I am very much in the market for some good news, to be honest. Because there’s a bullsh*tting, orange, crypto-fascist, pathological narcissist woman hater headed for the White House. Because there’s our uncoupling from the European Union looming (I know, I know – Brexit was three months ago and we’re all supposed to be over it by now. And I would be, except THE BIT I’M REALLY DREADING HASN’T HAPPENED YET).
Because there are humanitarian crises everywhere you look and more and more people’s solutions to this complex, knotty mass of geo-religio-political f**kery seems to be “Build a wall around it/them! Say tatty-bye!”
And, of course, because there’s ongoing Brad and Angelina and Bake Off shenanigans.
So maybe I am reading too much into this, or letting it inspire too much joy in my bruised and battered heart, but I find myself uplifted by recent events among various pockets of the sisterhood.
As this very magazine touched on a month or so ago, feminism seemed to me to have been getting a bit... small. A bit nit-picky. A bit like school – too much monitoring of what everyone else was doing, especially the cool girls, and chiding those who weren’t quite falling in line. And a lot of borderline-neurotic navel-gazing. But now, suddenly, we seem to be going a bit... collective. A bit... big picture-ish. There is, in fact, an ongoing outbreak of rather bracingly direct action.
Close to home, there was the recent Repeal the 8th march in Dublin, attended – despite downpours and bus strikes across the capital – by an estimated 25,000 people, dedicated to overturning Ireland’s strict abortion laws. As I write, Polish women are calling for a general strike in order to protest against a recent bill that struck down their own rights to abortion even in the case of rape and incest.
Further afield, 14,000 Saudi women have signed a petition calling for an end to their country’s guardianship system, under which they are not allowed to rent a flat, go abroad, work, study, get hospital treatment or file a legal claim without a male guardian’s permission. And in Rojava, Syria, a confederation of women’s organisations (called the Committee of Diplomacy of Kongreya Star) has just released a report detailing its five years spent protecting local people, resisting Isis and building an egalitarian community in the middle of a warzone.
Sisters, in short, are doing it for themselves.
Of course these are just a handful of examples – disparate in aims and geography – but they are all a great reminder of the importance and the value of direct action. I am as guilty as anyone of taking the easy way out too often. I can pretty much convince myself my job as a good citizen and moral soul is done if I just re-tweet someone’s request rather than click on the link, find out more and donate something that actually - urgh - costs me in either effort, time or cold, hard cash.
Social media is absolutely brilliant at what they used to call in the Seventies “raising consciousness” – ie making you aware of the sh*t that surrounds you (which, in said Seventies, used to be done in tiny little groups and took aaaages). And online activism is a powerful force. But eventually it needs to translate into real world action.
I think we’re almost there. And as the women of Saudi, Syria and beyond are so brilliantly showing, it is time for me to stop clicking and get off my arse.