When a world leader can openly talk about groping women, what does that mean for feminism?
Tuesday, November 8, 2016. That is the day that marked the beginning of a new epoch, for not only the United States but also the world. By a twist of fate, Donald Trump stunned pollsters and won the U.S. election. It was a crushing loss for Hillary Clinton—despite the fact that she won the popular vote—and many viewed it as a crushing loss for the feminist movement as well.
Shortly after that rather unexpected turn of events, we posted an online “State of the Sisterhood” survey to find out how people are feeling about feminism. More than 1,100 of you (almost all women) responded and shared your insights. (Thank you for that!) Forty-five per cent of you said you absolutely describe yourself as a feminist, while another 38 per cent of you said that you are somewhat feminist in your leanings. Surprisingly, only 4 per cent of you thought that most of the men in your life would describe themselves as feminists. But there was one statistic that really stood out for us: When asked if feminism is more relevant today, following Trump’s election, 71 per cent of you said yes. And 38 per cent of you said his win had prompted you to talk about women’s rights with your friends and family.
You’re not the only ones. Since the election, there have been countless calls to action from everyone from political leaders to pop stars. The day after the election, actress and activist Emma Watson tweeted “Today I am going to deliver Maya Angelou books to the New York subway. Then I am going to fight even harder for all the things I believe in.” Madonna also spoke passionately about the challenges girls face over boys. “There are no rules—if you’re a boy,” she told Billboard, after being named its 2016 Woman of the Year in December. “There are rules if you’re a girl. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game…. To the doubters and naysayers…your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today.”
The defining speech at the 2017 Golden Globes came from Meryl Streep, who was being awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. “Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence,” she said. “When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose…. Hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage.” As expected, Trump took to Twitter the next day. “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never ‘mocked’ a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….‘groveling’ when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”
In her final address as America’s first lady, Michelle Obama spoke passionately about the need to be bold. “I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid,” she said. “You hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.”
Here are our 10 favourite feminist role models.