One of the things that greatly frustrates me about Donald Trump is his privileged sense of entitlement over, not only women, but all marginalised groups. Unfortunately, in the case of Trump, this entitlement was validated on the 8th of November when he was elected as the next president of the United States of America. Fortunately, it has been undermined ever since.
Clearly, one of these undermining occasions, in which the people of the USA (not to mention the rest of the world) stood by their majority pubic vote to declare ‘Not My President’, was at the Washington D.C. Women’s March, along with her national and international sister marches. These marches were inspiring and hopeful and communal and empowering and mark the start of what I hope to be a brilliant resistance to hatred and fear. However, for that hope to become reality, it is essential that we take such occasions beyond our chants and into direct action in our every-day lives.
For the many straight white women who marched, this protest must be followed through with action that supports all of our sisters. Everyone must fight to stand beside and uphold marginalised groups. Those of us who can’t afford to donate to organisations such as the NAACP, the National Immigration Law Center, or the Human Rights Campaign, can take time to consider and adjust our own personal language and actions. People of colour, the disabled, undocumented citizens, and the LBGTQ+ community are coming face to face with a dangerously discriminatory administration. A pink hat and a crocheted vagina will only get us so far.
Another group that must step away from privilege to show that they can be feminist in action as well as voice are the men who chose to march. These men were a welcome and important addition to the marches, which were by no means exclusive to women. Men that I love deeply, know well and respect the views of attended marches in several cities across the world on the 21st of January. These are men who, like so many others, were disgusted by Trump’s treatment of Clinton on the campaign trail. They had an intelligent and sympathetic understanding of the ways in which Hillary’s gender was one of the greatest weapons used against her and one of the hardest barriers she had to overcome. They were left appalled at the ‘locker room talk’ of grabbing a woman by the pussy. Put shortly, they are men who are proud to love and respect women.
But then, why are they also men who maintain their own privileged sense of entitlement, leading to their subtle, but damaging, sexualisation of the women?
Today, I speak directly to the men of the Women’s March. Please do march with us, vote with us and stand with us. But I also ask that you look beyond your feminist views and truly observe the impacts that your every-day actions may have on the women around you. I ask you to listen to women when they want you to be an ally, rather than excusing derogatory behaviour from friends. Step outside your perspective for a moment when you decide that sustaining a look slightly too long may be enticing, rather than uncomfortable. Think again when you decide that your persistence in perusing That Girl will be a charming way to win her over, rather than a frustrating view of her as a prize. Stay quiet when your flirtatious tone with a stranger can be met neither with as little provocation as silence (what a bitch!) nor with as much stimulus as polite manners (assumed interest!). These kinds of unconsidered actions force women into a constant consideration of how to react. This is the kind of entitlement that leaves many women feeling, even if only momentarily, uncomfortable and vulnerable within public spaces that they have just as much right to occupy as men. And it happens every day.
I am neither vulnerable, nor a bitch.
I am both vulnerable, and a bitch.
I am a woman.
I am a human.
About Eloise Birtwhistle:
I’ve been getting through the last 22 years of life with the joys of books, food, bed and friendship and am hoping to continue on that trajectory as I leave behind the bubble of education and enter into the big bad world of employment. Growing up in Sheffield and living in Glasgow have made a socialist outlook on life pretty unavoidable and I intend to follow through with that by pursuing a career which allows me to build diverse and inclusive communities. I’m pretty big on cats.