I promised a report on the Women’s March yesterday, but what I didn’t account for was the Burns Supper I went to after the march (and specifically, the whisky that would entail) so… much of yesterday was spent sitting very still and hoping not to die.
The Sister March in Edinburgh.
Firstly I have to say that Edinburgh did herself proud. It’s a stunning city in any weather, but in sparkling, frosty sunshine it was breathtaking. The minute I got off the train, I could see a sea pink hats and signs, and just outside the station there was a group of women singing All You Need is Love.
The atmosphere was palpable all the way to the American Consulate: defiant, passionate, joyful. The police were fab too, they were dotted casually along the route, greeting and bantering with the crowd.
The terrace outside the consulate was rammed. I met a three week old baby and a wee couple in their eighties. I couldn’t speak for the whole crowd, but those immediately around me were fairly evenly split gender wise – as the speaker from the Women’s Equality Party said, men of quality don’t fear equality.
Sensible looking ladies in knitted bunnets laughed with dredlocked student activists; there was a wee boy of maybe six or so holding a sign that said “Trump is a pump”; I passed some Americans thanking Scots for being there and they all ended up hugging. More than once I caught myself a bit choked up at all the warmth and love in the air: there is something special about being in a crowd of kindred spirits.
The speeches were inspiring. I tried to memorise/scribble down what I could, and my phone is full of:
Break down the gender norms that constrain us
We in Scotland will lead the way
Hello nasty women!
I’m a Muslim feminist daughter of immigrants – there’s nothing here that Trump likes!
I feel fortunate to be raising my daughter in Scotland where three of the main political parties are led by women and no one thinks its a big deal
Silence equals compliance
One good thing has come out of all of this – this gathering, this message
I want to talk about those last two a little bit more.
Inevitably, the media and social media yesterday were filled with debate about what the point of the marches were, did they make any difference, were they disrespecting a democratic election?
I doubt that any of us went along on Saturday hoping that Trump would see us all and be like ‘err, actually about this whole president thing…’ Obviously he is the American president (and as Pence is significantly more dangerous than him, I actually hope he stays that way!). Given the misinformation and leaks and whatnot, I’m not totally convinced that the election was exactly a shining beacon of democracy (democracy is worthless without information), but I accept that the election result was that he won.
In fact, Saturday wasn’t really about him.
In the days after the election, when several – undoubtedly well meaning – people were all “oh stop worrying, it’s going to be fine, he’s not going to do half of what he promised and there are checks and balances in place to stop him doing so anyway,” I kept trying to explain that that was beside the point. I’m less concerned about the actual consequences about his future actions in office (I mean, I’m concerned about them, but it’s all relative…) than I’m horrified by what his election represented.
That someone could stand up in front of the American people and make fun of a disabled reporter, could blatantly fail to do a modicum of preparation for the debates, could talk of Mexicans as rapists and Muslims as terrorists, could brag of sexual assault and still be elected president – that was what gutted me. And that is what the marches were about.
It was about rejecting that rhetoric. Reminding the world that none of that is okay. Expressing solidarity with those that his campaign tried to isolate, to other, to threaten. Telling them “okay fine, he’s president and there’s a rocky road ahead – but you’re not alone, we’ve got your backs.”
And that, I think – I hope – we achieved in spades.