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.