I’m the kind of person that cries at a protest. I cried in the crowd at Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood protests when I lived in New York, and this weekend, as women and men of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, orientations, sexualities, religions and ideologies (there were Marxists set up next to Jesus-loving Christians) came together on the steps of the State Library to march on Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia, I fought back tears. Hard.
Here I was - a whole day before the women in my second home, New York City, would wake up and don their pussy hats - in Melbourne, the city I grew up in, lost in a sea of nearly 6,000 people who were, to quote Network (one of the greatest movies of all time), mad as hell and not going to take it any more. The power of that swelling crowd, the cheering and chanting, the small children and elderly women all holding signs with slogans like “My Equality Does Not Equal Your Oppression” and “Nasty Women Unite” stir up guttural emotions that, for me, erupt in tears. Which is why when the crowd, in unison, let out cries of “Solidarity!” for the American people disenfranchised by Trump’s presidency, all I could do was smile dumbly and lift one fist into the air, pumping it with each roar that emanated from the crowd, lest I tried to shout too, and wound up a sobbing mess instead.
There was nothing moderate about the sentiment in Melbourne over the weekend. Trump is reviled as an evil misogynist, duplicitous and toxic (Sad!). But more than that: Trump was the proxy through which we filtered all our anxieties about oppressive, patriarchal leadership, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and any kind of hateful, bigoted power dynamic in modern society. As much as Obama was a beacon of hope in 2008, Trump was a symbol of despair. Violence against women, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, the wage gap: these were just some of the feminist issues we vented against Trump on the weekend.
Australians held up signs that read “Love Trumps Hate” and “Not My Prez." An American woman standing behind me held up a sign that proclaimed, “I CAN’T BELIEVE I STILL HAVE TO PROTEST THIS SHIT." A little girl, no more than six years old, zig zagged through the crow beneath our elbows, holding up a sign in her own clumsy script, decorated with painted flowers: “Pussy Grabs Back”. There were women protesting for the rights of refugee women and children. People who were there on behalf of Australia’s First Nation’s population. Under one umbrella, we all stood in the sun, defiantly united against the other orange bastard beating down on us.
Australia was galvanised against Trump and against the bullshit way women (at all intersections of womanhood) are treated across the world. We stood up with our sisters near and far and said “Enough!” It was a profoundly moving experience, and made yet more so the following day, when in our corner of the world we woke up to the news of our sisters across the globe raising hell too. What affects one woman affects us all. Systemic and structural inequalities designed to disenfranchise women, while varied in their brutality from context to context, are universal, and this empirical truth energized the nearly three million women marching for political empowerment over the weekend. For the first time in recent memory, feminism didn’t feel like a convenient branding opportunity - it felt like a movement.
This weekend was just the beginning of what the next four years are shaping up to be. If we can hold onto the momentum, continuing to be loud, unruly, nasty women, we might just beat the rising tide of hatred by barrelling into it with our own pink tsunami.
[Photo: Getty Images]