What a week to be a woman
TW: mild references to racism, sexual assault and harassment.
How are you?
I think this is really important to ask this week, after an amazingly intense week to be a woman. I am a passionate feminist. I believe in equality between men and women. I believe that I should be able to live the same life as my twin brother.
My twin brother is one of the best things about my life. He is funny, kind and caring. But, having a twin brother has really highlighted gender inequalities to me. I have been aware of differences within society for many years, but this week has shone a new light on the everyday lives of women.
Firstly, we had International Women’s Day on Monday. It was a day to shout about all the fantastic women who have inspired us. Many people posted about modern feminist figures, such as Michelle Obama, Oprah and Emma Watson. Some people talked about their mums, their grandmas, sisters, aunties and friends. I posted about the women in my dance school. My dance school is headed by a very strong woman, and I spoke about how, as the eldest competing dancer, I want to inspire the younger female dancers to believe in their potential.
On Tuesday the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview was aired. Oprah (what a woman) did a fantastic job of interviewing the pair about their experience before, during and after leaving Royal service. Meghan spoke bravely and honestly about the racism she experienced within the Royal household, although the members involved were not named. I found it interesting to hear her thoughts around being silenced by the institution - which is astounding coming from a woman who has always been outspoken and advocated for the rights of women. She protested against a sexist TV commercial when she was 11 years old and has continued to fight for female rights - she even was a guest speaker at the 2019 International Women’s Day conference.
A lot of the aftermath of the interview commented on her bravery to speak up and admit she faced mental health struggles, which led her to suicidal thoughts. The next morning on GMB, Pierce Morgan had the audacity to claim that she was lying. It turns out he was not alone. As my social media feeds, and particular Twitter feed, was consumed with positive comments about Meghan’s bravery, the comments underneath these posts were cruel. Many suggested that she was lying, she was acting, or that she was simply craving attention. A year on from the death of Caroline Flack and the subsequent #BeKind campaign, have we learnt nothing?
We started Monday praising women for their bravery to speak up, and then spent Tuesday telling the woman who did, that she was lying. That her words are not valid. That she, in turn, does not deserve our sympathy. There will be people sat at home listening to their family and friends undermining Meghan’s bravery, as their son/daughter/wife/husband/friend is struggling themselves. We wonder why people do not speak up? We wonder why suicide is an epidemic?
Then on Wednesday/Thursday/today, my timeline is filled with the assumed murder and disappearance of Sarah Everard. On Wednesday 3rd March, Sarah was walking home from her friend’s house after an evening socialising. She never arrived home. This has sparked massive fear amongst the female population of England. Sarah was doing all the things that we consider ‘right’. She walked along well lit main roads. She was wearing bright clothes. She was wearing flat shoes. She spoke with her boyfriend so he knew her plans. She was walking at a reasonable time. All she was doing was walking home.
Since Wednesday, my timeline has been flooded with women sharing their experiences of being fearful on the streets. We have shared the precautions we go through, that our boyfriend, brothers, male friends and father’s wouldn’t even consider. I have heard agonising stories of sexual harassment, assault and attack. I have read countless stories of women who are fearful to walk alone at any time of the day. 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment. Almost every woman you know will have their own story.
My Twitter has also been full of people saying that these women are exaggerating, that we shouldn’t walk alone, that it’s #notallmen - a premise I fully believe, but whilst nobody seems to know these men, 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment, so these men must be out there. They must be someone’s friend/colleague/cousin/brother/father. I have read posts and comments which are insinuating that these women are lucky if this happens to them. That we are not worthy to occupy the streets and to keep ourselves safe we should either stay indoors or have a man accompany us.
It is easy to say stay off social media, but what good will that do? These women sharing their lived experiences need an audience to hear them. If we all stayed off social media or focused on other things then their courage will be for nothing. How can we inspire change if we do not listen? Ignoring the problem will not solve it.
‘Is silence not an act of violence too?
I have been aware for a long time that most men respect another man more than a woman. I am not the only young girl on a night out who couldn’t feel like they could say no to a man’s advances, but knew they’d go away if I said I had a boyfriend. In their eyes, my imaginary boyfriend has more rights than I do.
So safe to say, by today I am an angry feminist. I am tired of the media which has surrounded female rights for the last week. These stories online, although inspiring and brave, are also upsetting and triggering. I do feel scared to walk the streets of a night. I do take precautions that my boyfriend and brother do not even think about. I am not too sure what I wanted to come from this blog (I was meant to be writing about social media engagement this week), but I felt like I had to do something. Say something. Help in some way.
Listen to the stories of the women in your life. Ask how you can help. Call out your friends for their sexist jokes. I am a 26 year old woman. I run a business. But I’m fearful for most of the time I am outside alone. We, as a society, can change this. We can make this better for future generations. We can inspire change. But it will be uncomfortable, hard and challenging.
I hope everyone out there is okay. Let’s enjoy Mother’s Day on Sunday and work together to make the world more equal place. My wish is that one day my daughter (if I am lucky enough to have one) is safer than I am.
One tired feminist x