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What Does Trump Mean For Women? Don't Despair - Organise

10/11/2016 09:48
David Becker / Reuters

A woman who is arguably the best qualified candidate ever to run for President is beaten by a man with no experience of political office. A man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, spoken in derogatory terms about women and who has repeatedly promised to appoint justices who will overturn Roe vs Wade - still manages to secure 47.5% of the popular vote (not the majority), 45% of the votes of college educated women and 62% of the non-college educated female vote. There can be no doubt that Trump's election presents a real and present threat to women's rights in the US. But what is the significance for women in the UK and across the world?

The palpable feeling today as we digest the result is that we have crossed a line. The world still looks to America as "the Leader of the Free World" and that leader just sent a clear message that misogyny is OK. It is acceptable as part of mainstream political and public life. And it wins. The signal this sends around the world is profoundly damaging. It resonates with our own experience in the UK of an openly misogynistic political and public culture, particularly prevalent in social media but also in the mainstream press, and comes in a year when Jo Cox was murdered for her political beliefs.

donald trump

So the women's movement could be forgiven for feeling low right now. The election result is a glaring, shocking reminder of how far we have yet to go and that we cannot insulate our daughters from the realisation that they face systemic discrimination and inequality. Still in 2016. There have been a number of despairing comments on social media in the past 24 hours, including my own ("I warn you not to be female"). But I believe that this rise in overt misogyny (as opposed to the subtle kind) is in part at least a response to our success. It is the classic backlash against a resurgent feminist movement and the vibrancy of the women's sector.

There is only one appropriate response - to feel anger, not despair, and to organise. In the UK the prospect of leaving the European Union and the single market led my organisation, the Fawcett Society, to launch the #FaceHerFuture campaign - a coalition of over twenty women's rights and equality organisations. We are calling for no going back on women's rights and a progressive agenda post-Brexit setting the ambitious challenge to make the UK the best place to be a woman. This will be a marathon not a sprint as the Brexit process plays out. We have to be strategic, united and resilient. That is not unusual in the fight for women's rights. Sometimes it helps to consider our history. Looking at the suffrage movement in the UK it experienced many setbacks. There were repeated attempts to secure the vote and repeated disappointments before the first votes for women were won in 1918 (universal suffrage followed in 1928, 62 years after the campaign began).

america

So, today, looking across the Atlantic to the US we know that women's organisations will already be preparing for the battle to come ready to defend their hard-won rights. We stand with them too. Progress will win the day. Not because it is inevitable, but because the prospect of turning the clock back and the resolve on the part of women and their male allies to create a better future will make it so.

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