International Politics United States Women's Issues

Trump’s War On Women

Trump's election has brought America's institutionalised sexism to the fore.

Leesal Malhan

Naked Politics Blogger 

It’s been just over a month since Trump came to power in the most shocking election my generation will likely ever see.  Falling just short of the four horsemen descending, his domestic and foreign policies have been just as aggressive as most feared. He’s attacked minorities, the media and is now turning his attention to a war set be destructive on an international level – the War on Women.

In October 2016, just when the presidential election couldn’t get any more absurd, a tape seized by the Washington Post exposed Trump’s 2005 “Grab them by the pussy” comment. I’m sure this wasn’t exactly the policy platform he was going for but this was the soundbite replayed on every news outlet covering the election. For a time, this seemed to be the end of Trump’s campaign. Since the 80’s Trump has on the record called women ugly, fat, disgusting, sluts and bimbos. That’s not even going into the wildly inappropriate comments former Miss Universe owner has made about his daughter. Surely no one would vote for someone known to be so crude, so misogynistic and so unbelievable careless around reporters?

For Trump to win with 53% of the white female vote, it says an unbelievable amount about the American voting population. The way America voted has brought to the surface deeply institutionalised sexism, something incredibly worrying at a time when minority rights are more under threat than ever. That America would rather have a known sexist in power than a woman tells us an awful lot about how women are perceived in politics. I was never a Hilary fan but it is incontrovertible that her political experience, knowledge and grace dwarfed Trump’s, raising the issue of Gender in politics that so few were willing to acknowledge during the election.

A lack of representation (women still only make up 20% of the House of Representatives) isn’t the only effect of this endemic prejudice. It also has a profound effect on how women’s rights are viewed worldwide.  On the 23rd of January, President Trump (surrounded by a group of middle-aged white men) signed an anti-abortion executive order that reinstated the Global Gag Rule. Under the terms of the order, the US will not fund international NGOs that perform or even talk about abortion when giving family planning and sexual health support. The policy is a direct attack on the most voiceless women and children in the most vulnerable communities. Abortion, particularly in the 60 low and middle income countries that the order will hit hardest, can never be stopped – only safe abortion. By cutting funding, all Trump ensures is a sharp rise in unsafe abortions and a lack of access to much needed contraception in corners of the world where pregnancies and childbirth can be fatal.

True, this policy is nothing new. It was first introduced under Reagan and has been rescinded and reinstated ever since depending on which party takes the White House. However, Trump has taken the policy further than any other President ever by making it applicable to all health services, including those tacking HIV, AIDS and the Zika Virus. It remains unclear whether the policy will apply in cases of rape or incest. What we’re seeing are not traditional Republican/Democrat dynamics. This is extreme misogyny taking an unprecedented place in mainstream politics.

But now is not the time to despair. More people than ever have been picking up their placards to show support for women’s rights, especially during the Women’s Marches that took place globally in January. I went to one of these rallies myself – the atmosphere was electric and the pushback is far from over. These demonstrations are beacons of hope in the vast bleakness of Western politics, particularly at a time when our own government is so reluctant to call out Trump. Looking forward, I see the immense need to retain the momentum of opposition – if the American election has taught us anything, its’ that citizens can achieve a great deal if they only have the will to be heard.

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