I went to my first ever protest today. I wasn't a protesting type as a student. I wrote a few letters, I signed a few petitions, but I mostly studied. Since then I have been involved – I have campaigned and fundraised, but never protested. But 2016 happened, along with Donald Trump and Brexit. I learned about echo chambers, and the elite, and experts, and post-truth. I heard about 'alternative facts'. I saw hatred for people because they were Eastern European, or brown, or female, or educated, or simply had different views. And it seemed like everything that I thought I knew about the civilised and intelligent world just wasn't true.
And all of this made me sad. It hurt, like I had lost something I cared about, or someone had pared my outer skin away. I clung onto science, because I understood that. And I grieved, as every news story showed me that the world was getting worse, not better.
But then… a friend of mine suggested I make a pussy hat for the women's march in Washington. Our hats went in the post to unknown women and I felt like I had made a tiny bit of a difference. And then someone asked me to moderate a #WomenInScience tweet chat, and I met, virtually, some amazing women.
And today, I joined a line of protestors for the first time in my life for #lasswar. We dressed in jackets, shirts and ties, wore hard hats and hi-viz jackets, and challenged the organisers and delegates of the Northern Powerhouse about the lack of women speaking at the conference and sitting on panels – of 98 speakers, only 13 were women, and all 15 speakers highlighted in the press release were men.
And we seem to have made a difference. We made it into The Guardian. The organisers opened the meeting with an apology, and some of the delegates joined the lunchtime protest. Women speakers opened their sessions with a mention of the imbalance. And the conference has promised to do better next time.
Next. The satellite #ScienceMarch in Manchester on 22 April, to support the worldwide movement of celebration of the passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. My sister is knitting me a brain hat. Anyone coming?