One Year Later: Reflecting On The Wild Ride Since The Last Women's March
From the woman behind Jimmy Choo to the creator of the pussyhat, here's some of what we learned (and gained and lost) in the past year.
Think back to where you were a year ago tomorrow (the day of Donald Trump's inauguration). I went to work, fixated on the newsroom TV over my head for the better part of the morning, and oscillated between a sense of rage and disbelieving hopelessness. Surely, this couldn't be what we as a country had chosen. Surely, people didn't hate the idea of having a female president—or the idea of another Clinton president—so much, that they opted for a man with no experience, a man who couldn't be trusted to retain and repeat a single idea with consistency multiple days in a row, a man who built a campaign on hate and bigotry and isolationism that threatened the very foundation of what I believed this country was.
And yet, here we were. Over the course of the past year, President Trump has proven to be, well, even worse than I had expected. He's stripped away reproductive rights. He's disregarded the needs of children. He's disrespected the free press. He's defended racists and stoked the fires of uninformed bigotry. He's diminished the global reputation and standing of this country. And he's been deeply disrespectful of our allies—using coded (and not-so-coded) racist language to do so. And that's not a complete list, by any measure.
But somehow, in that time, I've been filled with a willingness to fight and—dare I say it?—a sense of hope. Audacious hope, even. It started the day after the inauguration, when women all over the country (and globe) took part in what was likely the largest single-day demonstration in American history. Seeing and feeling the impact of that mass of women was a visceral, moving experience. It filled me with a sense of kinship and power and possibility. And since then, women's voices have ended a decades-long look-the-other-way approach that this society has taken to sexual harassment. Black women in particular have shown up at the polls and won meaningful elections (see ya never, Roy Moore), shutting down the idea that there are absolutely no consequences to even the vilest predatory acts. And for all of that, I feel grateful. But my experience isn't unique. For so many women, this past year has been extraordinary—and volatile. So, we gathered three stories from three different women we respect and admire, reflecting on this first anniversary of the Women's March.
The Superstar Designer Who Knows Feminism Isn't A Marketing Tool
Tamara Mellon, Jimmy Choo Founder & CEO of tamara mellon
When I started Jimmy Choo at age 27, all I wanted was to make beautiful shoes. I had no idea what challenges I would face; as a founder, as a woman, as a first-time entrepreneur. Over the years, my eyes opened, and I became a champion for women in business. Now, two decades later and at my own brand, I want to do more than make shoes. I want to start a revolution.
I like to say that my job is to design shoes, but I care more about the women wearing them. That means a lot of things: giving women what they want, making products that are fit-tested with them in mind, not subjecting them to an outdated retail markup…but more than anything, it means walking the walk and supporting the things that matter, beyond fashion.
As a brand, I have an incredible platform that I can use to raise my own voice and to amplify the voices of other women who have something to say. And I’ve never felt the power of collective voices more than when I went to Women’s March last year. It was incredible to share that day with 5 million women and men who, together, catalyzed what I think is the biggest shift in women’s rights in our lifetime, clearly identifying what we won't compromise: equality, diversity, kindness and progress.
This day last year felt like the beginning of a community, and something really powerful started happening as a result: Women started to talk. Women came forward with personal, raw, uncomfortable stories. Stories of abuse and bullying and shame they were no longer going to tolerate. #MeToos echoed in a way we could all relate to and that no one could avoid. We all realized that it was time to share what scared us, to call out what we wouldn’t compromise, to ask for what we deserved.
Today, just a few days away from the 2018 Women’s March, I’m excited to be making my plans for the march in Los Angeles, and to see other, female-led companies doing the same.
Feminism doesn’t have a place as a marketing tactic, but this movement isn’t about that. The truth is, we live in a world where brands are part of cultural movements, and I’m humbled to be a small part of this one. This is about owning our voices and taking action in our own communities. I’ll be at the Los Angeles march, on the corner of 7th and Olive at 9 a.m., proudly participating and wearing a T-shirt that embodies my attitude: It has a picture of middle finger over a vagina.
We shot this image for my brand launch in 2016, and it was always meant as a “fuck you” to the establishment, but that list has grown to include anyone who questions a woman’s power or right to own her voice—and make her own decisions about her body. This photo (and the tee it's printed on) is too good not to share, so I made extras to give away to the women who stand with us. To get yours, post a photo of yourself at a march in your city and tag #marchwithTM.
Together, we’re making a statement that has to go beyond a single day, a single brand, and a singular voice. We’re supporting an unstoppable community of women who are indeed stronger together.
The Writer Who Knit Her Anger Into A Sea Of Pink Hats
Krista Suh, Creator of the Pussyhat
“Trump made your career.”
That’s my dad talking. Before the Women’s March was covered in a sea of pink cat-ear hats, I was a humble writer in Hollywood, with a small knitting obsession. When Trump was elected, my world fell apart; everything I thought to be good and true crumbled. That week, therapists across the country must have been inundated with calls—my own therapist was so depressed, she had to cancel on me.
I came up with the idea for the pussyhat while in the car with my dad, the weekend after Election Day. As he drove up the I-5 freeway, I stared out the window, trying to think of what I could do for the Women’s March on Washington. What could I wear, what sign could I hold up? What visual thing could I do to make a difference? I could strip naked for this, but what meaning would that have? I couldn’t come up with anything, until I remembered that it would be cold. Maybe I’d strip naked in sunny Los Angeles in January…but DC in January? Different story! I’d have to wear a coat, a scarf, gloves, and a hat…I could knit my own hat I thought. That would be meaningful, making my own protest gear with my own hands.
And then, as I was knitting, it dawned on me: Hey, I’m a beginner knitter—if I could make this hat, anyone could. And BOOM! I saw it. The sea of pink. If I shared the pattern, we could all make hats, send them in, and people would wear them and create an insistent, powerful mass of pink.
The pussyhats, as you know, spread like wildfire. On January 21, 2017, the sea of pink overtook many cities across the country and I felt like it was a massive statement of, “You are not alone.” If you are unhappy with the current administration, you are not alone. If you are angry and dissatisfied by how women are treated in this country, you are not alone. Because being a woman, dealing with aggressions both micro and macro, can feel really lonely. I think in the past year, being a woman has started to feel a bit less lonely. It's been difficult, but a bit less lonely.
Now, as the one-year anniversary of the March approaches, my dad has aptly noted that I have more impact now than I did before Trump. (Thanks Trump! #irony) Part of that impact is that my book, DIY Rules for a WTF World: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World, came out this week.
While I am very proud of my idea for the pussyhat, I don’t think that’s what makes me special. Because women have great ideas all the time–I am certainly not unique in that. I think what makes me special, if anything, is that through my experience as a writer and artist, I learned to nurture my ideas, rather than squelch them. And I hope with DIY Rules to help other women to do the same–to nurture their ideas rather than talking themselves out of them. And if women everywhere nurtured their wild crazy world-changing ideas…we would have a revolution of an even bigger magnitude. What might that world look like? Where we didn't check ourselves before speaking up, or answer our own brilliance with doubt?
What I love about the pussyhat is that its meaning can change, depending on the time, and depending on the person looking at it or wearing it. Today, when I see the pussyhat–on my head, or someone else’s, I hear, “You are enough. You are enough, NOW. Don’t wait until you lose 20 pounds to speak up. Don’t wait for you to stop using ‘like’ so much. Don’t wait for your vocal fry to disappear. Speak up now. Take action, now. Because you are enough, now.”
I think what I’m hearing from the hat now is what many other women are hearing as well. Women are mobilizing.They are marching. They are running. For office. And winning. And with more women elected, you know we’re going to take down Trump.
So maybe Trump made my career. Fine. I’m intent on destroying his.
The Entrepreneur Who Realized The Power Of Solidarity
Zahra Aljabri, co-founder of mode-sty & executive coach
I believe 2017 will be remembered as the year when women harnessed their power as a collective. For too long, women and girls have been taught that to advance our causes we need to each work harder and smarter, becoming individual heroes in the mold of Marie Curie, Oprah, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, this hero approach has only led to a handful of individual victories while collectively women have remained the victims of significant inequities. In the past two years, however, we have begun to harness the power of our collective voices against systemic abuse—with the widespread attention to Tarana Burke's “me too” movement decrying sexual harassment being the most prominent example.
Why did it take so long for us to stop abusive and sometimes violent behavior that has been so pervasive for so long—spanning years, industries, and countless victims? Because the offenders found a way to divide us with threats, shame, and legal paperwork. They made us believe that each woman had to face the abuser, their cronies, and the systems that enabled them alone—one woman against “the man” (which usually comprises dozens of men). This tactic was extremely effective as very few women came forward and those who did were rarely believed, readily silenced, and often harassed or faced with retaliation that threatened their careers and lives.
When a woman (or man) reports misconduct to HR, a union, or the local authorities, she carries the burden of proving that the behavior of the person she is accusing was intentional, unwanted and causing her harm. Proving these elements end up scrutinizing the accuser's behavior, personality, relationships and character. Sexual harassment cases are some of the few types of cases where the survivor faces similar if not more scrutiny than the accused.
But, what we've seen recently is that obtaining the three elements of proof becomes much easier when multiple survivors come forward. It shouldn't have to be this way—a woman should be able to stand alone and still be believed. However, we're talking practicality here. And in this world, intent is shown through repeated and deliberate advances on multiple women, while consistent behavior indicates that it’s purposeful. Consent questions are squashed by multiple women stating they had encounters they didn’t want, turning "he said, she said" arguments into "he said, they said." And finally, harm, which in these cases will always include long lived emotional distress is established when intent and lack of consent are clear. Multiple accusations shift the heavy scrutiny off a single woman and onto the offender where it rightfully belongs.
For too long, women have been unable to harness and appreciate our collective power. But no more. After the Women’s March last year, women are beginning to trust each other and rely on each other as a source of strength. The first women to step forward and accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct in a series of New York Times articles this fall did so believing that this time things would be different. They did so receiving different treatment from accomplished, intelligent female reporters. And they were right. Women rallied around their courage, amplified their voices, shared our own #metoo stories and demanded remedies. Emboldened by the massive showing of solidarity, strength and force of a year ago, we recognized that together would be the only way to hold perpetual offenders (and unjust systems) accountable. They cannot use the usual defenses against 10, 50 or 100 victims.
Moving forward, we can and should use our collective power to address systemic inequities beyond sexual harassment. As toxic sexual offenders are rooted out of workplaces we will see more women hired, retained and promoted in their stead. This will allow us to unite and address the pay gap. We are also seeing women building and integrating into systems to provide greater female representation in politics, venture capital, corporate leadership and other sectors. The most important thing we must note is that for women’s collective power to have a lasting impact we must use it to benefit all of us, and not allow it to create another lane of inequality. Women of all socio-economic, racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds must be included. Our collective power must be the tide that lifts all boats.
We always knew “the man” was trying to keep us down; what we didn’t appreciate is that together we have the power to overcome.
Words: Neha Gandhi
Opener Photo: Stocksy