This time it’s personal

When I read the news of Trump’s election I cried. I didn’t just cry a little bit, I cried so much that my husband had to take our two-year-old son to another room. I felt devastated, sad, and angry. Now, a few days on, mostly the anger has staid. But I am still shocked to the core.

Why has this election result affected me so much? I don’t live in America, and the consequences of Trump being president will take a while to trickle down to the world, or to affect my life directly.

In fact, this election result affected me even more than the outcome of the Brexit referendum. While, this, too, made me cry (actually Brexit was the first time I cried about politics ever), and feel upset, and angry, and scared, it did not affect me to the same extent as Trump’s election did.

So, why? And why have these two occasions both affected me much so more than any political event before?

Well, I think I know why.

First, these two outcomes challenge everything I feel I stand for. They challenge fairness, equality, kindness, and looking out for others. But they also dismiss the truth, scientific evidence, and expert opinion and knowledge.

But, I think both Brexit and Trump’s victory affect me more than any other political outcome because this time, it is actually about me.

I am an EU citizen living and working in the UK.

I am a woman.

I am a scientist.

This referendum and this election are about me.

I have never considered myself different, or less, than other people. But these two outcomes give the message that I should not be working in the UK, that I can be dismissed and groped because I am a woman, and that I don’t have to be taken seriously as a scientist working on climate change.

So there. And this makes me wonder whether this is how many, many coloured, or LGBT, or disabled people, or other minorities, have felt numerous times before. Or, in fact, whether they might feel like this continuously.

So I’ve made a decision.

I know academia isn’t the most diverse work place. While it is inherently international, it is also extremely white and male-dominated. The representation of minorities is shocking, and there is a strong gender imbalance in many scientific fields. There seems to be an under representation of LGBT people. And I know very few disabled people who work in academia.

So, I am going to do everything I can to promote diversity and equality in my group, in my university, and in academia in general. While I hope I am a reasonably kind person, I am going to do my best to be kinder, and to encourage especially people from minorities to work and succeed in academia. And I am going to challenge every practice that is ignoring or underrepresenting minorities.

That’s the least I can do. Who’s with me?

5 thoughts on “This time it’s personal

  1. Hi,

    I follow your blog because I’m really interested in soil & sustainability (I work for Friends of the Earth), I’m also deeply committed to women’s equality & empowerment (I helped produce Friends of the Earth’s book ‘Why women will save the planet’). I also have an interest in the struggles and campaigns from history.

    Like you I’m shocked to the core by Brexit and Trump, but especially Trump. But what we can learn from history is every campaign has it set-backs. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and re-galvanise the movement for equality & sustainability.

    So hurrah to you, and good luck. You won’t be alone.


  2. When I read non-British-born people’s perspectives of the UK after Brexit, I feel ashamed and responsible, event though I voted to remain and was as horrified as anyone else (I also cried for the first time about politics). All I can say is that as far as I am concerned, we are lucky to have intelligent, dynamic and successful people – women! – such as you in this country and I hope as many as possible remain.

  3. I’m with you. I’d add students and colleagues from less financially secure backgrounds, who find the academic playing field decidely tilted against them, and the inequality they suffer is less obvious when you read a CV.

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