This year’s Women’s March in Sydney was a powerful war cry for equality. Roughly 5,000 women (and men) took to the streets to demand change. We marched for change to the patriarchal system that oppresses women, change to the culture of toxic masculinity that oppresses us all and change to address our country’s epidemic of gendered violence.
Aiia Maasarwe, who was raped and murdered in Melbourne last week, was at the front of everyone’s mind – so, too, were the 69 women who were murdered across Australia last year.
Women carried signs saying “I’m here for Aiia” and host Yumi Stynes called for an end to violence against women.
The speeches before the march were full of emotion, passion and anger. But beneath the anger was hope. Here’s what we learnt from the #womenswave…
SIXTY-NINE WOMEN WERE MURDERED LAST YEAR - AND WE’RE FED UP WITH IT
The main purpose of this year’s march was to draw attention to violence against women. Sixty-nine women were killed in acts of gendered violence in Australia last year. The Director of the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW, Hailey Foster, told the SMH that there were over 29,000 instances of assault against women recorded in the state last year, she added 59 per cent of victims never report to police. One of the signs in the march noted that one person was killed by a shark last year, 17 people were killed by crocodiles and 69 women were murdered by “men who think it’s OK to kill women.” It’s not okay to kill women. As host Yumi Stynes said, “Women are dying and we’re f**king sick of it.”
THE LIFE EXPECTANCY OF A TRANS WOMAN OF COLOUR RANGES FROM 30 TO 35 YEARS
Artist and trans activist Bhenji Ra spoke about the importance of standing up for ALL women. She shared the shocking fact that trans women of colour have a life expectancy of 30 to 35 years, primarily as a result of violence. “If I only have a few years left to live, I’m going to speak my mother-f**king truth,” she roared. “Trans women have always been here. We WILL remain.” Feminism needs to be intersectional and we need to stand beside our trans sisters and support them.
WOMEN ARE STRONG AS HELL
“It’s so hard to keep an olive branch in the palm of your hand when you need your keys between your fingers,” Bri Lee’s speech at the Women’s March was a powerful rally cry. When the writer, legal researcher and sexual abuse survivor took to the stage, she told us she had prepared a more composed speech; then Aiia was murdered. Like the other speakers and every woman in the crowd, Bri Lee was angry. “[My speech] had to spark rage and hope in the ranks,” Bri Lee wrote after the march. She did just that; imploring us to use our anger to strategise, like she did when she took the man who abused her as a child to court where he was found guilty. “I’m proud,” she said. “Let me be clear, I’m not proud he was found guilty. I’m proud I fought.” Tears rolled down my face as Bri Lee spoke and I felt my friend sobbing silently next to me. Every woman at the march had her own story, we’d all fought our own battles and survived our own hell; but yesterday we were shouting (and crying) together. We were – and are – stronger together.
WOMEN NEED TO LIFT EACH OTHER UP
Because of Australia’s defamation laws, editor and Wiradjuri woman Rae Johnston couldn’t share her own #MeToo stories at the Women’s March, but she spoke about overcoming hardships as a single mum working three jobs and trying to break into the male-dominated video game industry. Facing harassment and cynicism, Johnston turned to the (very few) women in the industry. She could count the number of women on one hand. Together they traded battle stories and supported each other. “We are refusing to see each other as competition, and instead we are lifting each other up and the next generation along with it. We are talking about the women who blazed the trails we walk on today,” Johnston said, to applause and cheering.
THE NEXT GENERATION ARE GOING TO SAVE US ALL
The most hopeful part of the march was the number of little kids there, holding hand-made signs and cheering along. One of our favourites was Maya, who wore a “HEAR ME ROAR” tee shirt and held a sign that said, “THOUGH I BE BUT LITTLE, I AM FIERCE.” Another girl’s sign said, “WOMEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO FIGHT.” And a baby boy wore a bodysuit with the word “FEMINIST” written across it. If these kids are the future, then we are in good hands. Power to them.