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30th January 2017

Was the Women’s March a waste of energy?

No matter how many millions of women marched, Donald Trump was always going to hold onto power, pushing ahead with his policies. But that does not mean the march was in vain

Women’s marches occurred across the world and Trump is still President. They failed. His resignation was not tweeted out the day after his inauguration and Hillary Clinton is not now the first female president of the United States. Unfortunately, however inspiring it may have been scrolling through Twitter last Saturday, a cute picture of a little girl holding a placard was not powerful enough to reverse the past.

While we are aware feminism has not yet developed the ability to go back in time and start again, women marched because they were witnessing a President enter the White House who seemed to be trying to do exactly that with gender equality. The new President of the United States has openly bragged about sexual assault and has stripped funding from reproductive services around the world, which many suggest will not only result in unwanted pregnancies, but force women into getting unsafe abortions, which put their lives in jeopardy.

According to the Marie Stopes International, a major reproductive health charity, which had been receiving $30 million per year in US Agency for International Development funding, there will be 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths during Trump’s term that could have been prevented. This is why women marched. They were not over-reacting, or being snowflakes, or crazed feminazis as some have claimed. They were marching because Trump threatens not just the position of women in society but, in some cases, their lives.

Trump reinstated this two days after the march, so many will continue to argue the millions who marched did so in vain. But the march was never going to make him completely reverse his ideology. He said whilst campaigning that women should be punished for having abortions and now he is doing exactly that. Nobody is surprised — that is why they marched.

What the sceptics do not understand is that the march was not about making Trump miraculously transform into a feminist, but it was about building a movement. I highly doubt there was a single Trump supporter who watched millions of women take to the streets and then regretted their vote, but the march will have hopefully instilled courage in some to take action, to talk to those that disagree with them (unlike Ewan McGregor) and convince them of the damage Trump will do and has done. The courage to take such action is hard to find if you feel like you are acting alone.

Not all three and a half million of the Americans who marched are going to suddenly transform into political activists, and most will not do a thing after the march to resist Trump’s presidency. But some will, and they will because those millions marched.

Another criticism made of the march was, why was it just for women? There are plenty of men who are against Trump — would it not have been better to simply stage anti-Trump marches? Trump has attacked not just women but Muslims, Mexicans, the disabled, LGBTQ rights and threatens the climate, to name just a few, and these things need to be resisted to.

The people that marched were not ignorant to these other threats, but they needed to unite to stand together under one banner for one day, before dispersing and beginning their attempts at resisting against such threats. Scientists are already planning to march on Washington to protest, after the removal of the climate action page on the White House website and the enforced media blackout on the Environmental Protection Agency. The scientists’ march like, the women’s, grew out of social media, and has already gained widespread public support. The fact that individual movements are not resisting Trump in their own vacuum is crucial. An anti-Trump march would have been fractured and lost the unity in message that was witnessed across the world.

Obviously the impact of this resistance to Trump’s presidency will not be able to be felt until midterm elections in 2018 and presidential elections in 2020, but there is no harm in starting now. If Trump’s win proved anything, it’s that enthusiastic rallies, focused on subjects that people are passionate about, win votes. The march had to happen to send a clear message that there are still those who are against misogyny, believe sexual assault should not go unpunished, protest that reproductive rights should be protected, and ultimately believe that a man who stands against all of that should not be President of the United States.

Perhaps this is all just naïve hope and the Women’s March will go no way to inspiring people to keep up the campaign against Trump. But it lifted my spirits the day after I witnessed a man who brags about grabbing women by the pussy become President. Even if it did just that, ensuring that when future generations learn about this period of history, the textbook does not read that a man bragged about being able to sexually assault women because of his position of power and then be voted into the White House while the world just stood back and watched, it did more than enough.

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