Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the Women’s March in Edinburgh which was a standing protest in solidarity with the main demonstration in Washington DC. Thousands of people crammed into a tiny street to come together and show support for women in the US and express their concerns and fears for the new Administration. A 16 year old (now 17) arranged the whole event with the help of a friend and pulled it off. Women and men came from over Scotland, plus a few political dogs. As a white woman I am fortunate enough to have little concern that the police will target me, but still, I was glad to see how friendly the police were and how good natured the event was. I met women on the bus, in the street, identifiable by our PussyHats. There was a palpable sense of shared purpose.
Why did I attend a protest in Edinburgh over Donald Trump, the new US President? There is a clear link in Trump’s golf course and associated activities here, of course. But it is bigger than that. Trump is one man. Not a particularly eloquent, nice or principled man admittedly, but one man. He symbolises the broader move to the far right. He used the language of Brexit, Le Pen, Farage and their kind, to fuel hatred of migrants, disabled people and women. He boasted about sexual assault. He mocked a disabled reporter. He harassed and stalked his opponent. I went to the protest because I feared what is to come. I felt alone in my fear and certain that there was no concerted will to stop the march to fascism, which is by no means inevitable.
The Edinburgh protest was small in comparison to others, but no less powerful for it. After my customary hot drink and lunch I went home to watch the Washington march. I saw women of colour, disabled women, trans* women, indigenous women, labour activists, celebrities, academics and women of all faiths speak. I saw women occupy the public spaces we are harassed and abused in. I saw women come together, with men, and shout their support for a better, kinder tomorrow which is full of love. I saw women say ‘No’ to the attacks on our bodies, our reproductive rights, our access to education, safe drinking water, the destruction of eco-systems and the demands we be silenced by accepting the various votes/referendums. We took up space. We made noise and women were the first to respond to the Trump inauguration. Over 4 million women globally said ‘this will not stand’.
There is plenty to reflect on. Why were white women (including me) not quicker to listen to the warnings of women of colour? Why were marches not more accessible for disabled people? Will the momentum continue and will white women now lend our minds, energies and bodies to the demands for clean drinking water, Black Lives Matter, indigenous land protection, the protection and welcome of migrants? I thought people were better than voting for Trump or Brexit. But women of colour know different. They have seen the poisonous combination of racism and sexism which pervades organisations, employers, communities. The Women’s March has potential to be better, of course. But I went to bed last night with hope. Hope that we will not stand and let fascism take over. That I am not alone in my fears and hopes for a better future. That hope is powerful. Progressive women came together yesterday and made our voices heard. We stood with men and talked, shared ideas, showed kindness to those alone, cared for those who needed help and sang happy birthday to a 17 year old who bought over 3000 people together in Edinburgh. We stood in joy and hope, and showed what is possible. I believe now that the future can be bright, and that we can find solidarity across difference.