I wrote a post on my tumblr for One Dress One Month in an uncharacteristic angry-mode and it has had lots of hits from all around the world since it was so topical with the International Women’s Day so I thought I should share it here. Oh, and forget the spelling mistake in the sign I’m holding. It should be ‘Obsolete’. I was far too angry and interestingly, telling people how to write ‘determined’, ‘equality’ and ‘conservative’ that I totally got the spelling for Obsolete wrong. I blame spell-check and me, of course.
Why I am angry and What I will do about it…
I’m angry because I feel let down by what I saw today. When I was 14, I was a very different person. I was shyer, very materialistic, 4 size thinner and very conscious about looking pretty all the time: everything I am not today. One day, when I was sitting with my friends, not paying attention to the class going on – I turned to them and said ‘I was watching the news last night and saw 200 people in Kashmir have been killed so far(this is June 2003) and I saw this video and it made my heart bleed. It’s so sad what’s happening. I don’t understand why the international community won’t do anything about it’ and the friends I surrounded myself with in a xenophobic teenage clique looked at me and burst out laughing. I was called ‘emo’, ‘emotional’, ‘philosopher’ and the fits of laughter continued for 5 minutes. I was understandably embrassed – and with a flush of pink turned to my best friend at that time and said ‘Why are laughing?! Don’t you care about what’s happening there?’ to which she said laughing ‘NO. It’s not happening here. To this I rebutted ‘but these are our brothers and sister’ and she said ‘No. It’s not happening in Pakistan so why would they be my brothers and sisters’ and descended into a fit of laughter with others at me. I remember feeling a sense of rage brimming slowly inside me with that teenage blood and felt dissapointed.
This is how I felt today.
So this is what happened today..
As part of the Student Council at Glasgow University(SRC), a few council members took a couple of clip boards and markers and descended on campus with our RAG Week(Raising and Giving) t-shirts to collect opinions and photographs of what students thought of equality and how the world could change for better for women. For more on the global project see http://www.weareequals.org/
I was expecting some hesitation but alot of global issues being raised by both women and men. Why shouldn’t they? These students are world-aware, conscientious and educated people who are responsible for the future of our nation. Infact, however poor students are, by the sheer fact that they are in university education makes them more educationally privileged than most children in the world.
I, a self-proclaimed almost-to-level-of-american enthusiastic woman of 22, was severely dissapointed to the point where I feel angry.
Most students we approached said the following:
‘Oh I dunno.. can’t think of something on top of my head. Not very good with thinking on the spot’ to which I would lend a hand by saying ‘think about a woman in your life that may have faced some difficulty or what about other parts of the world? something in the news you saw that made you feel it was unjust?’
‘No. I’m sorry’ which meant they didn’t want to partake in it.
‘Sorry. There is nothing that I feel that needs to be done.’ to which I would try to rattle their cage and say things like ‘That’s great that you are so happy with your life but what about other women in other countries – maybe the developing world.’ Heck- even talk about women from underprivileged backgrounds. All I got was a stony ‘Sorry’.
‘I can’t think of something now(despite my countless suggestions and attempts at making them think about women in slavery, human trafficking, labour, war, rape, third world, developed world) so can you come back later?’ which to me meant: I don’t want to be rude and say Go Away but can you please go away?
Me, Caitlin(also doing One Dress One Month) , Edith and Amy were quite surprised at the reaction. Amy, who I love to the best of my heart as a friend, was still quite optimistic about the excercise because she chose to look at the brighter picture and all the good things people said.
Caitlin and I were horrified and dissapointed that the women that turned us away seemed to be actually embarassed to be talking about gender equality in public. I could not believe my eyes. It was disheartening and frankly made me furious. What is so bad about talking about women’s rights? Is our society so back-wards that despite our banners of civilised accomplishments we find it embarassing to talk about what needs to improve for women to be on equal footing?
When I was talking to men and the ones that turned me away usually just said ‘Sorry’ and walked away sniggering with their friends as if I was embarassing myself by asking them. In their heads, they had branded me a feminist and it seems like in our day and age, being a feminist can be the most self-defeating slur you can give a woman who cares about other women.
Some women said talking about women’s rights angers them, especially in the labour force and in political quotas because it was unfair to men. Really? Women in Africa produce up to 80% of the food in Africa, but only own 1% of the agricultural land. Women perform 66% of the world’s work yet only manage to earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the world’s property. Does that seem unfair?
Let’s talk about first-world problems now..
So, the fact that Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan,Rwanda, East Timor, Uganda and Ethopia – all have higher ratios of women in parliament than Australia does not ring a bell? Women in UK management now earn £10,500 less than their male peers and that does not seem unfair?
Now, onto the topic of men having rights…
This is what hurt me the most. Just because I campaign for a better world for women does not mean I do not care about men. If I see hunger strike in Bahrain and a male citizen blogger dying in Syria- I fight for the rights of them. If I see men not having enough paternity leave- I fight for them. When fathers are unfairly penalised by courts because ‘there is no better home for a child than by the mother’ is used despite evidence of the mothers irresponsibility then I fight for them. When I say I, I mean every rational human-loving feminist in the world. Because- let me say that again- because, why would I not? It’s like saying because I campaign for women to have the right to drive or vote- it doesn’t mean I am saying that men should not be allowed to vote. Secondly, we talk about women’s rights because women are weaker in political, physicial and social power- they have less social, political and economic capital than men through centuries of dominance and patriarchy so it is natural for us to focus our attention on bringing that upto the standards of men. Note I did not say over- just said equal to. Thirdly, a better world for women is a better world for men. It is a vision of a more productive, fair and happy world where the mothers and sisters and aunts and counsins and daughters of men prosper, feel safe and happy. Is that so bad a vision? I hope that clears that problem, once and for all.
Now, let me talk about the people that did write and my observatoins about that…
For the students that were brave enough to answer, most of them had a inward reflection. There is nothing wrong about caring about what happens at home so things like equal pay, safe streets, sexist banter and sexual freedom- but there are problems away from home aswell. There should be no excuse to say: Oh, I actually can’t think of anything….
Here are my slightly angry tweets for the day... (go to the bottom to read the first)
Let’s get real. To say the world is equal is a like saying we don’t need air to breathe. It just isn’t true. There are some parts in the world where women are forced to marry early – have to get permission to travel – cannot leave their homes- can not have a mobile phone – are required to dress according to the men in their family – are killed for choosing who to marry – are forced to have children they cannot feed- are forced to chose children to take into shelter based on how likely they are to survive- treat their family with home-made medicine because poor and rich(yes, the US comes on top here) countries don’t provide them with basic healthcare- have to endure rape and gang rape for something they did not do- are sold and bought like cattle – are browsed like tea pots in a catalog for marriage – are tortured for pleasure and humiliated publicly for having a brain or beauty of their own or the freedom to do as they wish.
Life is not fair but for the educated to turn a blind-eye to it is indeed, sad.
So what am I doing about it?
1- I vent my anger here. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a very calm person by nature and doing this was alot.
2- Make as much noise as I can with this blog. If there are people in this world who don’t care about others then those who do, must shoulder the burden of making this world a better place. Do something.
2-Do what I want to do: launch my social enterprise. You can check it out here: http://www.dellchallenge.org/projects/enspirite
The question is, what will you do?
p.s. sorry if there are spelling mistakes! Wrote this in a flurry!