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I first penned this blog post back in 2013, when I came face-to-face with my feminism and my desire (or, perhaps more accurately, my need?) to be a champion for the rights of women and girls.
Yesterday, a man (Donald Trump… you might have heard of him?) was sworn into the Oval Office in the United States, both undermining and threatening to dismantle these fundamental rights.
America. Land of the free… doesn’t feel so “free” right now. And not just for women and girls. For the LGBTQ community. For immigrants. For people of all different races. And many of these identities overlap. It’s intersectional, really.
And, so today, in recognition of this new President and his less-than-diverse administration who are looking to regress rather than progress, people around the world, on every continent, are taking to the streets in an effort to protect these rights so that “free” isn’t just a nice national tagline, but a legacy moving this country (and others) into the future.
March 5, 2013
*Note that I’ve updated the blog post to reflect these current times on January 21, 2017.
This past week, I’ve been asked the same question by three different sources, phrased three different ways, requiring three different (but ultimately identical) responses.
I thought, given that I’m so *passionate* about the issue-at-hand, I would address it here. So what is the question, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’m about to go there, anyway…
Earlier this week, a close friend inquired, much to my surprise, “Why women?” Huh, I thought? WHY WOMEN? “Why are you interested in women, specifically?”she questioned. “Why not human beings, more generally?”
Later in the week, the question was once again put forth in a job application: “Tell us more about your commitment to feminist principles.”
And this morning, I woke up to find a “mention” on my twitter page: “@CulturalCurator, what issues and social causes are you passionate about?”
There it was again!!! Staring me in my face. Probing. Begging me to think about it. Waiting for a response. So I’ll answer the question, here and now, once and for all. Or… at least I’ll attempt to.
What issues and social causes are you interested in? Easy. Women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality, and civic engagement.
Speak to my feminist principles? Well, I’ve always been a feminist, since I was a young girl. It even says so in my Grade 8 yearbook. Last Will and Testament: “A Feminist Protest Sign”. OK. I added the “feminist” part in, but you get the picture. It also said I was most likely to become an “aspiring actress”. So far, that’s been a no-go. What did my Grade 8 peers really know, anyway? As it turns out, a lot…
I read somewhere, not so long ago, that “feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” How true that is. And just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men. On the contrary. I love men. In fact, I think they’re 50% of the solution to all that is wrong with our world.
Which brings me to my friend’s question: why women specifically? It was an interesting question. I thought the answer had been obvious all along, so I’ll address it here as best I can. Women are still persecuted against, all the time, and all over this world. I know. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and I’ve heard the stories from their mouths.
I recently returned from Nigeria, where I was informed by one woman that, whenever she wants to say something, she is told that her husband should say it on her behalf. This woman is powerful and outspoken, anything but a wallflower, and yet her voice is diminished… only because she has a VAGINA.
Speaking of vaginas, don’t even get me started on all the girls who have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (where they are sewn up against their will so that they will be “tight” and virginal [as if they weren’t already?!] for their much older husbands-to-be) and the Girl Child (“brides” as young as five or six are sold to men old enough to be their GRANDFATHERS).
Rural women, as another example, often do much of the work (maintaining a household while also manning the farmland or walking miles and miles to fetch water from the nearest well), and receive little or none of the pay-off or accolades. They are the first to put food on the table and the last to eat. If they’re husbands want sex, even if they are exhausted from all of their daily chores, they must succumb to the demands.
In a village in India, where I was leading a workshop with men and women, the men informed me that they beat their wives regularly so they wouldn’t stray. “But you let your cows roam free and they return to you. Why not your wives? Don’t you think if you treat your wives and daughters with respect and care, that they will return to you, as well?” I cringed at the thought of comparing women to cattle, but as it turns out, even cattle(!) benefited from more freedom and compassion.
And for those of you who say to me, “Jackie, it might be that way over there, but over here, in the ‘developed ‘ world, we’re managing just fine”, I’ll challenge you on that. Because, sadly, we’re not fine. Not at all. So long as women’s shelters continue to exist (and they do in hoards), we’re not fine. Are men abused by women? Yes. But please don’t try and tell me that we can even compare, because we can’t. The numbers speak for themselves.
Until corporations stop hiring men over women for senior positions (I saw this first-hand with an international company I worked for) because women can’t find a way to be both moms and boardroom betties, when, in fact, women are better multitaskers than any men I know, and until the media stops feeding (errr, perhaps ‘feeding’ is the wrong word) us bullsh**t about our bodies and how we, as women, are supposed to look, we will not BE fine.
So that is why I focus on women. Because I am a women. Because I love women. And because I think we need women – healthy, focused, strong women! – around to make the changes we so desperately require in this world. And, like I said, men make up 50% of the world’s population and we need them too – to respect, support, and love us women. We need to teach our fathers, our sons, and our brothers everywhere that it is never ever okay to lay their hands on a woman (no matter how she looks or what she is wearing), to buy or sell a woman, to take ownership of a woman.
We are not yours to touch. We are not yours to buy or sell. We are not yours to control or own.
I want women to be able to walk down the street – any street – and not feel afraid. I want women to assume high-level positions, whether it be in politics, business, or elsewhere. I want women’s voices to be acknowledged and their contributions (of which there are many, many, many!) recognized and celebrated the world-over.
I don’t want the individual holding the highest position of power (perhaps in the world!) to think that it’s okay to disrespect women. I don’t want him to think it’s forgivable to make sexist remarks, to call women “fat”, “pig”, “dog”, “slob”, “disgusting animal”, or any other “choice” terms, and get away with it. I don’t want him to “joke” about dating his own daughter or about “grabbing women by the pussy”. It’s not “locker room talk”. It’s disgusting, degrading, and completely unacceptable. It undermines not only women but humanity, altogether.
What I do want is for him to muster his power to protect our rights (not take them away!).
I’m passionate about women. And I always will be. And I’m not the only one, as is evidenced by the incredible turnout of humans in countries around globe, who are marching today because there is so much on the line in the fight for fundamental rights and representation. Today, the world is not only watching; it’s walking.
Thank you, world.