Humanity Hallows Issue 5 Out Now
Pick up your copy on campus or read online
In the run up to Reclaim the Night Manchester UK 2017 on February 23, we’re asking students to share their experiences and tell us why they’re a feminist.
By Pamela Berry
Saturday 21st January 2017 saw close to half a million women, families and allies of women’s rights groups and support networks march on Washington DC in opposition of the policies of Donald Trump. The protestors were also responding to the threats that the current socio-economic climate brings against women’s services, and equal rights practices. Across America, and throughout the world, there were marches held in solidarity with the Washington march. The women’s march on Washington is not a new event, although this years’ march was the biggest ever.
What was new this year was the Women’s March in Manchester. Of course there have been marches held in Manchester before now, we are the home of Pankhurst after all, but Manchester has never held a solidarity march before.
If you had come to me two weeks before the march had been arranged, back when it was still a thought in the back of the mind of Jen, the march’s lead organiser, I’d have probably laughed at the thought of being involved. I’d have said, “Nah, I’m a fat disabled girl. I’m not well-read. I’m not very loud. I’m considered too ugly for the likes of FEMEN, plus it’s too cold for it. I don’t like many feminist events because they exclude trans women and body shame those who don’t fit society ideals.” That has been my experience so far with a lot of feminist groups, they have been populated with ignorance and the stereotype of women who believe they should be above men instead of on equal footing.
For a long time, I’ve been a ‘slacktivist’. I buy feminist books, join in online conversations and like the posts of those whose ideals match my own, but that would be the end point, because the events being held were too far away, and I struggle to do Reclaim the Night because of my disability, although I actively support it. And then I heard that a march was going to happen in Manchester.
I saw what Jen was trying to do, and that her own goals and ideals for feminist action were close to my own. That’s when I got on board and we formed a team with others who wanted to volunteer on the day of the march. In the final days leading up to the march, I found my own voice again, and decided I was not going to let it be squashed and beaten into submission ever again. I spent my time offering support and a friendly face to those who wanted to attend but were afraid to do so because they would be alone, or because they were transgender, or because they were a minority.
The day of the march came, and I made my way to Albert Square to meet the team that I had joined. We had expected fewer than 500 people, based on Facebook rsvps and the fact that a lot of people will tick yes to attending but not actually show. In the end, we had 2,000 women, men, children, activists and allies attend. Two of our planned speakers cancelled at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances but, in the end, this was a blessing, as we were able to invite members of the crowd to come up and speak. We had a black woman talk about her experiences of racism in Manchester, we had an eight-year-old girl come up and tell the crowd about how Mr Trump is a bully and that we should stand up to bullies. We had poetry readings and women who had taken part in protests in the 60s and 70s, when the women of the UK were fighting for the right to access safe medical abortion and against other inequalities of those decades. We had a member of the Women’s Equality Party speak up to inform the crowd that the political party was there for them. We even had an 82-year-old anti-fracking campaigner speak about climate change and the importance of acknowledging science and environmentalism, something which is also under threat in the Trump administration.
During the march and the days afterwards, many attendees came forward with pictures and videos and comments which appeared to echo each other. The message of hope, validity and community were a common theme. Many also said that they had enjoyed the march so much that they wanted to do it again. Because of this, Womens March MCR was created on Facebook, as a means of networking and outreach.
Since then, my own voice has grown. I’ve had my first radio interview, and signs from the day have joined the archive at the People’s History Museum. The group is now looking for ways to support the upcoming Scientist’s March on Washington, among other UK and international causes.
I’m glad to have found my voice again, and am determined not to let others speak for me ever again.
I am a feminist because…. I believe in true equality and equity.
I am a feminist because…. I recognise the efforts that women of the past have started.
I am a feminist because…. I want to elevate the voices of those who have been silenced world wide.
I am a feminist because…. I believe in education and informed consent.
I am a feminist because…. I want to pass the baton on to the younger generation.
I am a feminist because…. my voice is just as valid as any man’s.
Get involved and tell us why you’re a feminist. To submit a contribution, email HumanityHallows.Editor@gmail.com