This International Women’s Day, it’s important to consider the times and the influencers who will be working to assist or inhibit the rights of women across the country and the world.
Looking at the leadership in America right now under President Donald Trump, it becomes abundantly clear that feminism isn’t free. In so many ways there’s an intentional and mounting discouragement for young millennials to identify as feminists, because the “big ticket” items that the gender equality movement have already been satisfied. College-educated millennial cis and heteronormative women came to age at a time where the right to vote, the right to reproductive choices, to pursue equal pay, to pursue male-dominated industries, to be sexually liberated and these things were established in what felt to many like a bygone era.
That isn’t to say all of these things are easy – they’re not. There’s still many, many barriers and people who don’t subscribe to these ideas. For instance, there’s many factors which discourage women from pursuing male-dominated fields and a lot of sexism in terms of hiring, workplace treatment, and the capacity to advance in a given field. That said, a woman in 2017 going into STEM doesn’t have to feel alone or like a trailblazer. Many major trails have been blazed with women and their allies now bearing the responsibility of take things even farther.
The problem with all of this is that sometimes a political figure comes along who has the power to pull us in the dark direction of our past. Donald Trump is that person, partly because of his total lack of respect for women as people and his persistent belief that women are of use only when he considers them attractive.
The shock from the result of the election was primarily because Trump really was a perfect textbook villain. He embodied absolutely everything that the feminist movement still loathed and are working to fight against. He was a rich, white man who cinched a position of power despite the profound qualifications of his opponent, because largely, she was a woman.
Sure, she had some scandals — namely her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. But while we’re addressing that, let’s all acknowledge that it was recently discovered that Vice-President Mike Pence did the same thing…and no one cared. Then there was all of the other big red flags from Trump, like his extreme sexual creepiness, his perspective that sexual assault was a compliment he could bestow on people, the fact that he feels he can justify making disturbing comments about his daughter, Ivanka and female reporters and the fact that he’s an (alleged) rapist.
His lack of respect for physical boundaries with women is apparent if a person watches a single thing the man does. His hyper-masculine persona and simultaneous fragile ego, on top of his distaste for “political correctness” made it easy to out him as a horrid person.
Yet, no of the mattered. He won.
Now, he sits in the Oval Office on International Women’s Day, with Pence and a slew of other white, privileged men upholding the international gag order which prevents access to reproductive rights. Currently, threats to de-fund Planned Parenthood are swirling and this is all thanks to Americans who should have on all accounts rejected his presidential bid.
Donald Trump losing the presidential election of 2016 could have become a beacon of hope for the unification of the country. It could have been a practical demonstration of people coming together saying “I cannot vote for someone who strips away the rights of another human being.” Instead, the country looked the other way on his promises to enact policies that are fundamentally devastating to immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and women. The country prioritized the belief that Trump could fix the economy and increase jobs over human rights and human decency.
One thing that is powerful in this, however, is the fact that he did not win the popular vote. He does not fill rallies in the way that he claims he does. He has not been received into the White House with rave approval ratings and no one in the international community, aside from maybe Putin, is jumping up and down in light of his victory. He did manage to alienate many long-time Republicans, and fewer people voted for him than any Republican in 16 years.
Why is it, then, that he still won?
The only real answer is that the Democrats who came out in droves for President Barack Obama, did not come out this time for Hillary Clinton. This conversation cannot be one sided to only blame those who supported Donald Trump and at the very least dismissed his sexism, racism and xenophobia. The Democrats who did not directly fight against Donald Trump by voting, are also guilty of dismissing his discriminatory rhetoric.
This International Women’s Day, Americans need to resist the oppressive, discriminatory policies of the Trump administration and not give up the fight.
Clearly, we still need feminism.