Why the Women’s March sees Trump’s UK visit as ‘a Glorious Opportunity’
Thousands plan to march in London on Friday and also raise awareness of impacts of government policies on vulnerable women in the UK.
Thousands of women are expected to march in London this Friday 13 July to protest an official visit by US President Donald Trump who has overseen numerous attacks on women’s rights in America and internationally.
His visit follows several delays and calls for its cancellation from political figures including Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn. His UK itinerary includes meeting with the Queen and visiting his golf course in Scotland (he’s conspicuously not visiting London itself, apart from a brief overnight stay).
Trump’s trip is also ‘a glorious opportunity,’ according to Emma, one of the organisers of this week’s Women’s March London, “for thousands of people to come together in solidarity, across all areas of social struggle.”
Following the president’s arrival in the UK this Thursday, the Women’s March promises to ‘bring the noise’ with pots and pans and demands across a range of social justice issues. It isn’t aimed “directly against Trump,” says Emma.
“The forces of exploitation and domination on race, class, gender… that he represents are international,” she said. “But he obviously has been pursuing policies that are discriminatory across the board.”
33-year-old Kayleigh Reed is travelling from Bristol to attend the protest. She is marching “to give my voice and support to other women.”
Having attended the 2017 Women’s March in London, she hopes that it could be “an essential antidote for the outrageous and dangerous sexism experienced in life, and normalised in politics and the media.”
On 21 January 2017, after Trump’s inauguration as president, millions of people joined Women’s March protests internationally against him and the perceived impact of his politics to women’s, migrants’ and minorities’ rights.
The march in Washington DC was meant to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights,” according to its organisers.
Two days later, Trump signed a ‘global gag rule’ order denying US aid to international NGOs if they provide abortion services or information. Healthcare workers are already saying that this order has had a ‘disastrous effect,’ with clinics closing down and unsafe abortions predicted to rise.
More recently, reproductive rights advocates in the US have warned that the landmark Roe vs Wade case which legalised abortion could be overturned by Trump’s next supreme court appointment, expected later this year.
Mara Clarke, from the Abortion Support Network, will be speaking at the march which she sees as a chance for rights campaigners to show “strength in numbers” and “be surrounded by people who feel the same way we do.”
“The longer I do this work, supporting women in need of abortions to access reproductive health care, the more I find sustenance from being in crowds of righteous people who are hungry for, and are working towards, change.”
Like Emma, for Clarke the point of the march goes beyond protesting Trump’s visit to raise the wider issue of “women’s and pregnant people’s reproductive rights in America, Poland, Malta, San Marino, Northern Ireland” and everywhere else where abortion is denied or under threat.
Alongside Clarke, other speakers at the march include representatives of refugee rights organisations and Muslim women’s rights groups, and campaigners against female genital mutilation and all forms of violence against women and girls.
The diverse line-up reflects the march’s commitment to intersectional justice, which “is at the heart of everything we do,” Emma says. “We want to create a non-hierarchical, collective space where anyone can step up and be heard.”
This approach contrasts sharply with Trump’s policies that target the most vulnerable and marginalised in society.
Recently, Trump’s policies towards migrant families crossing into the US – which include parents being separated from their children who are then kept in cages – made international news.
Amid such polarising and exclusionary politics, Samantha Hudson from the organisation Women for Refugee Women says this week’s march is a chance to “build hope, strength and momentum, to enable all women to live safely.”
“Together we’ll create a mass display of love and human warmth as a powerful protest against dehumanising practices,” she said.
Marchers are also hoping to raise awareness of the impacts of government policies on vulnerable women in the UK.
Women for Refugee Women have long campaigned to close the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where women asylum seekers and migrants are held while appealing a failed asylum claim, or awaiting deportation.
“It’s now time,” says Hudson, “to listen to and believe women who are at the sharp end of struggles for justice.” She said: “Refugee women are ready to have their voices heard, and stand up for all women’s rights.”
One of those women is Sandra, a 36-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is marching on Friday.
She decided that she “must be there because I am a woman.” She told me: “Trump doesn’t respect women at all. But if all women stand together and defend their rights, we will be stronger.”
Sian Norris is a writer and feminist activist. She is the founder and director of the Bristol Women's Literature Festival, and runs the successful feminist blog sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com. She has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the New Statesman. Her first novel, Greta and Boris: A Daring Rescue is published by Our Street and her short story, The Boys on the Bus, is available on the Kindle. Sian is currently working on a novel based around the life of Gertrude Stein.
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Image credit: Norman Maynard via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)