DUP-ed in the City

By A. C. Phipps

My favourite signs on marches are always the ones which read “I CAN’T BELIEVE I STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SHIT”.

This sentiment seemed particularly apt on 24th June 2017, when I marched with hundreds of women to Downing Street, dressed in red, to protest the impending deal between the Tories and the DUP, which has now been secured to the tune of £1bn.

Needless to say, I wasn’t best pleased to have my body used as a bartering chip for political gain.

While we indulged in zeitgeisty witticisms (“MY OVARIES ARE NOT A FIELD OF WHEAT”) and stopped traffic in its tracks along Whitehall (one policeman told me “YOU’RE CAUSING ABSOLUTE CHAOS”, and I told him “THAT’S THE POINT!”), it was underscored with a palpable fear that the most powerful woman in the country was giving her approval to a party which are openly anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ rights.

I speak from a position of safety and privilege when I note from afar that austerity disproportionately affects women (it really does: see here), and when I recoil in horror at the fact that the government have found £1bn for political gain, while unashamedly slashing funds to domestic abuse services (outlined here).

But I speak from a position of personal and genuine vulnerability as a woman who wants to own her body, have control over her reproductive rights, and see free, safe and legal abortion become a universal human right. Pregnancy when wanted is a beautiful thing. But I also know that many women have felt the moment of fear as they watch the blue lines on a pregnancy test map out their future. The feeling that your body may go from personal to public ownership. For me, I always know that in the background there is the safety net of free and safe abortions in England. For other women around the world, they have no such reassurance. And as Margaret Atwood has recently said, forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy is a form of slavery (in this interview).

Our bodies should be sites of pleasure, tenderness, empowerment, lust, love and joy – all of the above, some of the above, or whatever else a woman wants hers to be. What they should not be is regulated, debated on by men, or used as sites of oppressive political discourse.

With the DUP refusing to shift their views on abortion in Northern Ireland, despite this deal, we will continue taking to the streets until our Prime Minister realises that her powers go beyond wearing a “THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE” t-shirt. She must speak out in favour of both protecting and extending abortion rights, not just within the context of our new political dealings in the UK, but also with Trump and other world leaders. In doing so, she will acknowledge that all genders prosper in a society which is open to giving women choice over how they live their lives.

Stella Creasy’s victory in securing women from Northern Ireland access to abortions on the NHS in England is a stunning victory – but it is only one step in the right direction. The thing about rights is they can always be taken away, and where they are present, they are lacking elsewhere. That’s why, as frustrating as it is to “STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SHIT”, I will continue with the mantra “MY BODY MY CHOICE”. Because my body is every woman’s body.

***

A Handy Guide to Debunking Mansplaining and Sexist Pub Shouting Matches (Thanks for the Feminist Fuel Mr Trump)

By Katie Staal

At the primary convention in Denver, Colorado in 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the Democratic Party candidate. A historic move for the United States, and one that is forever etched into my memory, and the memories of millions of people across the world. Obama, of course, ran against Hillary Clinton. When we discussed this at school the next day, my politics teacher clumsily explained in short that: ‘America was more sexist than racist’, at least in the Democratic Party vetting process. Of course I’m not sixteen anymore and I know now that both race and gender injustices are sourced from the same generic fear of the unknown. This is why feminism always stands at its most powerful when it is fully intersectional and inclusive. 

Throughout the 2016 political campaign, the words from my teacher floated eerily back into my mind. How was America going to define itself when faced with the first election in modern history with a female candidate to complete the race? Post-Brexit blues had left many Londoners with a sour taste in their mouth so last week’s election found me pessimistic, and with a sinking feeling in my stomach. As I drifted uneasily to sleep, I considered that perhaps this time America was going to vote in force as a nation of unacknowledged sexists. Although the vote was close, this was ultimately confirmed as I woke up the morning after.


Hilary Clinton, although certainly a right-wing Democrat, has had a history of compassionate activism. She holds a bounty of political and legal qualifications along with a pre-existing reputation as the silent influencer of the Bill Clinton Presidency. ‘Mrs’ Clinton pushed for healthcare policy from within the White House before the nation had even muttered the name Barack Obama.

But after a thoroughly misogynistic campaign, America has voted for an unqualified candidate and, as a result, an unstable and unpredictable future. Perhaps people forget that ‘politician’ is a profession, just as a plumber or a builder. 

As a woman I feel personally victimised by the white, uneducated men of the United States. The smug faces of those who believe so vehemently in the vague, impassioned, and colonial hyperbole of ‘taking back what’s ours.’ As white men, they have had undeniable privilege handed to them, and yet they feel the need to ‘take’ even more for themselves. The worst part: they have voted in this direction because of the years of pent-up frustration towards people who make a habit of calling out hurtful or derogatory behaviour. Political correctness becomes the enemy, and the extreme right surge into the mainstream.

All this aside, there is a lesson to be learnt here, and it is one that could potentially elevate feminism to a fully ‘commercial’ level in the eyes of a wider group of men. Since I discovered that there is a name for what ‘sexism’ is, I have realised how I am affected by it every single day. People are naturally opposed to strong inflammatory words, like ‘sexism’ or ‘racism’, but having a name to describe my experience gave me the golden opportunity to share it with others. Discussing feminism in social groups was both an emboldening and terrifying venture — empowering, as you find amongst your peers the feeling that you’re not alone. Terrifying because you live on the edge of an argument, with your feminist beliefs placing you on the knife-edge of often nasty and emotional disagreements. Often with a white man.

After a few pints, the rhetoric begins to flow: ‘Sexism doesn’t exist anymore’, ‘I’ve had women get paid more than me’, ‘I’ve never seen anyone get catcalled’. The list of argument catalysts is endless and tireless. These conversations permeate both our public and private spaces: from otherwise nice trips to the pub to the comments section of uni papers like The Tab or UniLAD. I almost cried with joy the day a male friend backed me up in one of these pub exchanges (he had started dating a feminist). 

Getting into verbal fights over whether something is legitimately ‘sexism’, or being casually derailed by a man with a different perspective to you is undeniably a typically Western, middle-class and educated female problem. It’s not a new problem either. Nonetheless, it is an experience which quashes your sense of self, and this feeling is representative of everyone who has ever felt different or discriminated against, from all backgrounds across the world. 

What’s interesting about the Trump vote is that his public ‘faux pas’, a.k.a. rampant sexism, provide a fairly foolproof example that can help us all silence mansplaining voices. Sexism does exist and here’s the proof! Ha! (Not that we need it, but here it is!)

This sexism is the very mandate that Trump has been elected on by the most powerful most assumed ‘forward thinking’ Western superpower in year 2016, now. Right now. His history of harassment and abuse towards women has been exposed for the world to see, and even the most loyal Republicans were reluctant to dismiss it as ‘locker talk’.

In case you need more fuel to the fire: Mongolia elected a female president in the 1950s and Argentina, Sri-Lanka and Israel followed suit in the 1970s. Yet the United States of America would rather vote for (someone polled as) the most unpopular political candidate ever. They would rather mobilise as a mob for this, than vote for a woman. That’s enough for us in the UK to combat a century of patronising pub talk. 

As feminists, we have always known that this sexist community existed. We also know that this community was larger than many men would admit in the company of women (see: trendy ‘not all men’ arguments/’Mennists’). But now, this community has been placed on display on a global scale. Obama helped us to believe in change, but Trump is a visual embodiment of the USA’s true colours: and that colour is as white and male as it always has been. Trump has helped bring our attention to the problems that 21st century women have been screaming about since the day we understood — and felt brave enough to declare — what sexism is. 

So, thanks for that Donald.

President Trump: Reflections on the US Elections (Part 3)

I can’t bring myself to watch her concession speech. Not yet. I’m not in denial, exactly; I’ve already moved through several stages of shock and anger and grief and I can say that I’m now in determined fighter mode. But that doesn’t change the fact that this was an outcome I hoped so fervently against. While I’m resigned to him being around for the next four years – please let it be only four – her steely grace and dignity in the face of this humiliating and incredulous defeat is more than I can currently bear. When I’m ready, I will watch her and I will read the full transcript of her speech, because she inspires me and because she deserves my (and our) fullest attention, today as every day. I’ve seen the headlines; I know she bowed out with a message that was so presidential, so thoughtful, so strong, that it will make me cry. I can’t bear to see her face. In her face live all the hopes she had and we had and the reminder of everything we could have had, now lost.

I wasn’t one of those cheerful millennials who thought we had this in the bag. I had a premonition, the night before Election Day, that something would transpire at the midnight hour and that we would be facing four years under the leadership of a brutish, bigoted, proudly uneducated man. I went to a yoga class and, halfway through, I tensed up even more. I left that class with a new knot in my back. Afterward, I told my boyfriend how overwhelmed I was feeling. There has been so much venom directed toward people like me during this campaign, I said. People of color. Women. Immigrants. People already marginalized, already fearful of their futures. I don’t know how we can navigate through the stain that this venom leaves behind, I said, even if she wins. I don’t feel safe anymore, I said. I said that, the night before – and he said ‘Don’t worry sweetheart, 24 hours from now, we’ll be rejoicing at this country having elected our first woman president. The most qualified candidate, the most outstanding woman, to have ever run for this office. It will be a great, great day. You’ll see.’

The morning of November 9th, it was a grey and drizzly. The streets of my neighborhood in Washington, DC were close to being empty. I passed older African-American men huddled on street corners and Latina women pushing young children in strollers. I made eye contact with several people as I passed. We exchanged nods, knowing looks, sometimes smiles. We wished each other a good day. Our faces all said: I don’t know where to go from here, I don’t know what will happen, and I’m so sad and scared. But look at me: today, I am surviving. I am putting one foot in front of the other and showing up. I am doing my best to own my life.

—-

Politics is an unfriendly sport, a fickle one, one that takes away as much as it gives. There are issues that our elected leaders debate in the halls of Congress, some of which seem removed from our everyday lives. But I know how much the decisions that Trump’s administration will make will affect how I and everyone around me lives. I know, for instance, that I need to switch to a form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like an IUD or implant as soon as possible. Because if Roe v. Wade is repealed, as Trump promises, I will lose my constitutional right to an abortion. I will lose an essential part of my reproductive choice. I am somewhat comforted by the knowledge that the damage the next administration will inflict on the country and the world at large will seem irreparable, but that some of it will be reparable. There are some issues, though, that can’t wait four years. Climate change is real, it is not a hoax invented by the Chinese, and we cannot afford to let petty political squabbles stall efforts to combat it and exacerbate what is already a grave and global humanitarian crisis. On climate change, we are f*****. On immigration, too. I think of all the DREAMers, who grew up in this country, who are every bit as American as my housemates, white children of Massachusetts and Indiana and Missouri. Have the DREAMers lost their chance to dream?

There’s more, of course – Muslim Americans, LGBTQ+ Americans, Americans living with disabilities. In voting in Trump, we voted out their rights to a life of dignity, safety, bodily integrity. We repudiated Obama and the legacy he worked so hard to preserve. We allowed male white supremacy to rear its ugly head. We reversed the course of history.

I am so, so devastated. I am out of words.

Priya Kvam, based in Washington DC

*

My first thought on watching the Trump victory was how this could come from the same place as Black Lives Matter. And then I realised that actually they came from exactly the same place – a place of disillusionment with the status quo. In the same way that people voted out of Europe because they were angry at the establishment people voted not for Trump but for an anti-establishment candidate. Just like black lives matter campaign against the inherent injustice of the system. The question we have to ask ourselves is why is the anti-establishment feeling is doing better when it breeds on xenephobia and misogyny, than when it breeds on respect and tolerance. My answer to that is because the liberal intelligensia classes have gotten arrogant. They believed the fight was already won, and put one of their own a  – pure breed elitest liberal – against the anti establishment candidate. We, as a collective, failed to provide an alternative anti-establishment narrative, we sat back on our laurels and assumed that we had already won. No candidate could take the black lives matter message to the mainstream, so we lost. We held onto our establishment, when the other side let the anti-establishment message ring. This is not the fault of the xenephobic elements of society, they’ve always existed, it’s the fault of everyone who believes in a different message – who failed to get that message across.

Lindsay Riddoch

*

“I can’t believe she voted for Trump – she’s a woman!” I sat back and agreed silently. Yes, as a woman I felt furious, disgusted and insulted that a man so openly sexist had just become President of the free world. Suddenly, a quiet bubbling erupted within me and I began to feel ill. Something felt wrong.

It felt wrong to me that the person sitting in front of me expected women to vote for Clinton – perhaps based on an assumption of the defiance, anger and resentment that ‘should’ be felt by the female population of voters. It echoed too the roaring assumption that voters ‘should’ support the candidate that most resembles their narrowly defined stereotypes and ‘tick the box’ characteristics. And perhaps even more worryingly, it underlined the assumption that voting for one’s benefit ‘should’ come before voting for the future of one’s society.

And perhaps, after all, that was the big downfall of the polls, which predicted greater numbers of women voting for Clinton, and lesser number of Muslims, Asians and Hispanics voting for Trump. The failure to look beneath the surface and into who people really are is the reason for the wave of shock that gripped the world as Trump’s states ticked over the line. But if there is one positive take away from this event, it’s the blindingly obvious demonstration that people are more than what they appear to be on paper. That ‘she’ and ‘he’ are more than a ‘woman’ or a ‘man, ‘Muslim’ or ‘Catholic’, ‘white’ or African-American’. They are, above all, individuals – each with their own visions, hopes and fears. And that they are larger, louder and more powerful than the boxes that we confine them to.

Kiara Alves, based in England

*

It’s a depressing state of affairs. A presidential race in which a candidate with years of political experience loses against someone without any experience, who is facing numerous accusations of sexual assault and rape, and whose campaign has been based on bullying, sexism and racism.

It has been pointed out that Clinton is in fact set to win the popular vote but, ignoring the bizarre American electoral system, this should have been irrelevant. Against such a candidate she should have won by a landslide. Why didn’t she?

I think there were myriad reasons for the result – disillusionment with the “establishment”, the email scandal, America’s love of celebrity. But what is most interesting is the gender dynamic. I think Clinton and her team took for granted winning votes simply for virtue of her being a woman, which proved not to be the case.

I would, of course, have loved to have the first female president, but wouldn’t vote for someone solely for this reason (I would have voted for her as a Democrat and against Trump, obviously). And for many, her gender would either be an irrelevance or an active deterrent, therefore her campaign should have made more solid arguments beyond this.

The Democrats’ focus on her as a woman has then meant that post-election debate has started to question “Is America ready for a female president?” when this isn’t the issue at all. Clinton, as a person, and her campaign, had issues irrespective of her gender.

For me, however, the most depressing take home from the result is that, while people aren’t prepared vote for someone solely because they are a woman, to break “the ultimate glass ceiling”, they are seemingly prepared to ignore rampant misogyny, sex crimes and racism when they make their vote.

Emily Morrison

*

“Never forget that a political, economical or religious crisis is enough to cast doubt on women’s rights. These rights will never be vested. You have to stay vigilant your whole life” – Simone de Beauvoir

8th November 2016 was always going to be a historic day for the United States: I was convinced that the American people would elect their first female President: Hillary Clinton. How wrong I was… After a very long night, which rapidly turned into a nightmare, the entire world found out that Donald Trump would become the 45th President of the United States. I was deeply shocked and terrified. How is it possible that a xenophobic, racist, violent, misogynistic billionaire will lead the United States from the 20th January 2017?

The American elections are a disgrace and a severe endangerment for women’s rights. The appalling result is a step backward for women in the United States and all around the world. However, I am convinced that we – women and men – who believe in inclusiveness and equality will keep fighting for our rights.  As Simone de Beauvoir said in 1949, there always will be crises that will affect women’s rights. She wrote this 60 years ago, but it is been true for almost all of human history, and it is even truer today. The fight carries on and it is up to us to fight it.

Apolline Parel

President Trump: Reactions to the US Election (Part 1)

Yesterday, just a few hours after the result of the US Election and while the wounds were still so painfully fresh, I sent out an urgent email to the writers of Gender and the City, asking for their comments on the election of Donald Trump. I recognise that while much of the world is in a period of morning over the result, many do not simply wish to grieve. What we have learnt from this election is that this a time for marginalised voices to be heard more loudly than ever.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked how on earth it was possible that a sexually predatory, racially discriminative, inflammatory, destructive and callous bigot was in the final two to take one of the highest positions of office in the world. Now, in my devastation and disgust, my questions have only been multiplied. When I asked our Managing Editor, Ali, for her comments for this article she said ‘Why?’ I began to explain my rationale, only for her to clarify — ‘That’s my response,’ she said, ‘Why? Just why?’ I think it’s fair to say that’s a question on a lot of our minds.

The comments we received back from all across the world were a combination of thoughtful, impassioned, shocked, fearful and hopeful. And although many have the inclination to blame, our time is better spent on reflection. I was overwhelmed and inspired by what we received, so much so that we’ll be publishing this piece in multiple parts over the next week. I implore you to read until the end.

Kaammini Chanrai, Founder and Editor-in-Chief 

*

I spent last night, and woke up today, in an environment of shock, horror, fear, and heaviness suspended like the clouds over DC after Donald Trump was elected.

As a woman, a person of colour, and someone with a sensory disability, it feels deeply personal for me, as I know it does for many. Of course, my instincts are telling me to scream, run, or break something, but I don’t want to make room in my life for that level of hatred. I can’t and won’t let that bitterness about a particular personality sully my outlook on the country’s future, the climate’s future, and the future of social issues I care so deeply about.

I commit to working to fight against the bigotry, racism, sexism, and cruelty that Trump’s campaign represents. And I also commit to continuing to count my blessings every day, reconnecting with my intention to bring joy into this world for all creatures, and thinking about how I can act with dignity and purpose. Now more than ever, we can’t forget to never acquiesce to hatred of another being, no matter how tempting. And never forget that love, service, honesty, and grace win.

Camilla Nawaz, based in Washington DC

*

Now that the tears have dried and the storm has passed, can we talk for a moment about why Trump was, against all odds, chosen by almost 60 million Americans?

A tsunami of nativist, anti-establishment sentiment has swept not just the US but the wider western world, showing no signs of slowing as we democratically embrace political leaders that mirror horror movie characters. It’s hardly a surprise: groups in society feel increasingly unrepresented and marginalised, incumbent leaders have failed to correct the unequal distribution of benefits that come from increased openness, and the mainstream has been complacent in the face of this anti-status quo movement. More should have been done to aid the ‘losers’ of globalisation – it is lamentable that America spends a pathetic 0.1% of GDP, one sixth of the rich country average, on policies to retrain workers who have lost their jobs through trade and technology. But these trends apply not just to the US but also the UK (Brexit), France (National Front), Germany (AfD), and heavens knows where else.

The country in which I currently reside will soon have at its helm a President with the ability and inclination to start a conflagration of destructive proportions; a man whose unwavering disdain for women, minorities, and civil liberties is evident in not just his rhetoric but also in his actions. Grave danger faces large groups of society if Trump executes even half of his pre-election promises: to repeal Obamacare, scrap NAFTA, ban Muslims from entering the country, cut abortion funding, cancel The Paris Accord. The New Yorker goes so far as to declare the result “The American Tragedy”.

However, we should refrain from indulging in doom and gloom predictions; instead, we must look for a silver lining. Stock markets have not been rattled. Republicans control both houses but Trump has been rejected by many senior members of his party, meaning he could face a tough order of opposition from Congress. He may turn out to be a foreign policy realist and strengthen US-Russia relations, which could more reliably guarantee European security than the status quo. He may surround himself with pragmatic, intelligent advisors and perhaps listen to them occasionally. Most importantly, his presidency may shake the establishment out of its crippling complacency. It is pertinent to point out that the polls, prognosticators, and politicians all underestimated the magnitude of dissatisfaction of the US electorate.

Although I am unimaginably disheartened by Hillary’s loss, I take solace in the fact that, throughout 2016, the world has witnessed women rising from the political ashes of men. Hillary Clinton has made history. Her tenacity, grace, and iron will is an inspiration to all women, showing us that, one day, we will be able to shatter the glass ceiling. HRC may not be the winner this week but she is still a champion. I was, am, and will always be, #wither.

Shakira Chanrai, based in North Carolina

*

Like the EU Referendum, I was determined to stay up all night to witness what I was so sure would be the triumph of sane, compassionate and open-minded people against those who respond to prejudice, ignorance and unsubstantiated rhetoric.

Like the EU Referendum, I was worried by 1am, panicked by 2am and outright despairing by 4am.

My thoughts, as a ‘Remain’ voter in Brexit Britain, and as an LGBT+ woman, go out to Democrat voters in the US, and to women, people of colour, and the LGBT+ and immigrant communities alike. You have trying times ahead, but so much of the international community is with you.

Today is already in the history books and we cannot change that now. But what comes next is something we have some say in.

Do not lash out at Trump voters as so many ‘Remainers’ in the UK did to Brexit voters, including myself at times. Talk to each other. Do not exacerbate the chasm between you that Trump has already so successfully carved out. Understand each others fears and educate yourselves.

This, I believe, is the most powerful way to resist the spread of prejudice and misinformation that has taken root.

Emily Faint

*

In a sentence:  the return of Nativism as demographics are changing fast.

Like most, I haven’t really processed it fully. A large part of me isn’t prepared to believe the words ‘President-Elect Trump’ when they appear on the news, as we’re a part of some sick joke. I really feel for Hillary, and mourn the chance for having come so close to a female president and missed. But this is far more than just a symbolic loss; the futures of minorities and some women have been jeopardized by what has effectively been the final death rattle of a certain type of white people. This may well be the last time they can do it before demographics relegate them to merely being another minority, which is in a way heartening – unlike Brexit, where there is no such future demographic certainty.

Alongside watching Hillary’s concession speech I would heavily recommend listening to a brief segment by CNN’s Van Jones, which encapsulates the mood of fear that many have at the moment. He speaks of this election as being a nativist ‘White-Lash’, and in a lot of ways I am more prepared to buy that argument than the capitalist critique that is making the rounds that these were the downtrodden and “forgotten” of our liberal system. In support of this is exit poll data from the New York Times, which indicates that Clinton won a majority of voters from the lowest two income brackets quite convincingly, whilst Trump performed better or almost as well with voters in the middle and upper brackets. Also supporting this is the fact that the two most important issues for Trump supporters were immigration and terrorism – neither of which feed into this ‘people left behind’ theory. I’m in no doubt that this is a nativist revolt rather than anything else. Perhaps that’s a way of explaining how Trump won a majority of white women: for them, race trumped (sorry) any notion of misogyny- he could bring their country back to them regardless of how many ‘pussies’ he grabbed.

Compounding this, Trump now has an open goal to enact any policy he wants. I do think that Trump isn’t too interested in policy and is at heart a pragmatist, which should relieve me, except for the fact that the Republicans he surrounds himself with and those in Congress are insane- and he’s somehow managed to put them in power. The problem with Trump is temperament and not policy, because he has no real policy. The problem with the Republican Party is ideology, and they have now somehow been elevated to all three branches of government without any reckoning for the 8 years of mischief they have pursued. They will make a big effort to repeal Obamacare, and you can bet that with a Supreme Court nomination there will be many rollbacks in LGBT+ rights, women’s rights, immigration and affirmative action.

Like I said earlier, I’m not as scared for the future of America as I am the UK. Even if a wall is built it is almost a certainty that the US will be significantly more diverse in the future, and that reactionary, racist votes like this are the last gasp of the old guard as the country moves forward (painful though it is). With the UK I am less certain because there really isn’t anything to indicate that we will change demographically, nothing to say we will be more diverse or younger – we risk greater stagnation than the US under Trump. Scary times ahead.

Nikhil Subbiah, based in England