Donald Trump’s victory galvanized American feminists
Two hundred thousand women must march on Saturday against the arrival of the president. Interview with Wendy Brown, specialist in the history of feminism in the United States
With the exception of the International Day of March 8th, it was the first time, on Saturday, January 21, that women will demonstrate so massively on the same day and around the world. The Women’s March is organized to “make it clear to the new US government and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” It will be held in Washington first, where 200,000 women are expected, but also in more than 400 cities in the United States and 66 other countries, including Canada (where events are planned in 27 cities), Mexico 17 cities), Great Britain (14 cities), or France (9 cities).
Wendy Brown, Professor of Political Philosophy at Berkeley University and a neoliberalist and history scholar of the feminist movement in the United States, discusses the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House.
Image courtesy of Findadviser
Is not the victory of Donald Trump a slap for the feminist movement?
Not at all. The vote for Donald Trump was much more a vote for whiteness than for maleness. Take the results: the majority of Trump voters are whites. But in women, only a very small percentage of black or Latin women voted for him. This is not what may be called a defeat for feminism.
I do not mean that there has not been an enormous amount of sexism in the countryside. I voted for Hillary Clinton; I really wanted her to be elected. But it does not represent the entire feminist movement. It represents a form of centrist, mainstream feminism. She was seen as part of the establishment, as a neoliberal. The sexist factor was not decisive for most voters. Moreover, many of those who voted for Donald Trump completely disapproved of his misogynist remarks. But they considered that he would be a better president: for the whites, for the business world and against undocumented migrants. That was the most important thing for them.
What is the status of the post-Trump feminist movement?
The feminist movement is very strong. We’ll see him on Saturday at the Washington demonstration. In fact, the feminist movement in the United States is stronger than it has been for decades. It is very diverse. There is a feminist current among Blacks, among lesbians, among undocumented migrants. The movement is also very present on campuses, where sexual abuse causes great concern.
We have known several “waves” – or episodes – since the first, that of the beginnings, in the nineteenth century [suffragettes who fought for the right to vote]. The second wave was that of radical feminism of the 1970s. The third wave reconsidered the very idea of woman: we are not simply linked to biological bodies, but to gender identities.
“The great concern today concerns the right to abortion”
For the past five years, we have entered the fourth wave. There is no question of voting or of equal rights: these have been established. Important issues concern reproductive rights, access to the economy, education, equal treatment at work and sexual abuse. These are questions that cross the ranks of society and are important to varying degrees, depending on social class and race. When the Women’s March in Washington was launched, it was an initiative of women of the white middle class. Immediately, other groups came forward to ask to be included.
The current great concern is the right to abortion. The women fear that the allies of Donald Trump will want to suppress it and that the states return on the legalization. I think Mr. Trump does not care, but he wants to please his base. The other matter of concern is the minimum wage: whether it is capped or eliminated. And health insurance. All these issues galvanize women’s activism
Some feminists regret that it is more difficult to denounce sexism than racism …
Treating individuals differently, depending on their gender, is always considered acceptable. Even as we talk about equality, we continue to believe there are differences. The question is whether a woman has the capacity or physical strength to be president, what she is wearing. Racial profiling is considered unacceptable – even if practiced. Gender profiling continues to be tolerated.