New feature: The future of activism

// 18 July 2008

Protests seem to be ignored, so what’s a disgruntled feminist to do? Deborah McAlister considers some of the options

Photo of demonstrators on Million Women Rise marchThe government appears to have a policy towards protesters that bares more than a passing resemblance to a small sulking child singing “I can’t hear you!” with its hands firmly placed over it’s ears. In the protests running up to the Iraqi war, on 15 February 2003, between 750,000 (police estimate) and 2 million (demo organisers’ estimate) people marched through London. Considering the high level of political apathy, this was a truly impressive display of public outrage and was met with a resounding silence from the government. This makes the many politicians claiming to be concerned about the population’s lack of interest in politics and increasing voter apathy stink of hypocrisy.

This year 4,000 to 5,000 women marked International Women’s Day by walking, dancing shouting, drumming and singing their way through London to celebrate womanhood and highlight the inequalities and dangers women still face. Not only did the government not deign to respond, the mass media also seems to have been looking the other way that weekend. Even The Guardian, which ran an International Women’s Day special, felt that it was more important to highlight a few women who have excelled in their various fields (and the obligatory beauty articles and the 10 hottest men lists) and ignored the uprising of several thousand ‘every day’ women marching through the rain to make their voices heard. I agree that there are so many protest movements it would be impossible for the government to acknowledge them all. If a government statement was released every time there was a ‘free Tibet’ protest then they would lose all impact. It just means we have to organise ourselves better to ensure we are speaking with one voice at one time. After all, look at what the Olympic torch protests have achieved for raising the profile of the Free Tibet movement worldwide.

When the government ignores the perfectly valid concerns of active citizens, what does that say about the state of democracy in Britain and what are the options left to us to make ourselves heard?

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