On February 6th 2017 Hillary Clinton urged people to “dare greatly and lead boldly” in a speech which has prompted a resurgence of feminist debate over the roles of women in Trump’s America.
In her speech she stated that “the future is female”, eliciting criticism because of her female-centric language — an argument which mirrors those of ‘All Lives Matter’ advocates who criticise the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, and moreover an argument which minimises the experiences of the minority groups in America that have had to fight so hard historically against oppression and discrimination.
Looking back at 2016, we can see a time of thriving feminism. This is evident in all facets of the mass media, from strong female figures such as Beyoncé and Adele making waves in the music industry, to unprecedented strong female representation in television, with shows such as Scandal, Orange Is The New Black and How To Get Away With Murder showing powerful women of colour and women of all sexualities living as equals. For the future of women, representation is arguably the most important thing. If young girls can see people like them leading, learning and succeeding, they will believe that they can do the same.
Already, since his election and subsequent inauguration, President Trump has awakened a backlash narrative. The supposedly ‘dangerous’ liberal agenda has seemingly alienated working-class whites, leading to huge numbers of voters and citizens feeling fed up with political correctness and identity politics — such as feminist and racial justice movements. However, bringing an end to identity politics — something which Trump represents — suggests that the only valid American identity is a straight white male. Trump offers a backward vision of America, restoring the country to a time when complex identities and experiences weren’t acknowledged or recognised. Trump’s election is a clear statement of what many voters in America value: white male supremacy over female ambition, intelligence and competence.
President Trump signed a bill on April 13th 2017 which allows states to individually remove family planning funding from Planned Parenthood, in a move which is directly overturning a rule from the Obama administration which protected funding towards health organisations which provide abortions. Whilst this law does not directly strip federal funding from the organisation, it is a clear demonstration of what Trump’s administration does and does not consider to be important; clearly, the fundamental rights of women to control and care for their own bodies are not essential
People today are rejecting the idea of feminism; but the solution is more, not less. Abandoning the term for the sake of easing in those who deny it is not the answer — it just minimises the efforts of the feminist movement, which has allowed women today to reach the point where they are privileged enough to say we don’t need feminism anymore. We must reach out to and support those who a Trump presidency is making most vulnerable — immigrant women, transgender women, women of colour, lesbian women, disabled women; women seeking abortions, protection from men, or asylum. This is the time to refuse to bow down to Trump’s male supremacist ideals.
It is not only women affected by Trump’s anti-female rhetoric — immigrant men, gay or transgender men, men of colour, any men who refuse to subscribe to President Trump’s traditionalist views on what an American man should be, are all under threat. The feminist movement, needed in American now more than ever to prevent a relapse to the days when women had to fight for suffrage, defends not only the rights of women but also those of men who refuse to conform to the traditional Republican model.
Clinton’s bid for presidency highlighted the gross sexist double standards which were evident throughout the election period, and since then there has been a huge rise in the number of women going into political training programmes to hopefully change the future political discourse. However, women such as these seem to be pushing against a brick wall, as women who have been able to gain top positions in Trump’s administration are rejecting feminism — such as Kellyanne Conway, who in an interview on January 26th called herself a “postfeminist”. This suggests living in a society which has moved on from needing the efforts of a feminist movement, and vilifies the movement by associating it with solely pro-abortion and anti-male rhetoric (a statement which I’m not even going to grace with an argument, because it’s so ignorant and fallacious).
We must not buoy up bigotry — it is not the fault of women that misogyny in America is still so prevalent, and it is not up to women to force men to treat us like valid human beings. The majority of white women voted for Trump, showing just how desperately feminism in America is needed; most of these women were older, religious or without college degrees, and consequently more used to living and operating in societies that are steeped in and dependent on male authority. Women must be allowed the opportunity to see themselves as powerful, capable and independent, something which Trump’s administration is a serious threat to.
When I mentioned to a friend from near Seattle that I was writing an article about this, she described being a female living in Trump’s America as “horrifying” — not something which inspires a lot of hope for the progression of gender equality under Trump’s administration. 50.8% of American citizens identify as female, yet only 19.1% of the House of Representatives are women.
How can America be postfeminist when one in five women are raped on college campuses? How can the feminist movement be outdated when American women earn just 78% of what a man earns for doing the same jobs? And how can women in America expect to feel represented, safe and valued in a nation which willingly votes a man who has been accused of sexually assaulting numerous women; who evaluates women based on their physical attributes rather than their intelligence or characters, and who stated that women who have abortions should be legally punished, into the role of President?
Yet despite this, President Trump has been successful in one area: he has created a new wave of women’s movements worldwide. The women’s marches which took place after his inauguration are representative of the fire that has been lit in the belly of the feminist movement. So whilst women may feel threatened, they fight on, and we can hope that we will see an American future which embraces the feminine.