Sunday, 18 June 2017

Fear and feminism

I haven't been writing. Have you noticed?

My proverbial pen has been paralysed by fear. And feminism seemed about as much of a defence against it as it does against the spider in the bathroom. I'm a strong independent woman, but you're still massive and hairy and moving very fast in my direction and I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do about that.

So there didn't seem much point in writing about feminism. When people are dying, and running for their lives, and being maimed, and losing everything they have. Why talk about feminism? Why talk about anything, really, except how to save ourselves and stop it happening quite so much.

A year of tragedies

Lately I've felt weighed down by all the bad things that are happening around us,

A year ago today a hardworking MP, Jo Cox, was stabbed and left bleeding to death on the street. She left behind a husband and young children.

There are terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. People target concerts that eight-year-old girls go to see. My girl will be doing that in a few years. And I am scared. People I know have been just metres from bombs going off in European cities. I am worrying about my loved ones.

Feminism, and what it stands for, is one of the many mixed up things that our current crop of terrorists are upset about. Women being free to wander about freely with their faces uncovered and arms on show having jobs and driving and generally having their own business to go about. Democracy. Liberalism. The possibility of actually being happy. All bad things, apparently.

I sent my boyfriend across the world on a business trip with warnings to be careful, but it soon became clear that we were the ones who had to be careful. Our country is becoming one of those places that foreign governments and news outlets label as 'too dangerous' to visit. People are not sure they should come.

I grew up in London in the 1980s. Terrorist attacks were a fact of life, but no less terrifying. And now they're here again. This time with no warnings, and with everyday vehicles turned into dangerous weapons.

Then this week another tragedy, nothing to do with terrorism. Awful stories. It seems so disjointed that amid all these terrorism attacks another unrelated tragedy should occur. We were expecting people to try and blow us up, drive into us, not for something to just catch fire. I'm turning off the radio and looking away from the television news, but painfully tragic stories seep through in social media. I'm haunted by the small boy who lost hold of his mum's hand escaping from the tower block. She lived and he died and what parent doesn't feel for that poor woman who will never stop wondering what she should have done differently. It could have been any of us.

A sinking ship

And it's not just the tragedies. There's politics too.

A year ago we voted to leave Europe, pull up the drawbridge and fortify our little island against foreigners. We'll no longer be European citizens, but little Englanders. And we'll probably sink as a result. We're already too dangerous for people to visit. Will we become poor too?

With our legacy of the British Empire, the island that ruled the rest of the world, we forget that we are really very small now - just a little speck of dust in Donald Trump's eye. We may have an indomitable British spirit, but we are eminently squashable.

Working together with our neighbours, we can bring businesses and skills to the table. But out on our own we really are just a bunch of insurance salesmen and drug pushers (our biggest exports).

We had an election which seemed it would be a foregone conclusion to the Tories, who are steadily dismantling the National Health Service. A week is a long time in politics. In a week there was a sea-change. The left pulled their finger out and hey presto, a hung parliament. But the delight was short-lived, to get a majority the Tories teamed up with some ultra right wingers, anti-abortionists etc. Can this end well?

Exploiting a tragedy

I resent that the media and social media seems to want to use the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a chance to have a pop at our Prime Minister, Teresa May. I'm no fan of May, I'd quite like her gone. But not because she's rubbish at hugging people.

Jeremy Corbyn met the victims and the Queen did, but May didn't. Corbyn is brilliant at empathising with people. He throws his big, cuddly arms around them, he listens to what they say and knows what to say back. And the Queen is our figurehead. It's her job to visit her subjects when they're in trouble.

May's job is different. She's clearly no good at this public compassion stuff. But I don't care that May's not cuddly. I'd far rather my Prime Minister locked herself in a room with some clever people and worked out what to do about this disaster and how to prevent it from happening again, It comes on the heels of a lot of other things, but it leaves a nasty taste to use the tragedy in this manner.

And now

We're in the midst of a lot of sadness, and there's no knowing if or when it will end. This is not new. Things like these happened every day, all over the world, but it's close now.

Stay safe, tell your loved ones you love them, hug your children and enjoy the flowers.