A week before the American Presidential election and convinced that Hillary would triumph, I pondered a Utopian future driven by gender balanced power in seats of influence, and I started writing. Then Trump won. As I mourned in disbelief, I re-framed my missive, then lost the will to post thinking what’s the point. Then I witnessed the marches protesting Trump’s inauguration unfolding across the world, many so powerful they were declared full on rallies, and I realised there is hope.
My original missive focused on an extract from an article in which Barack Obama described the future he wanted to leave for his daughters. It read:*
‘We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatises full-time dads and penalises working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive and ambitious in the workplace – unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back’.
I had hoped to see significant advances on Obama’s own Utopian dream when the USA turned out to vote. Tough choices between a ranting misogynist known for his spectacularly bizarre rhetoric inciting fear and aggression and for grabbing women’s twats; and a woman dealing with misappropriated private email and an enduring vilification as being ‘untrustworthy’, ‘unlikable’, ‘too bossy’**. A woman I simply saw as confident, competitive and ambitious.
Ambitious indeed. Hillary Clinton’s speech at the United Nations 4th World Congress on Women in Beijing over 20 years ago Women’s Rights are Human Rights remained the foundation of her policies – as a Senator, as Secretary of State and throughout that campaign. Watching the UN speech again recently, I realised how far we were yet to come and had thus crossed my fingers that this catalyst for progression would be elected.
Instead, one massive setback for womankind. Trump. As Clinton graciously conceded the US election, she also conceded her a lifelong goal of breaking what she calls ‘that highest and hardest glass ceiling’. Sadly, that strong, decisive woman won’t be heading up the growing list of female heads of state and government at the summit of global power. The G20.*
Had Clinton won, she would have joined my personal fan club of kick-ass women: Chancellor Angela Merkel for her firm reign on Germany’s prosperity and willingness to take in the displaced, British Prime Minister Theresa May for stepping up when her conservative male colleagues self-immolated following the chaotic Brexit vote. Scotland’s Nicola Surgeon, the female leaders in Poland, Norway, Denmark; our own Julie Bishop. Helen Clark, United Nations leader-elect front runner; Janet Yellen, head of the US Federal Reserve; Christine Lagarde, nominated for a second five-year term at the International Monetary Fund; Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama for her influence and more. Of course, there are many brilliant men doing commendable work as well, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and his ethnically diverse cabinet of ministers that includes 15 men and 15 women and all subject matter experts for their portfolios, to name but one.
Sadly, each of these women has, just like Hillary, been subjected to higher standards and fiercer punishments, constantly dodging the slings and arrows of their male counterparts. Merkel, Sturgeon, May and others have faced hurtful criticism for being childless, May herself more famous for her leopard print kitten heels, Hilary for standing by her philandering man. What’s more, many have been elected or installed after a period of turmoil, often placing them on the precipice of the ‘glass cliff’, where, should they fail to deal with the inherited crisis left by the men they replaced, will be vulnerable to early rejection from their seats of power.
A voice for gender equality yes, however they have enough on their hands as they carefully dismantle the implications of Trump’s reforms on their countries. Enter the back up forces!
Influential spotlighting such as Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes plea supported by social media defence from fellow actors. Alec Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live satirical Trump impersonations. A continuous feed from media outlets affronted by Trump’s verbalised distrust. The man’s own vitriolic ‘slings and arrows’ Twitter trolling on anyone who dares to diss him. All of this fuelling the voices of celebrities, of those that marched. And us. And mine. Heartening.
The determined voices of the women who joined #Womensmarch said stop worrying sister, we’ve got this. From the global stage, no seat of power necessary. The rise, swift and vigorous, of women taking matters into their own hands; jostling for change through chants and placards, braving sleet, heat, dust storms and snow around the world to have their voices heard. To fight back. A shared determination to take the “Super, Callous, Fascist, Racist Extra Bragadocious” tyrant head on, independently, loudly and with conviction. Barack, you may just see the future you want for your daughters realised after all.
* Extract from Barack Obama’s – ‘This is what a Feminist Looks Like’ essay – Glamour Magazine
** ‘Who Runs the World – Emma-Kate Symons, November Vogue AU)