Ayesha Hazarika: '˜Trump's first day in office showed why feminism is unfinished business'

Last Saturday morning like many feminists across the western world, I woke up with the scent of determination and revolution in my nostrils '“ and the faint whiff of kebab from the night before. Don't judge me.

You get a better class of protest placard at demonstrations organised by women, says Ayesha Hazarika. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
You get a better class of protest placard at demonstrations organised by women, says Ayesha Hazarika. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

I’m not really one for marches to be honest. Mainly because I’m massively lazy. My poor “fit-bit” hasn’t even seen a charger this year. But having watched the bizarre spectacle of a misogynistic Wotsit become leader of the free world the night before, I felt that it was imperative to register my concerns about gender equality and show solidarity with thousands of women who felt the same way.

How bad could that be? Well, from the completely hysterical reaction from mainly right-wing men – it was the absolute worst thing that womenkind could have ever done. Even worse than when they had the temerity to ask for the vote.

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Piers Morgan is very upset and sees the whole march was a crime against humanity. “I’m planning a ‘Men’s March’ to protest at the creeping global emasculation of my gender by rabid feminists. Who’s with me?” he tweeted. Erm… Dapper Laughs? Peter Stringfellow? Poor Piers. So marginalised in society. So sad… He of course is a Trump Superfan. How badly does this guy want a return to American TV? He’s so far up Trump’s back passage, he’s within touching distance of Farage’s brogues.

Then there was the respected Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges who in a previous life has worked with the excellent anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, who are not averse to the odd march. He was against the march on the grounds that it “cements identity politics and that cements Trump” and that “angry alt-men flourish in an environment defined by identity politics”. I disagree. The rights on racial and gender equality – and other strands – were hard fought for. They took time and struggle and the clock can be turned back very quickly. Blaming identity politics is lazy. Yes – our politics has got to do a far better job at standing up and speaking for angry white working-class men (and women) – but that should not be an excuse to turn our back on fighting for more equality or creating a divisive hierarchy.

Having said all that. I’m not going to lie about the march.

I arrived with high hopes. The Tube was packed with angry women and placards with things like “Chaps! Stop messing with our flaps!” – the spelling and grammar was really excellent too, which is the good thing about a women’s march – attention to detail. The train stopped abruptly just before the station and the lady next to me muttered: “That’ll be the patriarchy trying to stop us.”

Then, there was a lot of waiting around not really having a clue what was happening or which direction we were heading in – it was like a metaphor for the Left.

It wasn’t all women. A few boyfriends were in our group although they were caught doing low level complaining/harassment. “Dunno why we’re just all stood here like lemons. If we just jumped on the Tube, we’d be up at Trafalgar Square by now. This route doesn’t make any sense.” That did NOT go down well. And their pleas for early release to go down the pub were swiftly denied.

Then after two hours of queuing, we were off! And it was fun. There was a lot of camaraderie, chatting and even singing. The most popular song in our section of the march, where were lots of children, was from the musical Matilda (did I mention the march was a tad middle class) called Naughty which has some great lyrics which were apt for a bunch of “Nasty Women” and a rousing final line which goes “sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty...” which my exhausted mate and I took as a green light to duck out and treat ourselves to a fancypants lunch. Feminism can take many guises don’t you know.

So being honest, I enjoyed the march even though it was a wee bit Glastonbury gender politics for my taste. But clearly for the thousands who marched, it was an important way of expressing and energising their politics and connecting with a community of like-minded people. And why is that so egregious?

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And for the all the sneering commentators who said this is all a load of rubbish and doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things… cut to the picture of Trump signing anti-abortion executive orders surrounded by load of men. And that was day one. That is why feminism is unfinished business.

And that is also why one march does not a revolution make – despite being a powerful and feelgood day out. If you want real change and you don’t want a bunch of smirking men signing orders over women’s bodies, you have to fight really hard to get women into that room and to get their hands on the levers of power.

And that takes time, persistence, determination and is hard, thankless work. But, if we want to change things, we need more women at every level of politics including of course the top, which we have here in Scotland and the UK.

And I hope Theresa May uses her precious power to raise gender equality with President Trump tomorrow. It is not enough to say, as she did on Marr on Sunday, well I’m a female leader and that’s enough of a statement. It isn’t. Feminism isn’t just about making it to the top, it’s about using your status to give a voice to women who have none.

lAyesha Hazarika is a former Labour adviser who is now a political commentator, broadcaster and stand up comedian.