Four women participate in the march againsts Donald Trump in Washington.
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Last Friday I realised that I had been in Trump denial mode. Despite knowing better, I just could not fully accept that such a morally corrupt person would become the president of the United States.
But there he was, with his very long red tie, and his small hand on two (nogal) Bibles, swearing to be faithful to the Constitution of his country. I hoped for thunder, rain, a podium collapse. Any form of divine intervention. Only a few drops of rain fell.
During his it’s-all-about-the-great-Donald-Trump inaugural speech, I started to despair. “Where are four brave women with placards when you need them?” I wondered, remembering the events in August of last year during President Jacob Zuma’s speech at the announcement of the local government election results.
Well, the next day they arrived: two-and-a-half million of them in pink hats with cat (pussy) ears. It was possibly the biggest, global protest march in human history. There was a sense beforehand that it was going to be big. For example, there were one thousand two hundred applications (1000 more than for Trump’s inauguration) for bus parking permits in Washington.
The previous day social media started buzzing with images of flights filled with women in pink hats heading for Washington. South West Airlines even filled the cabin of one of their flights with pink lights. There were videos online of streams of women with pink hats on escalators in underground stations heading into the city. But even the organisers were caught by surprise at the numbers of people that turned up.
In Washington the expected 120 000 people grew to one million according to the latest figures. The crowd was so big that they were almost not able to march, because the whole route was already filled with people.
The same thing happened in Boston where they planned for 25 000 people, but 125 000 turned up. LA had 500 000 people, Chicago 250 000, New York 200 000, Austin 50 000. In hundreds of other cities around America women and some men stood up for human rights and inclusiveness. They also got global support with more than 37 marches held across the world. A woman even tweeted a photo of herself with a poster from Antarctica.
To quote one of the posters: “Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned.”
Shockingly not all people agree with this – even in our country. On Friday morning I was on radio as part of a discussion on responsible leadership. For an hour listeners called in and with the exception of one caller, all were in support of Trump. They even supported his stance on, and utterances about women. “Yes, but what did the women do to deserve it?” one female caller asked. “One must understand the context,” one man added. I was gobsmacked.
Let’s just remind ourselves of some of the things Trump has said about women. In a recording that surfaced last year he said about a woman he worked with:
“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and f--- her. She was married. And I moved on her very heavily.”.… “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there…. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful (women). I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p---y. You can do anything.”
It is also worthwhile remembering that he was already several months married to his third wife Melania, when this was recorded. Yes, he did not know he was being recorded and yes it was a few years ago. But as we all know, a leopard does not change his spots. And it wasn’t a once off “glipsie”.
For example, he once said in an interview with ABC News: “I have days where, if I come home — and I don't want to sound too much like a chauvinist, but when I come home and dinner's not ready, I go through the roof.”
And: “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing. Unfortunately, after they're a star, the fun is over for me. It's like a creation process. It's almost like creating a building. It's pretty sad.” There are many more examples – just google them.
There is absolutely no context or excuse that can ever justify this kind of thinking or talk – not from anyone and especially not from someone who is now one of the most powerful people in the world. It is misogyny of the worst kind and it is this type of thinking that leads to the terrible oppression and violence that women across the world experience.
It is against these archaic ideas and their consequences that so many women took a stance on Saturday. Will these marches do anything to change Trump’s thinking? I doubt it. But, as with most extreme narcissists his ego is fragile (Just listen to him going on about the crowd sizes at his first meeting with the CIA if you don’t believe me). So he won’t like this. And hopefully his advisors will remind him of the old truth that for every one person that takes a stand – there are most probably another 100 -1000 people who feel the same.
There are also the women in his life, who will hopefully stand up to him, in particularly his daughter Ivanka. Notwithstanding the fact that he said he would have wanted to date her if she wasn’t his daughter, she is known to feel strongly about women’s rights and especially access to health care.
There is also a question about what role Melania will play. A poster that went viral on Friday, read: “Melania, are you ok?” and another “Melania, blink three times if this is a hostage situation”. Although she does look rather overwhelmed at the moment, she will hopefully find a voice that will strengthen those of women across the world.
Donald Trump’s first day in office was totally overshadowed by the peaceful strength of millions of women in pink hats across the world. He will discover – as our apartheid leaders did – that you ignore the anger of women at your own peril.
As the women at the march to the Union Buildings in 1956 chanted: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock. It will unleash a boulder. It will destroy you.”
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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