I can almost hear the cries coming from “America First” Trump supporters, castigating the tens of thousands of non-Americans who’ve said they’ll participate in the sister marches in more than 50 nations outside the U.S. this weekend. They will be marching in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington happening this Saturday, which has more than 200,000 women registered to attend.
“It’s not your country—why are you so concerned with who we elected as president?” they might say. Or, as the conservative TheBlaze host Tomi Lahren put it, “Denouncing the incoming president is not a social justice moment—it’s a crybaby moment.”
As an American abroad, it can be trying to be subjected to the opinion of everyone from your bartender to your Uber driver on the politics of your country. But the women and allies marching in Paris, Nairobi, Vienna, Bogota, Beirut, Tokyo, and dozens of other cities around the world this weekend aren’t marching against America, and the march organizers insist this march is not expressly anti-Trump. Instead, they will be marching against the indignities and vulnerabilities of being a woman in 2017, which just happens to be something that Donald Trump reminds us of relentlessly.
When I join the march in London this weekend, I will be marching against the pervasive feeling, one we’re reminded of every day in a million small ways in every nation on earth, that our voices don’t matter. We will be marching against the fact that worldwide, one third of women experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime, according to the UN. We will be marching against the political reality that “it pays—literally—to keep women half there,” as Jessica Valenti writes. We will be marching against the fact that being an ambitious and experienced woman like Hillary Clinton is in direct opposition to being likeable, let alone electable. These truths have no borders, which is precisely why this march doesn’t, either.
The organizers of the Women’s March have collected all the now-nearly 600 sister marches happening in and outside of the U.S. into one database on their website, a valiant demonstration that women’s rights are human rights, no matter where you are. Crucially, this includes all women, not just the ones who can afford the nannies required to “lean in.” That half the world’s population are entitled to the same rights as the other half is a sentiment so obvious it almost sounds banal, but its brutal relevance is a sign of the times.
In the past year, we’ve watched our televised presidential debates turn into spectacles that should come with trigger warnings for sexual assault and rape survivors. We’ve seen almost two dozen women bring sexual assault allegations on our president-elect, who then turned around and threatened to sue them. We’ve seen a man with one of the most regressive reproductive health policy positions come within a heartbeat of the presidency.
We’ve heard earnest advice on Twitter that a good reproductive health strategy moving forward is to stock up on emergency contraception while we still can. And we’ve seen conservatives talk about co-pay-free contraception under the Affordable Care Act as if it’s a frivolous privilege used by immoral women, rather than a fundamental human right. Through these events, and so many others, I’ve felt my own feminism shift from something that was once more theoretical and rhetorical to something that feels more urgent and visceral.
Our soon-to-be president said it himself, back in 2005, which we heard in all its slimy glory in October on that Access Hollywood tape. “You can do anything,” he said, in reference to not just the woman approaching him, but women everywhere.
“You can do anything”—a four-word statement that feels familiar to every woman because it underpins the entitlement of so many men. It’s the internalized, perhaps unconscious justification of any man who’s become hostile to a woman for ignoring his advances, hit her, raped her, touched her, abused and stalked her for having opinions on the internet, or told her what he thinks of her anatomy despite not even knowing her name. It’s how women feel about their bosses who interrupt them or their politicians who make decisions about their reproductive rights without consulting a single person with a vagina. They can do anything, it seems, and they do.
In her book, Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit writes of the myriad atrocities throughout human history that have activated people in unexpected and undetected ways, ultimately leading to greater and more progressive outcomes in ways that aren’t always straightforward. “To recognize the momentousness of what has happened is to apprehend what might happen,” she writes.
The momentousness of Trump’s election as president has removed any room for complacency about what it means to be a woman in our culture. What might happen next relies on how we respond.