After I reported on Andrea’s story, I received an email from “a white man who denies the existence of transsexuals” who told me he engages in the “fine and hilarious hobby” of posing online as a feminist activist who can provide abortion pills to people who need them in countries with restrictive laws, before turning over their details to the police.
“I SURE HOPE ROE OVERTURNING WEEK IS AS EXCITING FOR YOU AS IT WILL BE FOR ME,” he wrote.
I have no idea if this person is simply trolling me, or whether he does indeed spend his time reporting people who seek abortions to the police. But what can you do, on receiving an email like this, if not despair?
You can do what conservatives have been doing for decades in order to withdraw rights from women, LGBTQI+ people and racial minorities today: you can organise.
When I started interviewing feminist activists from around the world for Impact’s interview series earlier this year, I was driven by anger. Anger that women only represent 4% of MPs in Nigeria’s lower house of parliament; anger that trans rights were being weaponised in Australia’s election debate; anger that Turkish feminists are being threatened in the courts for the simple fact of counting femicides.
But when I speak to the women who are in the midst of these struggles, they are rarely angry. They do not despair. In fact, they are optimistic.
With a flair for understatement, Melek Arı told me this month that women were “not living through a very good period of time” in Turkey at the moment. But despite her government withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, and despite facing the shutdown of her organsiation, she was unbowed. “We can’t give up, because we have so many things to achieve,” she said.
Here’s Nigeria’s Ebere Ifendu on losing a vote to increase women’s representation in parliament: “It gave Nigerian
women an opportunity to come together more strongly as a movement … It brought about a kind of cohesion, a kind of sisterhood.”
And Jackie Turner, on transphobia in Australia: “We know that the people who are really passionate about this are a small group of anti-equality lobbyists. We also know that people who know someone well who is trans, perhaps a trans sibling or a co-worker or friend, are overwhelmingly supportive of trans equality.”
If these campaigners can maintain optimism in the face of government hostility and coordinated right-wing attacks, the least we can do is try to share it.
I am not sure I will ever be able to jettison the anger I feel at stories like Andrea’s or the people who make it their life’s work to remove the rights of women and LGBTQI+ people. I will be angry at Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, John Roberts, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump for the rest of my life. But I am going to try to give up on despair, because it does not serve me, it does not serve feminism, and it gives the bastards exactly what they want.