Millions of women have marched worldwide over the weekend to take a stand against the misogyny and racism of America’s new President Trump. “Women’s marches” have been hosted in cities from Washington to Tel Aviv, from Antarctica to Ghana in protest against the man who said he could “grab them by the pussy”.
Meanwhile, hiding behind their keyboards at home, some right-wing tweeters took it upon themselves to suggest the demonstrators might be better off concentrating their efforts on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Republican former Governor of Arkansas and Trump supporter, Mike Huckabee:
To all the women marchers....if truly concerned re women's rights --head to the Saudi Embassy; they could use the message!— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 21, 2017
Former leader of racist protest group the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson:
Feminists marching in London against a president who isn't there's, do they protest against Islamic misogyny too? Saudi?— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) January 21, 2017
Right-wing journalist, Paul Joseph Watson:
Charlie Kirk, founder of politically conservative non-profit Turning Point:
Hey #WomensMarch why don't you ever protest the fact women in Saudi Arabia can't drive or vote? You seem awfully quiet on that— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) January 21, 2017
One Scottish journalist was quick to point out their hypocrisy, however:
I had no idea until today how much right wing men on Twitter cared about gender equality in the Middle East. pic.twitter.com/gNOmmURJZ4— Jamie Ross (@JamieRoss7) January 21, 2017
In fact, these men fit into a long line of western politicians who have used their positions to promote misogyny at home, while calling for women’s rights abroad when it suited their racist or colonial objectives.
Nineteenth century British colonialist, Lord Cromer, desiring to show Islam to be inferior in every way as part of his imperial project in Egypt, spoke enthusiastically against the oppression of women in Islam. Yet, he failed to see the irony of simultaneously being president of the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage which fought against British women gaining the vote.
Little has changed in more than a hundred years, as right-wing politicians and thinkers continue to fight feminism in their own comunities while using it as an excuse to intervene abroad. Take the US-led war in Afghanistan, which was justified by the Bush administration in terms of liberating “women of cover”.
However, what these individuals chose to misunderstand is that women in the Middle East are much better equipped to fight their battles that conservatives sitting in offices halfway across the world. These tweets choose to ignore the fact that Saudi women are in fact currently protesting for their right to drive, their right to wear what they want and their right to be free to take their own decisions.
The hashtag “Saudi women demand the end of male guardianship” is currently in its 200th day, as defiant activists push for a change to the restrictive rules which govern their everyday lives. Meanwhile, in November “the time has come for women’s driving” trended after one Saudi prince tweeted the following:
Whether online or elsewhere, Saudi women are demanding their rights, with no need for the support of Islamophobic and misogynistic politicians in the West. Especially not when ultimately the real goal of those figures is at once to suppress women at home and to justify their military ambitions abroad.
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