple, dis­abled peo­ple,” says Cle­men­tine, “but what I don’t like see­ing in the move­ment is a blan­ket dis­missal of women over a cer­tain age be­cause they come from the sec­ond

I’ve had all this vit­riol on­line but never once have I en­coun­tered it in real life.

wave. Ev­ery move­ment spawns out of the en­vi­ron­ment around it and a lot of women who came out of that sec­ond wave were deal­ing with com­pletely dif­fer­ent lev­els of sex­ual vi­o­lence than now – it was le­gal to rape your wife, for in­stance. So given that one of the tenets of fem­i­nism now is to recog­nise peo­ple’s lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence, let’s have con­struc­tive con­ver­sa­tions with older fem­i­nists about this.”

But de­spite the de­ter­mined ef­forts of Trump and his Repub­li­can party to roll back women’s rights, one of the pos­i­tive things to come out of this pres­i­dency is a be­lief that a new fem­i­nist move­ment has be­gun, that women will find a new en­ergy and de­ter­mi­na­tion to march, protest, post on­line, or­gan­ise meet­ings and per­haps tidy up some of those is­sues that were still need­ing to be ad­dressed be­fore he came along.

The fem­i­nists I spoke to have some pre­dic­tions for the fu­ture.

San­dra Coney says a new wave of strength in the move­ment would be great, but wor­ries that un­like in the 1960s and 70s there aren’t many places where you can dip your toe in the wa­ter.

“I got asked to be in­volved in the fem­i­nist move­ment when I was in my mid 20s and I said ‘No thank you, I have a very nice hus­band.’ Well, I went to a con­scious­ness-rais­ing event and never looked back. There was noth­ing like meet­ing other women, talk­ing and go­ing to meet­ings to open my eyes, and I’m not con­vinced that I see much ac­tion com­ing out of so­cial me­dia. I don’t see a lot of fol­low-through.

“I also worry that Trump le­git­imises a lot of be­hav­iour such as misog­yny, so it will sud­denly be­come all right for a man to hate women and ex­press that in pub­lic. But I think if some­one started jump­ing up and down in New Zealand, say­ing ‘Let’s get rid of abor­tion,’ I just don’t think it would go any­where be­cause most peo­ple ac­cept it. And we don’t have that fa­nat­i­cal re­li­gious thing on the scale where it is politi­cised, as they do in the US. So hope­fully those re­ally im­por­tant things that have been won for women are quite se­cure here.”

Sue Ked­g­ley be­lieves this could be the wake-up call women need to jolt them out of a com­pla­cency that might have built up over the years.

“I think we will see a mas­sive as­sault on women’s rights hap­pen in

Amer­ica over the next year, which will set the clock back, but if it pro­vokes a back­lash that em­bold­ens women, then we might see an­other real round of ac­tivism across the world.

“But I’m hon­estly ter­ri­fied of the Trump pres­i­dency – not just for women, but for all hu­man­ity.”

Lizzie Marvelly says she hopes there will be in­clu­sion within the fem­i­nist move­ment and that it will en­com­pass peo­ple who have dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

“I also pay re­spect to the older sis­ter in the move­ment and I think we need to all try to work to­gether and use the younger gen­er­a­tion and our skills with so­cial me­dia com­bined with the old tac­tics, such as be­ing or­gan­ised. No one has taught us how to do that.”

Ch­löe Swar­brick says that the photo of Don­ald Trump sur­rounded by an all-white male ad­min­is­tra­tion sign­ing the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der to re­move fund­ing for in­ter­na­tional aid for planned par­ent­hood or­gan­i­sa­tions was con­cern­ing be­cause of the power men have taken over women’s bod­ies.

“This post-truth era where al­ter­na­tive facts are okay and you can use emo­tive rhetoric to say the truth doesn’t mat­ter – which then says facts don’t mat­ter – is fright­en­ing.

“We have four mil­lion peo­ple in this coun­try and it’s not good enough to say, ‘It’s not my re­spon­si­bil­ity.’ We have a sys­tem for change, that’s why democ­racy ex­ists. So I would like to try to get peo­ple to ei­ther dis­rupt the sys­tem, choos­ing an is­sue they re­ally care about, or use the sys­tem we have in the way it is sup­posed to be used. The thing about gov­ern­ment is it’s not go­ing away un­less there is some huge up­ris­ing or revo­lu­tion, so let’s just hope some­thing comes out of all this.”

Cle­men­tine Ford be­lieves it is al­most ben­e­fi­cial to have some­one like Trump, whose views and ac­tions are so over the top. “We can di­rect our en­ergy into chal­leng­ing the pom­pos­ity he rep­re­sents. We need to re­alise the way he talks is just like ‘dou­ble­s­peak’ in the novel 1984 by Ge­orge Or­well, and that’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Be alert, be pre­pared and be ready.”

I’m hon­estly ter­ri­fied of the Trump pres­i­dency.

ABOVE: The Jan­uary 21 protest march in Lon­don.

Sue Ked­g­ley

Ch­löe Swar­brick

San­dra Coney

Lizzie Marvelly

Cle­men­tine Ford

ABOVE: Lizzie Marvelly (in white sleeve­less top) walks be­hind broad­caster Ali Mau (at front in sun­glasses) along Auck­land’s Queen Street on Jan­uary 21, in a global show of sol­i­dar­ity with those march­ing in Wash­ing­ton DC.

ABOVE ; Glo­ria Steinem speaks at the women’s march in Wash­ing­ton on Jan­uary 21.

ABOVE: Women, men, young and old joined the protests in Wash­ing­ton (top) and New York (bot­tom).

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