Image: The crowd at the beginning of the Auckland Women's March / Ben Mack
January always seems to pass in a haze. By the time I can figure out which day of the week it is again I find that it’s almost February. This year, it seems particularly harsh and unfair, just as we’re dragging ourselves back to reality after a blissful summer break, to be hit so brutally, so early on in the piece, with the monstrosity that is President Trump.
Reality called. It apparently wanted its horrified captive audience back.
And so here we are, staring down the barrel of a year in which all of our nightmares may just come true. Much has been written in grief about the next four years, so I’ll restrain myself from crying all over the page and adding to the flood. I’ve gone through the five stages of down-in-the-presidential-dumps. There’s no time for despair now. Now is the time for both deep contemplation, and fierce, unrelenting action.
This year, more than any of the other 27 years I’ve known, needs to be a year of thinking. A year of critical appraisal, scepticism, and dogged pursuit of the truth. This year, we can accept nothing at face value. We cannot afford blind faith. We must be active participants in the narratives that are presented to us. We must question. We must challenge.
Most of all, we mustn’t give up. For those of us who believe in progressive values, who advocate for inclusivity, love, togetherness, equity and equality, a Trump presidency may seem like an unmitigated disaster, but if there’s one thing that we’ve proven over the weekend, it’s that we are exquisitely capable of fighting back.
I won’t be alone in feeling completely overwhelmed by the magnitude and splendour of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches all around the globe. I have the distinct feeling that I will look back on January the 21st, 2017 in years to come and feel immensely grateful to have been able to be just a small part of the beginning of something huge.
But there is one thing we must not forget: this is the start. Just the beginning. That means that there must be action that follows. Even for those of us who don’t live in the United States, we must continue. There is plenty to be done in our own backyards. There are archaic abortion laws to fight, equal pay wars to win, there’s rape culture to dismantle, racism and xenophobia to stand against. We have our work cut out for us.
As I said when I spoke to the crowd at the Auckland Women’s March, we are living in a world in which the patriarchy is fighting back. A world in which the battle between feminism and toxic masculinity is fierce, nasty and will be ongoing. As the traditional binary system crumbles - and it is crumbling - those who would adhere to it most strongly are trying their very best to silence those stand up against them.
So our challenge as a movement is to stand up together: Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, young, old, gay, straight, bi, cis, male, female, queer, trans and all of the other beautiful people of different identities. We must stand together, we must think, and we must act.
The hateful thought that 2017 would be their year. They were wrong. And they chose the wrong people to mess with.