Aktueller SchwerpunktGeschichten der Gegenwart

The next day, the “pussy hat” was alre­ady an icon. Ever­yone I met as I left my hotel room that morning gave me a smile, and within minu­tes we were enga­ged in conver­sa­tion. Mabel and Bert from Miami said good­bye with a long, emotio­nal embrace, as if we had been old friends. Amy, Kris­ten, and Ian from Port­land (whom I had met on the street the day before the March ) did the same, as did Melissa from Wiscon­sin, who stood by me for a while in the crowd of huma­nity. And then there was the little old lady who simply put her arm around my waist and stea­died me (or hers­elf ) after I said that I had come from Zurich, Swit­z­er­land. Abso­lu­tely ever­yone I met said: “Thank you for coming. Thank you for being with us.” We had touched each other. I had to think about the line from the Natio­nal Anthem of Europe (and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”): “All people will become brothers” – and sisters.

Born in 1960, I was too young to have perso­nally expe­ri­en­ced Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. My know­ledge of the huge Viet­nam anti-war protests came only from films I’d seen. And as a news­wri­ter at Radio Züri­see in Novem­ber 1989, I knew that history was being made in Berlin, but I didn’t think of going there myself to parti­ci­pate. I still reget that today.

Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!

Clin­ton vs. Trump. second dabate; source: dw.com

I follo­wed the Ameri­can elec­tion with great inte­rest from the moment Donald Trump became an offi­cial candi­date. The further he progres­sed, the more inten­sely I follo­wed the procee­dings. My perso­nal low came with the second TV debate against Hillary Clin­ton. Watching him stalk her, sniff­ling and scuf­fling uncom­for­ta­bly close behind her back, I wanted to protect her. Ha! And the way he stood humping an empty chair obli­viously as Hillary spoke about politics: this was someone who simply took whate­ver he thought was his. It was unbe­ara­ble. And nobody said anything, not even Hillary Clin­ton. She should have trea­ted him like a spoi­led child or a small dog and said: “Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!” But who could have actually done that in such a situa­tion?

Michelle Obama, 13.10.2016; source: esquire.com

A tran­script of this debate became avail­able later on the inter­net. This was a tragic docu­ment full of inter­rup­ti­ons, asser­ti­ons, mans­plai­ning and manter­rup­t­ing, contempt and inde­cency. I felt sick reading it. Much more of the same was to follow, on a nearly daily basis, leading to the infa­mous  “grab them by the pussy” scan­dal. Michelle Obama’s speech in response to that news thril­led me, moved me to tears, and made me thank­ful that some­body finally spoke for me too.

I had been invi­ted to an election-night party at the home of the then-U.S. Ambas­sa­dor to Swit­z­er­land, Suzi LeVine. I brought a female friend with me, as a gesture of female empower­ment at what we expec­ted to be a histo­ri­cal moment. But rather than rejoi­cing toge­ther as part­ners in crime, we became part­ners in tears.

source: womensmarch.com

Four days later, on the after­noon of Sunday, Novem­ber 13, I bought my plane ticket. The idea of the Women’s March had surfa­ced on Face­book after the elec­tion. It was exactly what I needed to help heal my soul. No one expec­ted it to grow to such dimen­si­ons. Throughout the elec­tion period and after the elec­tion I asked myself why I was so perso­nally affec­ted by Trump’s sexism and mist­re­at­ment of women. After all, I am not and have never been an Ameri­can citi­zen. Now I know why. And I know I am not the only one.

Swit­z­er­land, 1971

Women's Vote: No! Swit­z­er­land, 1971; source: fm1today.ch

I was alre­ady born when women were gran­ted the right to vote in Swit­z­er­land in 1971. In Febru­ary 2016, shortly before Swit­z­er­land held a refe­ren­dum on the enforced depor­ta­tion of foreign law-breakers, I watched the movie “Suffra­gette.” The story pulled me in within the first 40 minu­tes, as I saw how the female figh­ters for women’s suffrage were mist­rea­ted and humi­lia­ted. At some point during the movie it occur­red to me that in Swit­z­er­land a simi­lar struggle had taken place not that long ago. If it were 45 years earlier, I myself would not be allo­wed to cast my ballot in the upco­m­ing refe­ren­dum, while all my male colleagues, friends and rela­ti­ves exer­cised their right to vote. I cried tears of anger, because there had been a time when women were offi­ci­ally less valued than men, and because I had perso­nally lived though that time as a young girl. I left the movie thea­ter without watching the end of the film. But the idea of “only a girl” stayed on my mind. My pater­nal grand­mo­ther had expres­sed her disap­point­ment when I, the first grand­child, was born a girl. My father (thank you Jules!) had always fought for me. Luckily I was brought up with the phrase “You can do it too”: my own perso­nal “Yes we can!”

This perso­nal expe­ri­ence reso­na­ted within me during the US elec­tion season. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clin­ton. What did people accuse her of and attack her with? Like­a­bi­lity! Stamina! Her husband, because she’d stayed with him. Her voice. Her ambi­tion. And not least, her compe­tence. Throughout the campaign and after the elec­tion, all of these were trig­gers remin­ding me of my own so-called “birth defect,” the short­co­m­ing I had not chosen, my gender as female.

That’s why I wanted to be there. This was my subject. It was the theme of my era. I espe­cially did not want to look back in old age and say: “I saw it coming, but I missed the chance to react.” I grew up in the know­ledge that our demo­cracy is as self-evident and as inde­struc­ti­ble as the Matter­horn. A given. Or, if you prefer, God-given. But I had seen recently that, even in Swit­z­er­land, we need to keep an eye on our demo­cracy (with a nod to the histo­rian Jakob Tanner). And that “we” also means “me.”

Among hund­reds of thou­sands

Women's March, Washing­ton, Janu­ary 21, 2017

Women's March, Washing­ton, 21.1.2017; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

Between elec­tion night and Inau­gu­ra­tion day, Trump conti­nued to cross the line. As the Women’s March approa­ched, more and more people, and espe­cially more and more women, must have deci­ded: “Enough is enough.” I follo­wed the news on Face­book. The Women’s March had quickly became a professionally-organized event. It got bigger and bigger. Then I disco­ve­red the “pussy hat” project. I found it clever and conspi­ra­to­rial: politi­cal knit­ting! And it began exactly as the March itself had begun, as an idea by two women which quickly spread through social media. A sea of pink pussy hats was their dream, and it caught hold of me too. For the first time in about 30 years, I bought wool and knit­ting need­les. The result was as stupen­dous as the March itself; pictu­res of “a sea of pink hats” were beamed around the world.

Women's March, Washing­ton, 21.1.2016; source: theglobeandmail.com

Hund­reds of thou­sands, perhaps up to a half a million women toge­ther with their male comra­des surged in the direc­tion of the Natio­nal Mall. Diffe­rent gene­ra­ti­ons, genders, ethnic back­grounds, natio­na­li­ties, reli­gi­ons. They were worried, angry, and all very deter­mi­ned. And yet: they were all peace­ful and friendly to each other. And funny! They were angry at the subjects that they were addres­sing, but they were always conside­rate and atten­tive. They excu­sed them­sel­ves when they colli­ded with someone in the crush, and lent a hand when someone wanted to step up onto the curb. The police offi­cers moving through the crowd were applau­ded and told: “Thank you for your service!” The crowd whist­led and booed when a spea­ker mentio­ned Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Cabi­net pick for the Depart­ment of Educa­tion. It was stir­red up and inspi­red by America Ferrara and Ashley Judd. But the marchers looked out for the people that stood next to them. The list of spea­kers was very long, and the rally lasted more than four hours. The spee­ches were emotio­nal, angry, intel­lec­tual, politi­cal, biting, moving. A 12-year-old Mexi­can girl spoke more eloquently than Trump; the promi­nent femi­nist Gloria Stei­nem and the bril­li­ant activist Angela Davis deli­ve­red high-quality food for thought. Docu­men­tary filmma­ker Michael Moore presen­ted his “resis­tance plan” for conti­nuing to the oppo­si­tion move­ment after the March was over. The lineup on stage was impres­sive:

In Los Ange­les 750,000 people were esti­ma­ted to have demons­tra­ted, and not one person was arrested. It was the same in Washing­ton. The only aggres­sion that I perso­nally exeri­en­ced was on the inter­net, in the user comments on the media cover­age of the March – writ­ten by people who had not been there. From people who found the pussy hats “pathe­tic” or dismis­sed the March as an unde­mo­cra­tic temper tantrum. “Get over it,” was their message. “Trump was demo­cra­ti­cally elec­ted.”  “Get over us” was the impres­sive response in Washing­ton. “This is what demo­cracy looks like,” chan­ted the crowd, along with shouts of “Yes we can!”

pussy hat; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

At the end, I joyfully wore my pink pusssy hat to the Capi­tol Buil­ding for one last photo oppor­tu­nity, happy that I came here, and thank­ful as well. The most beau­ti­ful thing was probably the sense of belonging. To be shown that I am not alone in the world and not a member of a mere fringe group – and to docu­ment this expe­ri­ence in unfor­get­ta­ble photos. To have the feeling of being right, and at the right place. In Washing­ton I expe­ri­en­ced and lear­ned a lot, and was given many gifts. And I may have been able to give some­thing back, because I went there. I had perso­nal reasons for doing so, but it went far beyond my own indi­vi­dual moti­va­tion. I know that I am a privi­le­ged woman: it was important for me to support a move­ment that supports all women. Who will do this, if not us? When, if not now? Sisterhood. We women have writ­ten history. And we made a good start. “And now, let’s get shit done!” as one of my friends likes to say. Not only in Washing­ton.

When I am back home, I will knit pussy hats for Clau­dia, Marcy, and Fran­ziska. Now I remem­ber how.

Trans­la­tion: Chris­to­pher Hux, Edit­ing: Marcy Gold­berg

About the author: Chris­tine Loriol was a radio jour­na­list in Zurich, Swit­z­er­land when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She has worked as a free­lance jour­na­list for nume­rous maga­zi­nes and news­pa­pers, and for the past 20 years has been a copy­wri­ter, commu­ni­ca­ti­ons consul­tant, and coach.

Von Christine Loriol

Christine Loriol war Lokal­radio­journalistin, als in Berlin die Mauer fiel. Sie hat später jahre­lang als freie Journa­listin für zahlreiche Print­medien geschrieben und ist seit 20 Jahren als Texterin , Kommunikations­beraterin und Coach selbständig.