Fundamentalism is coming for us – and women, as always, will be first | Suzanne Moore

Ohen Justice Anthony Kennedy announced last week that he would step down from the United States Supreme Court, meaning Donald Trump could replace him with a more conservative judge, there was strong inspiration. “Hello, Gilead,” said American women on Twitter. Since the TV success of The Handmaid’s Tale, Gilead – the society in Margaret Atwood’s novel where fundamentalist Christians stripped women of all their rights – has become shorthand for the end of progress.

Is The Handmaid’s Tale a prophecy or a documentary? Or just another dystopian fantasy that gives hysterical women who are fine to complain about? (Yes, I’m anticipating the “Calm down, honey” comments this will cause, because calming down is the last thing women need to do right now.)

Like many, I abandoned the second series. One was enough. Reality is enough. In an abstract way, I’m interested in finding out how Gilead was formed and where the resistance might be, but I can’t stand any more scenes of torture. If I want to watch terrified women, I can watch the news.

We are told that we have come a long way and that we are free. We look at other parts of the world, where women are not allowed to vote or dance, and we see ourselves as modern and liberated. But all of our “freedoms” are fairly new, from being able to get a mortgage to being protected from rape within marriage.

The narrative of progress is one that too many liberals imbibe, but it is false. Progress is not linear. In many areas that we look to when measuring gender equality, we have not made progress in the past 10 years – income, political engagement, education. Almost a fifth of women over 75 are at risk of living in poverty. Our legislators include people who are against abortion under all circumstances, like Jacob Rees-Mogg. The government is supported by the fundamentalist DUP, which is not interested in promoting women’s rights.

So while I have celebrated the achievements of the Irish referendum on abortion, the global situation for women is not great. Sex trafficking, or sex slavery, is on the rise. All over the world – whether in Turkey, Pakistan or Iran – religious fundamentalists view women’s rights as the embodiment of secularism and women are punished for it.

When people talk about the rise of fascism or the rise of Gilead, it’s in the present tense. The abduction of children from their families; the murder of journalists; border patrols in Maine who stop cars and ask drivers “Where were you born?” ; the idea that Judge Clarence Thomas could overrule Roe v Wade and ban abortion in some states are more than warning signs.

In Atwood’s book, an environmental catastrophe causes infertility and leads to the treatment of women as slaves, but it also highlights the precarious nature of democracy. Can it be torn away as toddlers are torn from their parents?

Look around you and there is already a kind of desensitization to what is happening, a moral relativism that never sees women’s rights as the first rights under attack. Upstairs from my house is an ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish school, which has been deemed inadequate by Ofsted because it censors books, does not teach sex education to girls and does not mention homosexuality. This is how all fundamentalisms – Christian, Jewish, Islamic – merge: in the denial of female autonomy. That’s what Gilead is.

The sun is shining and some women have never had it so good – so maybe you don’t want to think about all that right now. I don’t blame you. But maybe you should. While you still can.

Without Eddie Mair, I have little reason to listen to Radio 4

“His genius consists in giving space to others”… Eddie Mair. Photography: BBC

Oh no, not Eddie Mair? He left the BBC after 30 years to go to LBC and now I will have little reason to listen to Radio 4.

I threw away the smugfest that is the Today program years ago – I like to think I was ahead of the curve – and never understood a single thing that happened in the Archers , because I have a strange form of class dyslexia; they can speak Serbo-Croatian as well. I also don’t like hordes of left-wing “comedians” preaching to laughing converts.

But Mair, who will host his latest edition of PM, the station’s flagship newspaper, on August 17, is a master I would listen to all day. You can feel the side eye coming out of the radio. His ability to find all but the worst news mildly amusing is a joy, and yet when the bonhomie evaporates, he’s deadly. Boris Johnson is just one of many politicians he has treated with appropriate disdain.

Her genius is in giving space to others, which is fearless in a time of constant interruption. He lets others talk and he listens. Many will remember Steve Hewlett’s touching and moving interviews, but it’s with everyday people that he shines, because he lets them shine. It’s a gift, to talk to someone who is sick or grieving and let them talk at their own pace.

If it’s true that he’s leaving because he won’t take a pay cut, I find that even sadder. The idea that for women to have equal pay, men have to take pay cuts is completely silly. It is bound to pit talents against each other and it sends the message that for women to be treated equally, men must suffer. It’s not a policy; it’s the panic.

Every year, I pay my fee with more and more reluctance.

My Daughter Dropped a Clanger About Kids TV

The Clangers
“I loved the solitude of these strange worlds”… The Clangers. Photography: BBC/Coolabi Productions/Smallfilms/Peter Firmin

My daughter was cleaning her room recently and threw away something I gave her many years ago. “You can’t throw that away,” I said when I saw a Clanger in the pile. It didn’t mean much to her, but to me? Well, like Bagpuss, it’s Proustien, that little pink musk-nosed thing. Peter Firmin, who created these creatures, has passed away. The Clangers lived on another planet and ate green soup prepared by the Soup Dragon. They spoke only in whistles. The music grew on the trees. They lived with Froglet and Glow Buzzers. I loved the solitude of these strange worlds. Some say children’s television was made back then by people who had taken too much acid. Maybe. But I say keep your CGI; it’s real magic.

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