A week for female insouciance and calm determination, against dark times
The pictures of Saffiyah Khan, calmly smiling at a supporter of the far-right English Defence League, as they protested in Birmingham this week, have been an inspiration to us all.
The columnist Suzanne Moore has reminded us that these images are becoming iconic. She also recalls Ieshia Evans, "in a flimsy summer dress facing a line of heavily armed police", at a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge.
And also, from 2015, Jasmina Golubovska, "a woman in Skopje, Macedonia, putting her lipstick on in the middle of a crush of riot police, using a riot shield as her mirror". [All three pictures are on slideshow above.]
Female insouciance against fascism takes a special bravery. It signals to us that we all might be braver, that we can stand up and fight, that men who cannot tolerate difference cannot tolerate being laughed at either...
These visual symbols of individual women refusing to be intimidated, their stillness, their presence of mind, is stirring. Khan’s no-nonsense attitude – that another woman should not be harassed – reminds us that solidarity rests on assuming power, not giving it away. We see both the possibility and dignity of resistance, the ability of one person to make a difference. Much of life isn’t full of heroics. We are often cowed by fear, by apathy, by the idea that nothing can ever change, that the bad people are in charge, that to intervene is to risk harm or to make any situation worse.
Khan’s small act of resistance then becomes larger, so welcome, so cheering, and so monumentally cool. Rosa Parks said: “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”