Donald Trump gives speech on women's rights without irony

Critics — including Chelsea Clinton — call comments patronising, while others point out irony of President speaking on women's empowerment at all

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The Independent US

Donald Trump has been ridiculed on social media for comments he made during a speech on women’s history.

Addressing a Women's History Month event to honour 13 prominent women activists from around the world, the President asked attendees if they had heard of Susan B Anthony, a US pioneer who paved the way for women’s suffrage.

Although it was unclear if his remark was a joke, critics — including Chelsea Clinton — took to Twitter to call his comments patronising, while others pointed out the irony of the president speaking on women's empowerment at all.

Mr Trump has a poor track record on women's rights and equality, which some people on social media said was highlighted by the case studies of the women invited to the event.

The 13 women presented with State Department awards included Jannat Al Ghezi who works for an organisation helping domestic violence survivors in Iraq, and Veronica Simogun who runs an anti-domestic violence organisation in Papua New Guinea. 

Mr Trump’s proposed budget threatens to funnel funding for programmes that benefit domestic violence survivors in the US into other concerns, like border protection and immigration enforcement.

In parts of America, migrant domestic violence survivors are reportedly afraid to come forward to the police out of fear of deportation. 

Mr Trump has also made an array of offensive, misogynistic remarks about women in the past and has been accused of sexual assault.

In his speech, Mr Trump named and praised a string of women who have helped shape America’s history. 

"And we’ve had leaders like Susan B. Anthony," he said, "— have you heard of Susan B. Anthony? — (laughter) — I’m shocked that you’ve heard of her — who dreamed of a much more equal and fair future, an America where women themselves, as she said, 'helped to make laws and elect the lawmakers'.”  



He then joked about how he would be facing "competition" from "incredible women leaders" if he were not already the president.

“My cabinet is full of really incredible women leaders,” he said, failing to mention the fact his administration includes six women out of 24 positions and is on course to have a smaller percentage of female members than the first cabinets of Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush.

“Since the very beginning, women have driven, and I mean each generation of Americans, towards a more free and more prosperous future,” Mr Trump said.

The president went on to described his wife Melania, a former model who was on hand to present the awards, as a “very highly accomplished woman” and "really an inspiration to so many".

"She is doing some great job," he said. "In fact, I shouldn’t say this, but her poll numbers went through the roof." 

Ms Trump praised the women from around the globe — who were recognised for demonstrating "courage and leadership in the face of adversity" — as “true heroes“.

The First Lady's participation in the award ceremony was a rare public appearance for her in Washington outside the White House.

She hosted a White House lunch for International Women's Day earlier this month

Mr Trump was also accused of hypocrisy on social media because women at the event included partners of disappeared journalists — Mr Trump has called journalists enemies of the people — and a woman repeatedly imprisoned for campaigning for free and fair elections.

Women from Syria and Yemen, countries on President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order, and Iraq, which was named in a previous order, were also included in the list of 13 honorees, despite the fact the president would normally have sought to prevent them from entering the country.