I spent the evening before the March, busily making signs with a few of my students. And although the UK in general, and Oxford in particular, is crawling with Americans, I think all of us felt rather insulated from the inauguration. People had gone about their business all afternoon, and no one seemed to be watching in our common room. But Friday evening, I made my way back to the common room to find the sign making for the London Women’s March underway.
I sat down with the others and batted around ideas for what to write on my sign. They were already hard at work, one drawing an enormous cat, another penciling out “Black Women Deserve a Seat at the Table” in fancy cursive. I was so torn that I ended up writing THIS IS VERY BAD on my sign: my student from Jordan wrote it out in Arabic on the opposite side. I sat coloring, sharing markers and chatting with these young women till late.
The next day I rode into London with friends my own age. We parked at a girlfriend’s flat and took a bus to the March, where there was a sea of people in front of the American embassy. There’s been a lot online about different signs, but the larger than life model of the top of Trump’s head — an umbrella with orange shag on it, with golden showers raining down — was hard to miss in a crowd. I was struck by how many (maybe half) the signs were about reproductive rights. Very few of the signs that I saw, apart from a few Brexit ones, drew attention to issues here in the UK (racial profiling, violence against women, immigrant crisis etc), and there were not as many pussy hats as the pictures from the US have shown. It was chilly but didn’t rain, thank God. Audio was terrible in the Trafalgar Square, but the mood was jolly.