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#MeToo and the fight against Trump

By: 
Faline Bobier

January 4, 2018

This month is the one year anniversary of two earth-shaking events: the inauguration of US president Donald Trump – the election of a racist and sexist bigot to the highest office – and the Women’s Marches in Washington and around the world the day after Trump’s inauguration, where women and their allies stood courageously against the politics of greed and hatred that many feared would come to dominate mainstream politics in 2017.

This was the largest single-day protest in US history and saw very sizeable marches in many other countries, including in Toronto where 60,000 people came out to protest, by far the largest protest here since the days of the anti-war movement in 2003.

Time magazine underlined the importance of Trump’s election by choosing him as last year’s “Person of the Year.” However, this year Time’s “person of the year” is not a person but a movement, the #MeToo movement and rightly so.

#MeToo

Black feminist activist Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement ten years ago, presided over the ceremonial countdown ringing in 2018 on New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Time Square. Burke began the “Me Too” movement as a grassroots movement to help sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities, where rape crisis centres and sexual assault workers were not often available.

No one could have foreseen how relevant this movement would become. Revelations about Hollywood figures such as producer Harvey Weinstein started with one courageous actress, Rose McGowan, having the guts to come out and speak about her rape and victimisation by Weinstein. 

Once one woman spoke out many more women (and some men) would follow with their own stories of rape, harassment and abuse. Several Hollywood and media icons have seen their careers consigned to the dustbin of history. The difference this time is that women were actually believed when they spoke out. That has everything to do with context and with numbers.

The success of the #MeToo movement at this moment in history speaks in part to the rage at the spectacle of a president who has himself been accused of sexual harassment by 20 different women, but who continues in power nonetheless. 

It was largely due to Black voters (and to Black women voters in particular) that Republican judge Roy Moore lost the recent election to the Senate in Alabama. Multiple women alleged that Moore had made unwanted advances on them when he was in his early thirties and they were in their teens (the youngest was 14 at the time). In spite of this Trump endorsed Moore in the election – one sexual predator to another.

But the phenomenon of sexual harassment and violence is much broader than simply what happens in Hollywood. As American writer and activist Barbara Ehrenreich tweeted recently, “Our current sex harassment discussion is woefully class-skewed. Too much about actresses and not enough about hotel housekeepers.”

The point is not that actresses should not speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and violence, but that this is a systemic problem that is also faced by working class and poor women on a daily basis.

Statistics on the Canadian Labour Congress web site highlight the following facts:

-1 in 10 women aged 18 to 24 report having experienced sexual harassment at work within the previous 12 months

-On any given  day, over 3000 women (along with their 2500 children) are staying in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

-Indigenous women are 3 times more likely to report being the victim of a violent crime

Oppression is experienced by individuals, but it cannot be systematically resolved on that level. We need collective action.

Collective action

That is why the announcement that the Women’s March Alliance has called a demonstration in New York City on January 20 to mark a year since Trump’s inauguration is a welcome sign. There will be a similar march in Toronto on the same date.

The only promises that Trump has kept since his election are the ones to the 1%. His recent tax bill will benefit only the wealthy, and to do this there will be cuts to Medicare and other programs that poor and low income people depend on. An expected 13 million Americans will lose access to healthcare as a direct result of the tax cuts for the super wealthy.

Only an organized, collective response to Trump and the politics he represents can pose a real challenge. And that challenge cannot simply be relying on the return of the Democratic party. Hillary Rodham Clinton, although she is a woman, would not have represented a step forward. She represents the interests of the American ruling class just as much as Trump, and in fact, it was the failure of the Democratic party to offer anything better for the majority of Americans (women and men) that led to Trump’s election in the first place.

To pose a challenge to the sexism, racism and homophobia Trump uses to divide and conquer and to shore up his failing presidency, we need to embrace the politics of this Appalachian great-grandmother who gave this speech the day after the Republican tax bill was passed:

“Mr. Ryan and Mr. McConnell, do you think Appalachian women like me with steel in our backbones will yield? You are kidding yourselves if you think we will be turned around. […] Last night the Senate voted to rob the working middle class and the working poor, the elderly, our children, students and veterans to further enrich the filthy rich and large corporations. These so-called Christians say they follow the teachings of Jesus. They do not. They worship at the altar of money and power and hold tight to the philosophy of Ayn Rand. They lie and say they worship at the altar of Christ. In fact, they kneel and bend their knees and kiss the rings of the Koch brothers and other billionaire donors who are hell-bent on smashing the 99%. Listen very carefully Mr. Ryan, Mr. McConnell and your greed-filled ilk. We the people of the United States are mobilizing. My sisters and brothers are rising up together to fight against the attack that you are giving to our people. And we will not yield until our people are free from the money-changers and those who worship money and power. We the people see your tax scam for what it is and we will overcome. Stay tuned Paul and Mitch. We are coming for you.”

Let’s work to make sure the Women’s marches in January are as big, as diverse and as militant as they can be, as we organize for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia, and the rotten economic system that underpins them all.

 

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