Last January, 4 million people filled the streets of the US, and countries around the world, to protest Trump generally, and women’s oppression specifically.
From the Women’s March last year to today, we have seen a massive shift in opinion in Ireland for progressive change to abortion laws and a global #metoo movement that has begun to shine a light on sexual assault and harassment.
This year, organisers across the US were stunned that so many people came out – again – for the Women’s march in January.
Major liberal women’s organisations who have been reluctant to call for large-scale mobilisations became, nonetheless, participants..
Though smaller than last year, this year’s demonstrations saw Palestine solidarity activists including demands for Ahed Tamini and all other political prisoners to be freed; immigrant rights activists highlighted the draconian deportations of undocumented people; indigenous rights activists highlighted the disappeared and murdered indigenous women; black lives matter and trans rights activists put a spotlight on the genocidal rates of murder of black trans women, and so many more.
The #metoo movement has shaken the establishment across the US, UK and Ireland.
The allegations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and a huge Democratic Party political donor, opened the floodgate of women being believed.
Thousands of facebook feeds and twitter handles were filled with #metoo stories.
It was like a communal coming out of women standing together to share their stories of abuse, harassment and oppressive experiences.
The powerful display of solidarity at the Golden Globes, including actors taking women’s rights activists as their plus one, and addressing the struggle of working class women in their speeches is a reflection of a societal shift around questions of feminism and women’s equality.
From Hollywood, to Westminster, to Congress, to gymnastics, powerful men have been charged, dismissed, forced to resign or convicted.
Importantly, the institutions that created conditions for sexual harassment and assault to thrive, refused to believe women, covered up allegations and protected predators, are also under fire.
However, powerful institutions love nothing more than forcing the “bad apple” to fall to protect themselves and their power.
The #metoo movement represents a change in attitude and confidence of women –being able to talk about experiences and being believed.
This movement is forcing conversations and a real reckoning of how sexism functions in our society.
Women’s near universal experience of sexual harassment and the process of millions of women engaging in a collective sharing of their experiences and many feeling believed for the first time has had a huge ideological impact on women, men and society in general.
Importantly, it has also begun a conversation about gender roles, interpersonal relationships, and women’s oppression more generally in workplaces, in families and in society at large;.
This ideological shift has the opportunity to transform into a movement that can win material gains for women. Many of the high profile allegations this year have been sexual assaults and harassment experienced at work.
This opens up the possibility for union members across these islands to demand workplace equality, both in terms stricter guidelines and procedures to end workplace sexual harassment and abuses of power and for equal pay.
The sea of protesters in Dublin this past year demanding abortion rights, as well as the biggest ever march for choice in Belfast, has forced the state to reckon with a growing movement for choice.
The Repeal the 8th campaign has revealed the massive shift in attitudes across Ireland, with the most recent poll showing the majority of people in favour of repeal, and the majority of politicians slowly – far too slowly – coming over to the side of liberalization of abortion law.
The pro-choice movement is shouting out the need for the state to legally allow women to have bodily autonomy and control, which is the same demand as the #metoo movement.
Women’s bodies will always be controlled and abused by others in society if it is legal for the state to control women’s bodies.
Sentiment and public opinion is changing rapidly because there has been a vibrant and growing movement of women and their supporters demanding abortion rights, demanding an end to sexual harassment and demanding a society where women have legal, economic and social equality.