The first Women’s March Global was in January 2017 in response to the election of US President Donald Trump. It remains the biggest single march in US history.
Last year, women in more than 100 cities worldwide marched under the banner, “Look Back, March Forward”. Eighty-nine countries were involved this year, including Australia, under the slogan #WomensWave.
The movement gained momentum following the resurgence of the #MeToo campaign, which saw allegations against prominent figures in Hollywood turn the spotlight on workplace abuse and gender inequality.
As always, the Women’s March transpires in a time of political and social tension.
One of the main organisers of Sydney’s Women’s March, Meaghan Date, says that while the Macquarie Dictionary made #MeToo the word of the year, 69 women still died in Australia last year as the result of violence. According to the organisation "Destroy the Joint", that's ten more than in 2017.
Already this year, the nation has been shaken by the rape and murder of exchange student Aiia Maasarwe. Speaking at the Sydney March, television presenter Yumi Stynes described Australia’s culture of violence against women as a crisis.
"It’s rooted in a widespread cultural acceptance that the values, the roles and the rights of women are lesser than those of men,” she said.
Perhaps understandably, #MeToo has gained less traction in Australia than in America - in part, due to Australia’s strict defamation laws. Author of the memoir “Eggshell Skull”, Bri Lee, refers to Australia’s “stillborn” movement.
This was evident recently in the wake of Minister for Industrial Relations Kelly O’Dwyer’s decision to quit politics, which resulted in a misogynistic backlash reminiscent of the sexist abuse former Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced almost a decade ago.
In light of the recent controversy over a Gillette advertisement for men's razors, there has been debate about whether the #MeToo movement has done as much as it can. Especially as the five thousand who marched in Sydney, was half the number of participants from 2017.
Feminist Eva Cox, says there are still clear points to be made.
“We don’t need to vent our anger, we need to use our anger,” Ms Cox said. “#MeToo has provided a very interesting base but now it needs to develop.”
QUT Associate Professor of Law and Social Justice Michael Flood, agrees.
“I don't think that progress towards gender equality and towards more open-ended and diverse forms of masculinity is inevitable. The only reason that progress has been made, is because of efforts — efforts of people who literally take to the street, to raise community awareness, to set up programs, to put pressure on policy makers and so on.”
This push to “strategise” was promoted by many at the Sydney Women's March. As were the issues of violence against women, intersectionality, gender stereotypes in the workplace... and hope for the future. - @AlexTurnerCohen @m_wong182