Four years to grab back

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Good afternoon and thank you so much for inviting me here to talk today.

I’d like to offer my thanks and congratulations to Leah and Calum for organising this event. I want to express how affirming it is to see that a generation of young people are growing up understanding the power of their own voices — but I’d also like to apologise for not leaving things in better shape. We had no idea it would get this bad. We had no idea that our future could change direction so abruptly.

I’m part of a generation who grew up being promised the moon, and really believing we could have it. We watched women who smashed the ceiling. Women in high office. Women who had it all. We believed what we were told, and so we didn’t question as hard or as deeply as we should have. It took many of us years to do the maths, to realise that what we were being told about womanhood and the reality of that womanhood didn’t add up. So it’s a pleasure to be here, and to witness the unity of thought and desire for action that spans the generations. I’m heartened that we have the opportunity to combine the experience of years with the zeal and fearlessness of youth. If ever we needed such a powerful alchemy, the time is now.

To be a woman today is dangerous. It has always been dangerous. Once we were literally pilloried and burned until justice evolved a heart. Today we are pilloried and burned in all but stock and flame. To be a woman with knowledge is dangerous. To be a woman with an opinion is dangerous. To be a woman with a voice is dangerous. To be a woman on social media is dangerous. To be a woman with a platform is dangerous. To be a woman in poverty is dangerous. To be a gay woman is dangerous. To be a trans woman is dangerous.To be a sexually active woman is dangerous. To be pregnant woman is dangerous. To be a black woman is dangerous. To be a migrant woman is dangerous. To be a disabled woman is dangerous. To be a Muslim woman is dangerous.

To be a woman is dangerous.

We don’t need to ask ourselves why. We are gathered here today because we know, and we know that others have forgotten or chosen not to listen. Ladies and gentleman, we have just witnessed the fortification of the West’s greatest white supremacist patriarchy. I do not use those words lightly. I feel the weight and the sadness of having to utter each one.

To be a woman in America has just gotten so much more unsafe. The rise of Trump has reinvigorated a misogyny our forebears hoped would have been consigned to history books by now. How can you live freely under the rule of a mendacious, capricious demagogue? It’s not possible. Women in America will spend the next four years under a sword of Damocles and we must be there to help shoulder their burden, to hear their voices and to amplify them. The defunding of Planned Parenthood threatens women. The repeal of Obamacare threatens women. The emboldening of bigotry and intolerance greenlighted by this administration’s words and actions threatens women.

Women know inequality, but we are far from the sole inhabitants of this special club. As women we must acknowledge those beside us, and hold the door open for them as and when we can.

I stand here today as a white woman with a platform to remind you that we cannot forget how far this intolerance oscillates outward and how much more seriously it disadvantages others. I must remind you that America was forged from the breaking of black bodies. I must remind you that America is still breaking black bodies with impunity in the name of the law. Black bodies whose mothers and wives and daughters and sisters shoulder the burden of a justice system bent on the mass incarceration of black men. So often today we see the painful, visible harm against those bodies that we cannot erase the images of violence against men — but I must also remind you that black women in America face the threat of racial profiling, racist policing, sexual and domestic violence — violence that is often invisible. I must remind you that Black Lives Matter, and that black and brown women in America already face the a double bind of systemic racism and sexism — a sexism and racism that a Trump presidency has already been seen to catalyse. We cannot allow this societal and cultural malignance to develop and spread. We must spend the next four years containing and dismantling it. Treating it with common sense, loud voices, empathy and action. Martin Luther King once spoke of “The fierce urgency of now”, and that urgency is as fierce as ever. We must be allies — that is our job, as of today.

As a woman with a platform I must remind you of the threat to the LGBTQI community. Despite Trump’s flirtation with the acronym, we cannot be blind to what underpins his administration. Ideologies that other and endanger this community. My community. The potential to roll back marriage equality. The potential to prevent same-sex adoption. The potential for more discriminatory and damaging bathroom bills. A vice president who supported conversion therapy and signed a religious liberty bill that allows business owners to refuse service to LGBTQI people. This administration does does not uphold their rights as human rights.

Trump has arrived in office on a wave of wilful omission and outright lies. He has heard the fears of the American people, and reframed those fears into something else. He’s told the American people to look around themselves at difference and blamed it for their malaise. He has responded to their worries with more fear masquerading as solutions. His bloviating has given people hope, but their hope is a mirage. A fata morgana in the heat of populist rhetoric. He has made them promise, and they wear it proudly on hats and on t-shirts. A promise he simply cannot keep.

Donald Trump wants to make America great again — but for who? Each time he says that our job is to ask precisely that. Who will the Trump administration protect and who will it threaten? I believe we already know that answer. So each time we hear those words, or variations thereof, we must hold him to account. We must disrupt and expand that meaning.

To make America Great again he must stop the breaking of black bodies in streets, cars , homes and prisons

To make America great again he must recognise the inalienable right of women to reproductive and sexual freedom

To make America great again he must uphold the right for people to marry whomever they love, regardless of gender or sexuality

To make America great again he must ensure affordable healthcare is a right, not a privilege

To make America great again he must protect our climate and our environment

And though he is not my president, and I’m sure not most of yours either, we have a duty of care to our brothers and sisters in the US.

America First is not good enough. America’s ideas, especially the bad ones, are not neatly contained by borders. I stand here as a global citizen with a wish for equality and unity for all. Today our voices chime together. Today we echo the hearts and minds of our sisters marching in Washington and all over the world.

“No one has more respect for women and girls” says the same man who said he could grab us by the pussy. This is the man who called breastfeeding disgusting. The man who said abortion should be punishable. The man who called his own daughter ‘a piece of ass’

Now is the time to show our asses won’t be grabbed. Now is the time to show our bodies are not shameful. Now is the time to show that our pussies grab back.

Ladies and gentlemen, when today concludes I urge you not to consider this a done deal. Oratory is not enough. Marching today is not enough. So don’t put down your banners. Don’t check out. For the next four years and beyond, our voices must be the accompaniment, the harmony to the voices shouting back in America. We cannot expect to fight misogyny, racism, homophobia and all other injustice by ourselves. They must hear us. They will try not to listen. They will avoid us, so we must me loud. We must be persistent. We must be tireless and fearless in our fight for fairness.

There are hard times ahead. Times when it will feel pointless to fight. Times when it will be exhausting to continue the Sisyphean task of asserting the basic ideas of equality. But we mustn’t lose hope. Whatever Trump robs the people of, he cannot touch their desire for a better world. Not better for some — better for all.

Freedom is not freedom unless it works for all people.

Equality is not equality unless it works for all people.

Justice is not justice unless it works for all people.

We can counteract this panoply of backwards thought, counter the government’s divisive rhetoric, thought and action with four years of activism. Behind the talk, we are women who get things done.

The events of 2016 have shown us how quickly and how violently our world can be inverted. We never know when we’re going to need the call and response of our sisters. Right now they need us. This is how we start to answer that call.

Thank you.

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