The news yesterday was dominated by coverage of the Women’s Rights march that took place across the US and in other cities around the world. So important was this march that articles covering President Trump’s executive order repealing Obamacare was knocked off the front page and one had to go hunting for it. The media clearly has its priorities.
I watched the footage of the march and saw the photos, but – as is often the case with “progressive” demonstrations – I struggled to see what it was for. Ostensibly it was a march for women’s rights, but it was unclear which rights they wished to obtain. On every measure, American women in 2017 enjoy more rights, freedoms, and opportunities than any women in history. They already have equality with men: fortunately Christina Hoff Sommers (no agent of the patriarchy she) has debunked the myth of the gender pay gap, and any man emerging from an American divorce court would emit a bitter laugh at the idea that American womenfolk are under the jackboot of its men.
There were vague references to “reproductive rights” and a woman having control over her own body, but these did more to confuse than inform. On the rare occasion somebody went into specifics, it appears they are demanding the right to free contraception and to have an abortion. Free condoms seems an odd thing to turn out by the million for, and Roe v Wade dealt with abortion in 1973: since then nobody has gone to jail for having an abortion.
I confess, I’m being obtuse here. I know exactly what they mean by “reproductive rights”: what they want is for a woman to have an abortion whenever she wants and the taxpayer to fund it. My own views on abortion are as follows: it is a necessary evil, I don’t think abortion is murder, I’d rather it didn’t happen but it always will and I see advantages in allowing it and drawbacks in banning it. On balance, I think the UK has got it approximately right. In a democracy sometimes your taxes end up paying for things you disapprove of. If I were a British taxpayer I would object to paying for Tony Blair’s security detail when he travels abroad, for example. But such are the compromises one must make for living in a democracy. However, if enough people object to paying for something that they form a majority and elect somebody so they will not have to pay for it any more, then the minority has no basis on which to force them to do so: it becomes a matter of democratic politics. What the “reproductive rights” crowd are trying to do is portray abortion as a human right such that the (now) majority who find it abhorrent must be forced to continue to pay for it. That is, the minority are attempting to force the majority to do something they find morally repugnant. This is nothing to do with rights and everything to do with compulsion. Cutting off the funding to Planned Parenthood is not criminalising abortion, nor is it depriving women of the right to have one. It is merely reflecting the wishes of the majority that they do not wish to pay for it any longer. If this indeed was a central plank of yesterday’s march then it was not so much about women’s rights as forcing people to pay for benefits. If anyone doubts there is confusion between rights and benefits, take a look at the photo below taken at yesterday’s march that has been circulated widely on social media.
Others say the march was in support of women’s dignity in the face of Trump’s supposed overt sexism. Trump’s attitudes to women have been known since the 1980s, and he probably is sexist and a womaniser. I don’t know anyone who has said Trump is anything else, but plenty of us have considered whether or not he is sexist to the degree that he constantly demeans and belittles all women all the time such that he shouldn’t be President. The electorate were asked this very question, and yet they still voted in Trump. If they’re anything like me they would have concluded that Trump is a dick and at times hasn’t been particularly respectful to women, but consolidating a dozen allegedly sexist remarks cherry-picked over forty years looks more like a partisan hatchet job than a something that should rule him out of being president. They might also consider that, if sexist and misogynistic behaviour is a yardstick on which to judge a president’s suitability for office, why the media and the left in general defended Bill Clinton to the hilt and worship at the altar of JFK. The electorate did consider that and decided this was nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with politics. And that’s what the march yesterday was about: politics. Those marching were unhappy that the election didn’t go their way and the seized on the topic of women’s rights as a pretext for carrying out an overtly political demonstration.
If indeed this was a march conducted to restore the dignity of women so savagely dismissed by Trump, one would have thought we’d not be seeing things like this:
Personally I can’t see how overt displays of foul language, childish humour, and sexual innuendo are supposed to empower women and remind us of their dignity, but obviously these lot can. Yet somehow I get the impression this will have the opposite effect: these tactics, wholly encouraged by the media, failed them miserably during the election campaign and contributed as much to Trump’s victory as anything else I can think of. If women want to be taken seriously – particularly by other women – they need to distance themselves from this infantile behaviour. Thus far this is a lesson they seem hellbent on not learning.
As usual with these “progressive” marches, the message – insofar as there one exists – is not only all over the place but also contradictory. It appears the wearing of the hijab was put forward as something to be celebrated in the cause of women’s rights:
This is perhaps not surprising given one of the event’s organisers was Linda Sarsour, an American-Palestinian who herself wears the hijab and appears to have taken to Twitter to speak approvingly of Sharia law. The irony is that while searching for “women’s rights march hijab” I came across this photo from 1979 where 100,000 Iranian women turned out to protest the newly introduced law obliging women to wear a hijab.
And that’s the difference, isn’t it? The women in Tehran turned out because the law would – and did – have a serious impact on their liberty and their status as women. Ultimately the protest failed, and they are still forced to wear one to this day. The women who marched yesterday will change absolutely nothing, and what material difference will this have on their lives? None whatsoever. They knew damned well the stakes were zero and they were engaged in nothing more than political agitation and cheap virtue signalling, and on Monday morning they can get on with their lives and nothing will change. The sad thing is I bet a handful of Iranian women turned out on those marches yesterday. I know there were Turkish women there, who – like the journalist featured here – appear to have forgotten what actual oppression looks like and now believe the situation for women in America in 2017 is not one to be embraced and thankful for, but one to criticise and protest about even going so far as demonstrating against a government that was elected freely and fairly. I wonder how many women around the world would swap places with them in an instant? I would have been far happier to see American citizens who hail from places where women are genuinely oppressed to tell these marching women that they don’t know how lucky they are and to concentrate their efforts on more worthy cases than what some asshole politician said on a bus eleven years ago.
Incidentally (and I appreciate I am rambling a bit here), this is one of the reasons why I like Russians. In general, they do not turn up in a new country and start agitating for political change and protesting the sitting government. I suspect this is because Russians know what genuine hardship looks like: they remember the Soviet Union and the tales their grandparents told them about the war, the famines, and the Siege of Leningrad. They don’t agitate for political change because they know all to well what happens when the established order is suddenly toppled, and it is isn’t pretty. They remember the currency crash of 1998 and the lawlessness of the post-Soviet era and the rise of the gangster class and so they don’t turn up in the West and start complaining about how oppressed they are. They know genuine suffering and so don’t need to invent it where it doesn’t exist. It came to me as no surprise that the one Russian I know who bought into third-wave feminism and the sort of policies favoured by the Democrats was one who had an extraordinarily privileged life growing up mainly in the West as the daughter of diplomats and who got parachuted by her parents into Moscow’s most exclusive university before moving to New York and marrying her way to a Green Card at the first opportunity. Yes, I’ve mentioned her before but her story is relevant here: yesterday’s march was a demonstration of the privileged middle classes, not the downtrodden masses. How many academics, journalists, lawyers, and corporate middle-managers do you think were at that march? And how many Wal-Mart checkout girls or McDonald’s staff?
Finally (and I’ll wrap this up soon I promise), I’ve already said this march was political and it was. It is for this reason I think it was hugely counterproductive and will set women’s rights movements back some way. For starters, few people are going to take displays like the ones in the photos above seriously. But worse, they have conflated adolescent political posturing with genuine women’s rights movements abroad. If the subject of women’s rights comes up again, what are the neutrals and waverers to think? Are they being asked to surrender their cash, time, and political capital on behalf of Kurdish women faced with honour killings, or for wealthy middle-aged women in New York universities to protest the American presidential system? They’ve hijacked an ostensibly noble cause for their own political ends.
But it’s worse than that. Women’s rights should not be based in politics but in fundamental principles of freedom, liberty, and equality. By making it political they have handed an excuse to oppressive governments the world over to avoid making any concessions. A good parallel is the gay rights movement, which for years was apolitical and made the point that what two men do in the privacy of their own home is none of the government’s business. But that soon changed and now gay rights is as politically charged as foreign policy. No sooner had gay men secured the right to be left alone by the government a subset demanded victim status and hence special treatment, and the transgenders jumped aboard the bandwagon in order to secure special privileges for themselves. We are now faced with the ludicrous situation where the federal government is passing laws stating whether or not men who “self identify” as women can use women’s locker rooms and toilets. People are being prosecuted for not making a cake for a gay wedding. This bullshit is wholly rejected by a huge swathe of people who, like me, believed gay men should not be persecuted by the government and should be left well alone to do as they please. Once again, this is not about rights any more but about obtaining benefits and privileges and imposing views on others. When this circus is looked on by governments which still persecute homosexuals they can, and do, justify their policies by saying that if they allow gay men to sleep with one another and consort in special clubs the next step is political agitation funded by wealthy outsiders, demands that gay marriage become a human right, insistence that transgenders must be addressed by their preferred pronouns, and anyone who doesn’t fall into line will be prosecuted. And the sad thing is, the real disgrace, is that they are right: once the gay rights camel has its nose in the tent, it’s a short journey from there to the ridiculous situation we are seeing in the US now. I know, because I have spoken to them, that there are Russians who believe gay men should not be persecuted but stop considerably short of thinking teaching homosexuality in schools to five-year-olds is a good idea or desirable. The West has shown that one will follow the other, and so they won’t put any pressure on their government to relax their current, oppressive policies.
Yesterday’s march shows that people are determined to make the same mistake with women’s rights. “Give women the vote,” oppressive regimes will argue “and before you know it they are in government passing laws making abortion a human right. Allow them to remove the hijab, and within a year they’ll be protesting against the elected government. Let’s nip this in the bud.” Whether they realise it or not, the modern women’s rights movement as depicted in yesterday’s march is based on politics not principles, and it therefore it will be treated as such. How this is supposed to help women in the long run I have no idea.