Sunday 22 January 2017

A loud woman, a nasty woman, a woman who marches and won't be silenced

On Friday night, I watched Trump’s inauguration with my chin on the floor, tears drying on my cheeks, and then did what everyone would do after such an event: I went to the pub. 

Here, I had a conversation with a couple of men I knew about my decision to go on the Women’s March on Saturday 21 January. They were, shall we say, pessimistic, critical even, of my decision. One friend argued that the march was a waste of time - that it wasn’t my fight, that I was patronising American women. The election was done, the votes were counted, Trump is President. What, really, was the point of marching? What, really, was the point of shouting back?

I must have carried some of that with me on to the march. That sense that in all of this, my voice didn't really matter. Standing on Duke Street with my friends, gazing in awe at the number of women, men and children around me carrying placards with bright, smiling faces, I struggled to join in with the chants. I struggled to raise my voice. What was my voice, after all? What did my voice matter?

And then. 

I remembered Reclaim the Night, and the joy I felt in marching on those chilly winter evenings with my sisters.  

So I took a deep breath. Then another. 

And then I shouted as loud as I possibly could:

Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.

The call caught on. Women joined in. Together we shouted this repudiation to the sexual assaults Trump boasted of committing against women. 

Two hours later, I felt the thrill of shouting down St James Street:

what do we want?

And hearing more than a hundred women answer me:


When do we want it?


My voice. My quiet, high voice. The voice that one colleague once told me he tuned out of listening to. The laugh that one man told me was the most annoying laugh he’d ever heard. The voice that man after man online has declared I should just shut up. There was MY VOICE, loudly proudly ringing out in the centre of London, with hundreds of women joining in. 

When we’re told that marching on days like yesterday can achieve nothing, I wonder what our detractors think an achievement is. 

None of us marching are stupid. We know that at the sight of three million women and men on every continent, Trump isn’t going to shrug, resign and hand over to Hillary. We know that the march wasn’t about changing the result of the election. 

What marching achieved yesterday was a show of solidarity. A show of sisterhood. It achieved a demonstration that we, women across the world, were going to use our voices to challenge heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. It achieved a huge noise. And for every individual woman there, it achieved something else too: the knowledge and recognition that we have a voice and we are not afraid to use it. 

And that matters.

Because, as I’ve written before, a lot of men have a lot invested in women staying silent. 

They want us silent so we don’t report the violence they commit against us. They want us silent and passive and meek so that we don't challenge their power or their entitlement to women’s bodies. During the march, I spoke to a domestic abuse survivor who told me how her ex would target her throat - physically shutting her up. In my experience of online abuse, I know how much violent men like to focus on our mouths. Women’s silence is immensely valuable. So much depends on us keeping quiet. So much depends on us putting up and shutting up. 

They want us quiet. They want us meek. 

Well, yesterday we showed all of those who desire our silence that we won’t shut up. We won’t comply. We won’t be the women they want. 

We’ll be the women they don’t want. The loud women, the nasty women, the bolshy women who shout and yell and challenge and accuse and point the finger and fight back and speak, speak, speak. We’re the bloody, bloody-minded women. And yesterday we stood together and said we are not going to be quiet. We are not going to be quiet about sexual assault. We are not going to quiet as men attack our wombs and our rights over our own bodies. We are not going to be the women they want. We are going to be loud and angry and we are going to fight. 

When the men on Friday and the men on the internet tell us that this is not our fight, I say no. It is our fight. Because when a man sexually assaults one (or, allegedly, 12) of us, and gets away with it, that re-enforces the idea that men have free access and entitlement to every woman’s body, everywhere. When a group of men try and destroy the laws women have fought for, to take away the right to bodily autonomy of women in the States, then that sets a precedent to those fighting to destroy our rights everywhere. And, of course, Trump’s policies on climate change will hit the poorest women in the world first, and it will hit those women hardest. This is not just about America. We are all affected by this. Every woman has skin in this game. 

But even if we didn’t. It would still matter that we marched. Because when women across the world ask us for our sisterhood, when they ask us for our solidarity, we don’t ignore that call. We stand up. We reach out. We stretch our hands across borders and grasp theirs. 

Because they want us separate. They want us splintered. They want us turned against one another in a cat fight. 

And we will not be the women they want. We will be the angry, loud, bloody fighting women. We will stand together in solidarity against this attack. 

On Saturday, I raised my voice with LGBTQ women, women of colour, working class women, refugee women. I stood with my sisters and with men too. I heard women singing and women shouting and women reading poetry and women showcasing their art and women refusing to be silenced. I marched in solidarity with 100,000 women and men in London, and 3 million around the world, and it felt glorious. 

But one march is not enough. The energy, the noise, the fight continues now. As Angela Davis said in Washington yesterday: 

“The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.

"This is just the beginning “

We will resist. We will shout. We will be loud and angry and we will not be the women they want us to be. 

And if any man tells you that there is no point in marching, that there is no point to your voice, that this is not your fight, that you should put up and shut up?

Well then sisters: be like Madonna. 

And say to them: FUCK YOU

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