Follow the Women

A clear majority of people in the USA is against Trump, and a clear majority in Britain finds Farage risible; and yet these two clowns appear just now to be the immoveable political winners in their respective countries. There are many complex reasons for this, some of which have been aired in this blog; but one of them is undoubtedly the lack of a unified and convincing movement against them. That ought to be socialism: equality, anti-austerity, Bernie, Jeremy. But socialism’s in the doldrums just now: trivially yet bitterly divided, incompetently led (I’m referring here not necessarily to Jeremy, but to the collective Labour leadership), monstered by the capitalist press, judged by its past failures, some real enough but many confected by the said capitalist press (e.g. that Brown’s government, not the bankers, was responsible for the recession), having to struggle against decades of vilification and even fear in the USA, and with an ‘old-fashioned’ image problem. So it really is difficult at this moment to see the traditional Left as the saviours of the present day. Maybe if it could link up with the Lib-Dems in Britain and the Democratic establishment in the US? But they are all too partisan for that.

The only effective public opposition just now comes from two quarters: the television and social media satirists, who would win any contest against their Right-wing equivalents hands-down – see https://bernardjporter.com/2017/03/05/satire-and-trump/ – but don’t seem to be able to translate this into real power; and, secondly: women. One thing that Trump and Farage and their leading followers have in common is their blatant and reactionary sexism, which has clearly riled millions of women; all those, that is, who don’t feel more comfortable in a world where they are petted and patronised. (Many clearly do.) Trump’s ‘locker-room talk’ in the summer, though it had less effect on the presidential election than many people (as I remember) predicted at the time, has lain there, just under the surface of politics, to galvanise millions of Americans, including many men, to lead the popular movement against him; with their ‘pussy’ hats and witty placards, in a way that the anti-capitalist movements have failed to do. They may be our main hope now.

Women’s liberation is a movement on the march – quite literally. Some of the post-Trump women’s demonstrations, both in America and in the UK, have been mightily impressive. Trump seems to have galvanised feminism; but it was already on the rise before then. That’s the difference between it, and socialism, which seems to be on the decline. The progress feminism has made even in my lifetime has been astonishing, with women now on an equal footing with men – and, because it follows from this, men on an equal footing with women – in many areas of life that they were effectively excluded from just thirty years ago. And – this is my impression – they don’t any longer need to become virtual men, like Thatcher, in order to do this. Of course they aren’t all the way there yet. There’s a lot still for them (and for us men, alongside them) to fight for: genuinely equal pay, parental rights, security against male violence, attitudinal changes, and so on; enough to justify their new British political party, Women’s Equality (http://www.womensequality.org.uk), which was founded recently to fight their cause. (I’ve joined.) OK, it could be considered a niche issue; but so too were the interests of working people when the Labour Party was founded in 1900; and look how that spread and infused all areas of British politics and life afterwards. Labour was our ‘progressive’ spearhead in the twentieth century. Maybe women could take on that role in the twenty-first.

Of course I get as irritated with many of the trivialities of present-day feminism as most other ballsy men: all that row over whether Emma Watson is justified in calling herself a ‘feminist’ if she chooses to show a nipple, for example; well, it may be an interesting debating point among the sisterhood, but is not that important, surely, in the broader scheme of things. And, highlighted as it is by the likes of the Daily Mail, this sort of thing puts folk off. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve seen interviewed on TV claiming that they were turned into Trump or UKIP voters by the ‘political correctness’ of the Left. Even I get slightly irked, as a writer, by having to use contrived neologisms that ruin my stylistic flow in order to avoid ‘gendered’ terms. (I’m sorry, but I refuse to write about ‘herstory’, or ‘sheroes’; or to avoid the feminine pronoun when I’m writing about countries; although – in my own defence – I am careful to write ‘his or hers’ if that’s what I mean.) If feminists, like socialists, would discipline these excesses, I’m sure they would garner more support. Then they might lead us all out of this Trump- and Brexit-inspired darkness, into a more egalitarian and democratic light. Men: put away your prejudices against being ‘dominated’ by women – it’s not like that. Let the women take over now. You’ve had your chance. I’m behind them.

I have to say that I was inspired and emboldened to this conclusion by attending the ‘Vigil’ I posted about earlier outside the Law Courts –  https://bernardjporter.com/2017/02/16/alice-wheeldon/ last Friday, to mark the centenary of the (flawed) conviction of the pacifist and feminist Alice Wheeldon – a ‘shero’ if ever there was one. The purpose was to secure a posthumous pardon for her. Many of the demonstrators came in Edwardian dress, including old suffragette sashes. It was on BBC TV, though only for the East Midlands. Here’s an account from the BBC’s website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-39238029. About 60 turned up, some from Australia, where her descendants emigrated (I don’t blame them), and including one of Alice’s great- (I think) granddaughters, very ill with cancer. It was an inspiration from the past.

But maybe nature is righting the balance just now. Between us, Kajsa and I have eight grandchildren, seven of whom are girls. Only a small sample, I appreciate; but still…

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