It’s not the first time Gloria Steinem has taken aim at US President Donald Trump. But when the feminist icon urged the crowd at the Women’s March on Washington to resort to civil disobedience (“And no more asking Daddy!”), she may have hit her target.
The co-chair of the march, which saw almost 500,000 people peacefully protest on Washington’s National Mall, gave a impassioned speech calling for less online activism and more old-fashioned people power. And that’s, as she told the Los Angeles Times after the the speech, exactly what was happening at the march. "We’re doing it. Pressing send does not allow us to empathise with other people… I love books, but [empathy] doesn’t happen from a book. It doesn’t happen from a screen. It only happens when we’re together.”
From reproductive rights to Twitter tirades, Steinem called out the new US President's stance on a number of issues, even suggesting civil disobedience in the face of Trump’s most derided proposal – a compulsory register of American Muslims, which some have compared to Nazi Germany’s registry of Jews in the 1930s and 40s. "Do not try to divide us,” she warned. "If you force Muslims to register, we will all register as Muslims."
Writing for The Guardian after the US election, Steinem called Trump "an unqualified candidate who came up not through politics, but through inheriting money, a gift for bullying, and being on television,” pointing to "white-lash and man-lash" as responsible for his rise to power.
Read her full speech:
"Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?
Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.
I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I've been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse.
We remember the death of the future, with Martin Luther King, with Jack Kennedy, with Bobby Kennedy, with Malcom X. Without those deaths for instance, Nixon would not have been elected, and there would not have been many of the wars that we had. Now, our great leaders like Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are still with us and remember how much we feared they might not be, and how much threat there was, in fact, on their lives. And they are with us.
And now, our honored Bernie Sanders is still with us. And not only with us but he's focusing on economic justice and achieving free universal college education in my state of New York. And now Hillary Clinton is alive and definitely not in jail. She who told the whole world that women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights. So crucial, when collectively violence against females in the world has produced a world in which for the first time there are fewer females than males.
I'm not trying to deny the danger that this day initiates. Trump and his handlers have found a fox for every chicken coop in Washington, and a Twitter finger must not become a trigger finger. Some very experienced doctors of the American Psychiatric Association have publicly written to warn us that, and I quote, "His widely reported symptoms of mental instability, including grandiosity, impulsivity, hyper-sensitivity to slights or criticisms, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office." Unquote.
This was on full display in his inaugural address yesterday. Everything that happened before him was a disaster. And everything that he would do would be fantastic, the best ever, miracles, and all the superlatives. He also said he was with the people. Indeed, he was the people. To paraphrase a famous quote, I just have to say, "I have met the people, and you are not them." We are the people.
Just this march in Washington today required 1,000 more buses than the entire Inauguration. A thousand more buses. And I was just talking with people from our many sister marches, including the one in Berlin, and they asked me to send a special message: "We in Berlin know that walls don't work."
And remember Poland where last month the government passed an anti-abortion law and six million women turned out in the streets and they had to change it. We are the people. We have people power and we will use it. All the power that you tried to eliminate. For instance, you tried to eliminate the Congressional Ethics Committee. You had to reinstate it, right? Because of people power. Because this, this, is the other side of the downside. This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life. It is wide in age. It is deep in diversity. And remember the constitution does not begin with "I, the president." It begins with "We, the people."
So don't try to divide us. Do not try to divide us. If you force Muslims to register, we will all register as Muslims. I know that there are women here from corporations and media and all kinds of places that make it kind of risky for you to say what you care about, what you feel, and what you support. And there are women here, I know, who have survived a national and global sex industry that profiteers from body invasion. We are united here for bodily integrity. If you cannot control your body from the skin in, you cannot control it from the skin out, you cannot control your lives, our lives. And that means that the right to decide whether and when to give birth without government interference.
We are here and around the world for a deep democracy that says we will not be quiet, we will not be controlled, we will work for a world in which all countries are connected. God may be in the details, but the goddess is in connections. We are at one with each other, we are looking at each other, not up. No more asking daddy.
We are linked. We are not ranked. And this is a day that will change us forever because we are together. Each of us individually and collectively will never be the same again. When we elect a possible president we too often go home. We've elected an impossible president, we're never going home. We're staying together. And we're taking over. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Make sure you introduce yourselves to each other and decide what we're gonna do tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and we're never turning back. Thank you."