On 21 January 2017 several hundred women (and some men) gathered in Albert Square in Manchester in support of women’s rights, and in solidarity with similar events taking place in Washington DC on Trump’s first full day as President. The organisers stressed that it was not a march, but a peaceful, non-partisan protest with music and placards. It was noticeable that many of the women taking place were middle-class, fairly typical of a class of people that live in the centre of Manchester these days or the affluent south of the city.
Why We March is a pictorial history of the Women’s March on 21 January 2017, which took place worldwide: inspiring people from Antartica to Zimbabwe.
The book includes 500 photographs, mainly from cities in the USA, which demonstrate how millions of women, men and children raised their voices and placards on issues such reproductive rights, migrant rights, police violence, climate change and feminism. All the profits from the book sales are going to a non-profit organisation in the USA that provides reproductive health services; Planned Parenthood.
Many of the signs carried by the protestors featured Donald Trump: his ascendancy to President provoked a groundswell, particularly amongst women, against the way he flaunted his misogyny and issued threats against women’s rights. One placard says, “Trump, Illegitimate, ignorant, intolerant, instrument of international interests,” while a shorter sign retorts, “Love Trumps Hate.” Another one screams, “I will not go back to the 1950s.”
The controversy about Russia’s alleged involvement in the US elections is referred to: “Poutine Tient Trump par les” in Paris, “Tinkle, Tinkle Little Czar, Putin put you where you are” in New York City.
The authors comment that the marches brought a real mixture of ages, ethnicities, religion, sexual orientation, classes and gender identities on to the streets. (Not sure how they gauged the economic classes of the marchers?) And rather than include comments from celebrities such as Helen Mirren and Barbra Striesand it would be better to tell us a bit more about the marchers.
I have to say it is the homemade signs that really stand out, eg, one child In London clutching a piece of cardboard with the message; “Babies against Bullshit”.
Missing from the photos are any trade union banners or political parties. Is that because they did not take part or were not chosen to be in the book? The march in the USA did have political messages, but the Manchester event had agreed beforehand that “We are non-partisan, and will not use the Women’s March primarily to criticize politicians or political parties”.
It is great seeing people expressing their anger at political events but the question is; what happens next? This book was brought out very quickly – just three months after the march – so we do not know what the marchers did next.
The January march in Manchester was followed by another one in July, this time it was women only against male violence. Women, and in particular working class women, have been hit twice as hard as men by the austerity , and whilst the Durham Teaching Assistants, and recently in London the Barts Hospital cleaners (women and men) are leading the way with their campaigns, there has been no organised fight back by women or men to create grassroots organisations that challenge the real power blocks in society.
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