|Site of one of the first Women’s Marches taking a stand for human rights on the day of USA’s 45th Presidential inauguration. |
Hyde Park South, Sydney Australia.
|Nasty sticker-giver. Women’s March, Sydney, Oz.|
If you want a sense for how much impact the USA makes beyond its borders, travel abroad in the wake of a USA Presidential election.
In 2000, I was in Australia on business whilst the whole “hanging chad” election results debate rocked well beyond the USA. What irony! We’re the country known for playing watchdog over other countries’ elections!
Back in 2000, Ozzies (Australians) were more than happy to volunteer their opinions regarding our next President, right down to the bus driver who noted my American accent. Overall, the reaction was one of great nervousness, particularly as it was looking likely a major change in regime was imminent.
In 2012, we were in Dominica, where we needed to ask for help getting our ballots in. With limited wifi bandwidth, we needed to get our ballots scanned and that large file emailed to the Washington State elections office. Dominicans were happy to help – there was great interest in our elections. In fact, every bar we walked past featured CNN’s USA election coverage on their TVs.
The 2016 election, like 2000, highlighted the disconnect that can happen between the popular vote and the electoral vote. Just as we did not find ourselves with Al Gore for President in 2000, a few days ago it was not the popular-vote-winning Hillary Clinton who was sworn in as the USA’s 45th President.
|Early gearing up for the Sydney Women’s March. Hyde Park, Sydney Australia.|
Nonetheless, I was again grateful that Washington State enabled me to vote in the Presidential election via email (from Australia). If I didn’t vote, even though my state is generally a “blue” state, I would’ve felt as though I contributed to Hilary’s loss.
Come November 16th, I felt stricken by a mix of disbelief, shock and fear upon hearing the US Presidential election results. A large part of what drives my vote is who I believe the President will appoint to the Supreme Court, as those lifetime appointees have a very long-lasting influence on what I regard as my personal rights. In general, my alliances are far more liberal than conservative, thus Democratic, rather than Republican.
|More early birds for the Sydney Women’s March.|
Thus, when fellow cruiser, Marce Schultz of Escape Velocity sent out a Facebook shout to see if any other cruisers wanted to join her for the Sydney Womens March I was intrigued. The march was timed to send a human rights message the date of the inauguration of the USA’s 45th President; the Sydney march was one of over 670 January 21, 2017 Women’s Marches worldwide, with the leading march in Washington DC.
“I’m afraid these marches could get violent,” confessed a friend who opted to not participate in the march in her hometown, despite her sympathies with the cause. While I did feel there was some risk, my hunch was the marches would be peaceful (especially in Australia, one of the leading countries on gun control, where the incidence of gun violence dropped after the enactment of gun controls). More importantly, I felt compelled to demonstrate my agreement with the Martin Luther King quote “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
|An upbeat crowd materialized shortly before the speakers kicked off the Sydney Women’s March.|
The Sydney Women’s March started from the reflecting pool at South Hyde Park, and wove its way to completion next to the US embassy in Sydney.
Marce was a stone’s throw from Sydney. I was an hour and a half’s bus ride away*, but was in. Better still, fellow cruiser Chris of Scintilla was also willing join us and was along the bus route in.
*FYI – Sydney’s transit webpage did not give the accurate fare amount – it was nearly $1 AUD short! From Newport L90 to downtown Sydney is $5.40 AUD not $4.50 AUD. Apparently it’s not the first time the bus driver’s had to let passengers know that.
|Sisterhood of the pink pussy hat at the Sydney Women’s March.|
Chris and I arrived early, well before the first of the 11 am speakers, who were preceding the noon march. In fact, we weren’t too sure how big the turnout would be as at that point, there weren’t many folks there beyond the organizers.
|Marce, carrying the sign her husband Jack made. Sydney Women’s March.|
One of the early birds was a gal handing out free “Such a Nasty Woman*” stickers, which we happily donned. Marce, when she arrived later, luckily got the very last sticker. The gifter of the stickers said her brother in the States printed them up for use there, and happily sent some his sister’s way to support the Sydney Women’s March. The Sydney Women’s March also marked my introduction to the “pussy hat” phenomenon, as the sticker-giver was wearing one.
*”Such a Nasty Woman” is a retort Trump uttered as an interruption to Hillary Clinton’s commentary in the final Presidential debate. I found out about “Nasty Woman” from the hysterical Saturday Night Live spoof on the Presidential debate.
That changed, dramatically. A goodly sized crowd gathered, filling a broad swath of the street through the march. My guesstimate for the turnout was 5,000, though reports for Sydney’s total ranged from 3,000 – 10,000.
|One of many special interests under than banner of human rights at the Sydney Women’s March.|
|One of many kids participating at the Sydney Women’s March.|
The intent of the march was to support not just women’s rights, but a range of human rights. Despite diverse interests, there was a strong, deliberate sense of unity.
In Sydney, every speaker began their speech by noting that land from which they spoke belonged to the Aborigines. Apparently, that is now a relatively common practice in Australia. I do not recall hearing a series USA speeches beginning with homage given to native American Indians, which given the stance the US is now taking regarding immigration would be quite appropriate!
However, we did not see anyone in the march who looked aboriginal, though we heard (but could not see through the crowds) a speaker on Aboriginal rights. Presumably, as she spoke in the first person, she was aboriginal.
We did see plenty of men there to lend their support, including Jack, Marce’s husband. We also saw lots of kids, male and female, happy to support their mums in the cause. There were even dogs, bearing banners.
Some banners were insulting, some angry, some funny, some altruistic. Many of the signs were clearly originated for the Washington DC Women’s March, acquired via internet and printed. “Washington [DC]” was crossed out, and “Sydney” written in its place. Then at the tail end of the march, there was a Trump supporter who who paid a skywriter to get in his 2 cents… for ~$4,000 AUD.
I was not a sign-carrier; my attendance was as much driven by curiosity as to offer support.
|This sign made me laugh. Note to future protesters – this simple graphic|
against a pink background really stood out!
Personally, I don’t believe that anger or insults are the most productive approach to use in protecting human rights (though I do confess to chuckling over some that struck me as funny). In general, I strive to work hard to understand the facts and issues, including getting clarity on the viewpoints opposed to my own, with as open a mind as possible.
While some feel our role is to as supportive as possible of our President, I believe it is my responsibility as a citizen to express the kind of governance I feel is right. Apparently, I am not alone. As historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich famously quipped, “Well behaved women seldom make history.”
Some estimates put worldwide participation in the Women’s March at 4.8 million — I felt privileged to be part of the movement. The march in Washington drew at least 500,000 and is the largest single-day demonstrations in U.S. history. Seeing my friends in New Zealand, Portland, Vancouver Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose also participate in the marches in there hometowns was also very cool – global sisterhood.
|One of many Washington Women’s March signs adapted for the Sydney Women’s March.|
The challenge… Now that the march is done, what next? What are your greatest hopes and plans moving forward? I am open to your ideas – particularly what actions will be the most productive, even when coming from a US citizen, far, far from home.
Oh – the “Such A Nasty Women” sticker proved a great conversation opener. It prompted questions from folks wandering around Sydney near the march to ask about the sticker and what was going on. As well, on the bus ride home, an ex-pat (also named Dana!) from the San Diego asked about it as well. We finished our conversation by exchanging phone numbers.
Hmmm, maybe that’s how it will be in the interim, one conversation at a time.
|Sydney Women’s March takes to the streets.|
We’re in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia (S33.39.433 E151.18.051), about an hour’s drive (in light traffic), an hour and a half bus ride, and four hour’s sail (in good conditions) from Sydney.
In just a few more days, we’ll begin our clockwise, 6-month tour by van of Australia. Journey’s for sale, though there’s lots more to blog about, catching up on past adventures and transitioning from the open ocean to the open road.