One year on, women have more reason to march than ever before

23 January 2018
By Fashion Quarterly

But how close are we to actually achieving equal rights for women?

In spite of sub-zero temperatures, rain, sleet and snow, thousands of women around the world marked the one year anniversary of the Women’s March in protest of Donald Trump’s presidency.

One year in and things have moved on. Time’s Up took centre stage as the global surge against sexism, sexual harassment and assault continues to boil over. This kinetic energy, which has carried both a grass roots movement in #MeToo and a more organised establishment elite initiative in Time’s Up, have been the product of ‘a year in our lives’ which began with the election of Trump, and ended in revelations about Harvey Weinstein.

As British Labour Co-operative politician Stella Creasy said when she took to the stage yesterday: “A year ago, everyone told us this was a flash in the pan. They said women will march and then they’ll go home and nothing will change. That’s the point.

“Everything has to change because #MeToo isn’t just some hashtag, it’s saying we’re not going to cope any more, we’re going to change the rules.”

In her speech Creasy announced that a Time’s Up fund, similar to the one launched by a collective of Hollywood women, would be started in the UK so that women from all backgrounds can have access to resources to pay legal costs when pursuing sexual harassment or assault claims.

Those who argued that the momentum of 2017’s Women’s March couldn’t be sustained have been proven wrong, the public discussions we are now having about sexism in Western society are testament to that. It was always bigger than Donald Trump.

In a year when we will celebrate the centenary of (some women) being awarded the vote because of a hard-fought campaign by the women of the suffragette movement, we must not overlook how much work there is still to be done.

Indeed, as polling from Ipsos Mori has found most men and women do not think that their governments are doing enough to promote equal opportunities for women. Surveying people in 23 countries, they found that less than half of women surveyed (45%) think they have equal opportunities to men, while six in ten (60%) men think they do.

In many places around the world, women around the world still do not have basic human rights. In England, women are scrutinised for not regularly showing support for their neighbours in Northern Ireland who are still yet to be granted the abortion rights that they’ve had since 1967.

Where were they when protests took place outside the Irish embassy last year? What did they do when it was reported that the gender pay gap won’t close until 2069? How often do they join the likes of Sisters Uncut en masse when they stage feminist actions on domestic violence?

Alongside equal education, free contraception and abortion on demand, one of the demands of the first ever national conference on the Women’s Liberation Movement in Oxford, which took place in 1970, was free 24-hour childcare. We know, beyond a doubt, that the gender pay gap is explicitly linked to both the financial and temporal cost of childcare. We know that other countries offer women a better deal but there are also women elsewhere in the world that still don’t have the freedoms and rights we have been taking for granted.

It is fitting and important that Time’s Up took centre stage at the Women’s March London. If Time’s Up and #MeToo are the legacy of last year’s marches then we can all be reassured that change is – albeit slowly – coming, but, we shouldn’t be complacent and we must keep asking ourselves what more we can do as individuals to help those women who can’t march on a cold Sunday in London – or anywhere else in the world. It’s not enough to turn up once a year.

Words: Victoria Spratt
Photos: Getty Images

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