Updated: Jul 2, 2022
Our unity is our strength, our diversity is our power.
Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris
Trump has been a disaster for women.
The list of grievances is long.
Just three women held cabinet positions in the Trump administration. That's the lowest number of women since George H. W. Bush’s presidency, effectively dialling women's representation back 30 years.
In 2017, President Trump disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Then, in another sinister move, his Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deleted all lesbian and bisexual women’s resources from its women’s health website. But that wasn't enough - all mentions of contraception, abortion, and sex education were removed from ALL of its documents.
Trump ensured that federal dollars would no longer fund any family-planning providers that offer abortion services. To add insult to injury, he then prohibited these same clinics from referring pregnant women to alternative locations for abortion services. He also removed the legal requirement to provide women and girls with counselling that includes information about pre-natal care, delivery, adoption and abortion.
Here was a man clear about his disdain for women. His will to roll back their rights and to display his power in acts of misogynistic aggression did just that.
Within the first 100 days of his Presidency he had stripped funding from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides family planning and reproductive services to more than 150 countries globally. Ironically, a woman with heritage stemming from two of those countries will now be in a position to reinstate it.
Trump, the Republicans and those that fund them are not - and never will be - on the side of women. Yes, the Republicans "know what a woman is" but it is precisely BECAUSE they know what a woman is that they seek to control us.
We are the 52% of the population that, with considerable help from Trump’s Republican administration, are sidelined from positions of influence and power.
His administration believed we women are not deserving of good policy, that we are not allowed to have agency over our own bodies, and that our sexuality must be shamed if it does not centre men. t is these misogynistic policy-makers and legislators who keep the same 52% of the population in a structural position of subjugation in order to facilitate society's further exploitation of our bodies and our labour.
Enter, VP Kamala Harris (To cheers from the audience )
So, after the trauma of Trump's presidency throwing a floodlight onto America's entrenched racism, a Black woman has won BOTH the popular vote and the electoral vote.
Ironic really, as the electoral vote was designed, in part, to stop this very outcome.
Soon to be occupying the highest Governmental position ever held by a woman of colour, is the very embodiment of power. A woman who has defied the many, many barriers constructed by America's GOP to keep a Black woman far from the White House.
When the Founding Fathers, (there were no founding mothers), considered the merits of electing a president through a popular vote, James Madison stated:
“Negroes in the South present a difficulty … of a serious nature.”
Out of this, the electoral vote was born. A power mechanism with the purpose of protecting slave-owners and the economic interests of the white man through the electoral system.
So VP Harris was elected via the very mechanism that was designed to keep her a long, long way from the corridors of power. Kamala we salute you!
However, in these days of the two-party system's polarised extremes - opposing sides - it is easy to imagine the battle is won. To fall into the trap that, because the Republicans hurt us, the Democrats will save us.
Whilst we anticipate and expect wrongs to be righted, the return of our reproductive rights, employment rights, immigration rights and more, we can’t be fooled into thinking that the tentacles of patriarchy haven’t threaded themselves through the very fabric of the Democratic Party too.
The Democrats have a woman problem.
Unlike the Republicans, who use their knowledge of our sex to blatantly exploit and subjugate us, Biden and his buddies will, in turn, subjugate us by pretending not to know what a woman is.
Biden's proposed changes to the current Federal Equality Act, if successful, could strip women and girls of our remaining sex-based rights. One small policy step forward for the Democrats, one huge leap backwards for women.
Between the Trump right-wing rollbacks, and the Democrat 'progressive push forwards', women appear to have very little left.
The erasure of the word ‘woman’ within progressive politics and organisations has caught like a Californian wildfire.
From Amnesty to Tampax, to government documents and international law, ‘woman’ is frequently being removed and replaced by ‘gender’, ‘gender identity’ and, chillingly, ‘menstruator’, ‘vulva-owner’, ‘birthing person’, or the winner of the most dehumanising language award - ‘gestator’.
This linguistic trick, although apparently intended to be kind and inclusive, has huge ramifications for women and our rights. So to hear VP-elect Harris celebrating women, with no such deference to linguistic erasure, was a balm:
I’m thinking about the generations of women – Black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment tonight. Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality, liberty, and justice for all, including the Black women, who are too often overlooked, but so often prove that they are the backbone of our democracy... But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities…
Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris
And yes, the word woman matters, because women matter. How is VP Harris supposed to execute her role with gravitas and dignity if we refer to her as a Black, Vulva-owner? Shocking, right? Dehumanising, revolting, misogynistic and racist? You bet.
This is how language has the power to reduce us to the very same chattels that Trump and his administration would have us be.
Watch Democratic Victory, Celebrating VP-Elect Harris and a Response to the Erasure of Women (Contains some swearing):
This push on both sides of the political divide is not just playing out in The States. The right has near-on banned women and girls obtaining abortions in Poland. In responding to this horror, the progressive left human rights organisation Amnesty International punished these women further by referring to them only as ‘Polish People’. In this one linguistic move, Amnesty managed to both dehumanise our Polish sisters, and also miss the very point that it is because they are WOMEN, not just people, that they suffer these human rights abuses.
Worryingly, the attack on our Polish and American sisters is sponsored and supported by ADF International (Alliance Defending Freedom). The pro-Republican ADF is a wealthy and heavily influential US lobbying group firmly on the religious right. Its ‘organisation’ includes racial segregationists, misogynists, homophobes, conversion therapists and those supporting child marriage in several US states. Shudder.
So what are we to do?
We must reclaim the left. We must not yield to the temptation to join forces, even for a moment, with those who we know are not and never will be, on the side of women. Certainly not on the side of any woman with dual oppressions or vulnerabilities. Black women, lesbian women, working class women, immigrant women or disabled women became collateral with each Republican vote.
As feminists, the human rights of our most vulnerable sisters are not a bargaining chip. They cannot be sold off just because, at this point in time it's mainly those powerful organisations on the right who are still willing to speak the word woman out loud. I say 'this point in time', because it won't be long until they work out that erasing the sex-based definition of woman from law will help them immeasurably with their roll back on our reproductive rights.
To quote UK feminist blogger Helen Saxby:
If we say 'pregnant people' instead of 'pregnant women', abortion becomes a people's rights issue. And then you can't complain when men decide
Just as VP Harris has overcome structural misogynoir at every turn, so women must stay, fight and lead to reclaim our rights and language on the left. Every time this feels too hard, the hill too steep, the abuse too much, remember Kamala.
To learn more about how we can protect feminist amendments to the Federal Equality Act please see this event run by Feminists In Struggle:
To quote VP Kamala Harris
“ we need to work, organise, and vote like never before"
Ali Ceesay Brighton WEP