‘As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.’- Virginia Woolf.
In October 2016, the current PM of Britain, Theresa May, told the Tory Party Conference ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.’ At the time I was angry but brushed it off as an idiotic buzz phrase. I know where I am a citizen of thank you very much and as everyone knows, nothing makes someone stick to their guns more than telling them they can’t do something.
Yesterday, Marches for Women were held on every signal continent, demonstrating against the inauguration of a misogynistic, racist nationalist as leader of the United States of America. I spent most of the day glued to social media, watching as hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets, from LA to New York, from Tokyo to London, Paris, Berlin, Nairobi, San Francisco, Montreal, my home city of Leeds, the Isle of Eigg, even Antarctica, and I felt hope and pride and despair that this had to happen in the first place. It also made me think that this was what being a global citizen is about. The Woolf quote above is from the pacifist essay Three Guineas and to summarise it refers to the idea that wars are not fought for ‘us’ as women because we would do not share in the economic or social benefits of such a war but would in fact still be oppressed either way. The actual phrasing ‘my country is the whole world’ felt particularly resonant as I and thousands of others witness all these women (and men) joining together in protest and resistance. It showed that we can’t afford to ignore, and are not ignoring, what is happening by thinking that oppression is just a problem in one country because in this globalised world everything is connected. By protesting one leader, you send a message to all leaders saying ‘We are not going to stand for this anymore’.
The marches that happened (and will happen again) stood for different things for different people. It was about solidarity: for a nation, for a gender, for the human race as a whole. It was about healthcare, specifically the repealing of ACA and the attacks on Planned Parenthood (which can be donated to here). It was about immigration and economics and social care. In Kamala Harris’s amazing speech she pointed out that health care, education, climate change, all of these things can be deemed ‘Women’s Issues’ because women are people and this all affects us too. It was about showing solidarity for women who have been through unspeakable trauma and yet still have to fight for their voices to be heard. It was about ending the patriarchy for everyone, for every girl who wants to be a physicist but is told that sciences aren’t for her, not to worry her pretty little head about it to then be catcalled on the street for being vain, and every boy who is told to ‘Man Up’ and conform to a hetronormative hypermasculinity which is killing them. Literally. It was about being taken seriously for one goddam second without someone making a stupid ‘kitchen’ joke (I mean come on guys, is it 2009?). It was about all women: Black, White, Latinx, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Trans, Non-Binary, Lesbian, Queer, Bisexual, Immigrant, Disabled- any label you may possibly want to give yourself, there were people marching for you and your rights.
There is still a long way to go, both within the feminist movement and in the outer world but to see so many people marching makes that work just that tiny bit more easy to face. I would also like to note here, I am extremely privileged in my life and I am working on checking that privilege and making sure my small acts of activism work for everyone. Plenty of people have been posting on social media about the next steps someone can take, whether they be a seasoned activist or a relative newbie of protest. A few basic things were:
- Find an organisation and join in= volunteering, donating, elevating their voice
- Raise up the voices from the minorities and on the issues you care about= tweet, facebook, and most importantly…
- Ring the people who represent you in your government! Make your voice as a constituent heard and encourage others to do the same because what should matter to you representative most is what you, the constituent, want (1) They are supposed to work for you, that is their job and 2) People like being re-elected). If ringing in fills you with anxiety, hand-written letters also work great or even an email. Also doing this more than once really drives home the fact that this is a big issue for you and makes people listen.
- Keep up with the news. Now this is may seem daunting because at the minute the news seems to change every five minutes but setting aside some time to read-up on what the hell is actually going on will help you focus on what is important to you and to not hide under a lovely blanket of willingful ignorance. No judgement, that blanket is wonderful, but the world is rapidly changing and if we know what is going on, we can work out what we want to encourage and what we want to prevent.
- Start reading some feminist discourse- there are hundreds of lists about hundreds of topics relating to the many facets of feminism so pick a list that sounds interesting and get reading. Not only can you learn something but also you get to read which, if you haven’t guessed, is one of my favourite things to do.
I would also add consume female lead media to this list but as a side-note rather than a main thing. I am a person who watches/ reads A Lot and I follow a lot of people interested in films and novels on social media. Making the conscious choice to see a female-lead film (Hidden Figures for example, which is released 17th February in the UK which I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT) or reading a book by a female author, specifically a woman of colour, is not that difficult in the grand scheme of things but it does help push women’s voices and shows, especially in film, that people want to consume this type of media which means hopefully more female-led media in the future and female characters who are better written.
Like a lot of people I had been despairing over how the hell we are going to solve the mess and chaos the world appears to be descending into. However yesterday gave me hope for the future.
To everyone I say, know you are not alone. You are the whole world.
(Photo Credit: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via Associated Press)