I began the year by recording an essay for the BBC World Service’s Weekend programme. Merriam-Webster had named “feminism” its word of the year, and the dictionary said the term was its most-searched for word in 2017. I wrote a personal reflection on my fears and hopes for my daughter, who was born in March 2017, a year marred by bitter setbacks for women, but also a period of renewed activism.
I expanded on the theme in a column for New Statesman to mark Donald Trump’s first year in office.
It fills me with bitter sadness that my daughter, my first child, was born under a president who is an open misogynist, who brags about sexual assault, who responds to criticism with sexist slurs and whose policies will harm large numbers of women. I had not believed that Donald Trump could be elected, in part because I had long harboured an optimism that with each new generation the world was becoming a more progressive and tolerant place. How naive and complacent I was.
My daughter was born last March and I marvelled at the determination with which she rooted for milk and gripped my finger, and then learned to hold her head up, to propel herself forward, to stand tall. And I found myself worrying: when would someone first make her feel smaller because she is a girl? When will someone first make her feel vulnerable, first make her scared? How can I prepare her for the demeaning remarks and furtive gropes that women have learned to laugh off and shake off, and the incidents we just can’t? How can I teach her when to be fearless, and when to trust her fear?My daughter was one of four million babies born last year in Trump’s America, the most dangerous country in the developed world to give birth. The US maternal mortality rate is the highest in the OECD – and rising. Childbirth kills between 700 and 800 women a year here. The US spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country, but funds are unevenly distributed. In a medical system that regularly overlooks maternal health, women of all classes and ethnic backgrounds die from preventable complications, but the inequalities are stark: black mothers are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers.
You can view the read the rest of the column here.
As the fate of America’s 800,000 Dreamers remains uncertain, I interviewed three undocumented young people whose lives have been transformed by Daca, and who are now campaigning for a clean Dream Bill. My New Statesman piece will be online shortly.