How the war was won

Some of the mothers saw the writing on the wall, and quietly their daughters’ ballet and drama classes were swapped for judo, muay thai, clay shooting.

They found each other, recognising the horror in each others’ eyes, and organised, without any real end in sight, just certain that they would be stronger together. They sent emails titled ‘PTA meeting agenda’ that shared their fears, the latest infringements. They read up on InfoSec and learned about TOR and how to hide their data from the government. It terrified them to discover how hard it was, and they started passing notes. Copies of  The Handmaids Tale were stuffed in backpacks on sleepovers. Covert messages were sent in lemon-juice handwriting over laser-printed recipes.

With Nickolodeon or Disney on mute, and all other devices switched off, and in another room, they coached their daughters.

“You are a person in your own right. You are not property.”

“You do not exist solely for the pleasure of men, or to bear their children. Your body is yours, to do with as you choose.”

“You need a strong body and a strong mind to fight. Work on both everyday.”

Each day, new horrors. A woman imprisoned for having a miscarriage, a teenage girl stoned to death for being raped, a school makes girls stay home when they are menstruating. This county bans women from applying from county jobs. This town decrees women can’t be out alone after 9pm – for their ‘protection’. The President says that rape is not a crime.

Each day, small victories. A teenager thumbs her teacher’s eyes when he forces himself on her. Three women catch a rapist in the act  and livestream his confession, forcing the police to act. This town  elects an all-female council. This underground safe abortion network is established.

Some mothers taught their sons too. Others realised, broken-hearted, that it was more likely their sons would betray them than join the fight. And so they kept it secret from them, but still they fought. It was the fight that gave them hope.