January 20th-21st was the anniversary of the Women’s March, a grassroots movement and a response to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. However, it wasn’t contained in the US alone, and quickly became a worldwide movement against everything the President stood for. Passionate speeches by prominent figures advocated for equality for women, for the LGTBQ+, for immigration reform — but it also strayed from political agendas with a simple message: time’s up.
It should be of no surprise when, on Sunday, the women and men of London took to the streets to support the Time’s Up movement, which was pioneered by 300 women in various positions in Hollywood, including founding members Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera and Oprah (2020!). Its aim is to pour resources into a legal fund, acting as a tool for individuals that have experienced sexual harassment or assault and lack the means to bring legal action against their assailants.
Londoners have a long history of sticking up for their beliefs, and this march was no different. 2018 doesn’t simply mark the second anniversary of the Women’s March, it also marks 100 years since women received partial suffrage in the United Kingdom. That victory was paved with acts of violence against the protesters, their imprisonment, and with their actual lives. A century later, their fight echoed as the protesters gathered at Richmond Terrace, the crowd growing by the minute.
Having had the opportunity to attend, I was immediately surrounded by colourful and wittily written signs, my personal favourite “a woman’s place is in the resistance”, with Carrie Fisher’s image looking down on the patriarchy. The sense of camaraderie was evident — a type of warmth flooded through the crowd despite the intense snow and cold that descended upon us. Women and men of all ages turned up to support a cause that honestly should have stopped being a cause years ago.
Amongst the notable speakers was Helen Pankhurst; Women’s rights activist, CARE International and great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, the pioneer and leader of the Suffragettes in the 1900s. She confidently exclaimed that her great grandmother would have been proud had she been able to see the march. Also present was Louise Raw, social historian who said “time is already up. It was up 2 minutes and 4000 years ago.”
This year’s march was centred on sexual assault, and contributed to the gathering momentum in the US over allegations such as the Harvey Weinstein case. When considering Clinton’s loss in the presidential election, and how that resonates through the Time’s Up movement, perhaps the legacy Clinton was meant to leave wasn’t first female President of the United States. Maybe, hers was the spark that lit the fire — awakening another generation of strong women ready to fight for what they deserve. This time they are not seeking suffrage, they are demanding fair governing, pay equality, they are reclaiming their time, they are calling out predators, and they are persistent in shaking off the narrative that they have to be lesser than men.
The need for equality advocated by the march has still a long way to go. The fact that 100 years have passed since partial suffrage should be celebrated, and we should honour the sacrifices made by those before us so we can stand here today and be able to march. But, it should also be a catalyst for the realisation that 100 years have passed, and relatively little progress has been done in equality for women. We must work harder, men and women together, to speed up the process. Let us not allow another century to go by that we are unequal.
Image: Garry Knight/flickr