International Women’s Day: a Call for Distress to be Met with Action

Flickr/Charlotte Cooper

Happy International Women’s Day guys! The celebrations this week have been wonderful, it’s lovely to feel appreciated as a woman and to know that we are moving toward a world that has gender equality. This week, Facebook and Twitter feeds have been full of beaming messages that shower women with compliments and promote women’s liberty to dress and act how they want. Just bear in mind that despite the flower and chocolate tokens of appreciation that your battle will never really end. Each woman’s experience is individual and it is important to never shove these under the rug of indifference but recognise them.

Facebook feeds have also been full of sentiments from the disgruntled male population about how no one knows when International Men’s Day is and that it is not as widely celebrated. Sadly, this seems to be true, the narrative in the media seems to be female-based because we are the half of the world that seem to be associated with oppression, but let’s not be biased – International Men’s Day is November 19th.

What should be remembered is the young 12-year-old girl who begins to hear words that, unknowingly to her, begin to defeminize her by using demeaning profanities – she hears hollers of ‘pussy’ and ‘c*nt’ without conscious regard for what they mean, like spewing the words is nothing. At 14, she begins to be sexualized and catcalled. Puberty has hit and her curves are coming in. She is in her Year 9 Science class and a boy exercises his ‘right’ to touch her under her skirt to be a ‘lad’ among his friends. Hands slide along thighs in tight lunch lines because in them morals get lost and youthful sexual explorations begin. You want to touch her so you do, it never crosses your mind to ask for permission.

She reports it to teachers, to senior teaching staff, to figures with academic ‘authority,’ but the issue is met with gaping mouths of uncertainty. The problem may be ‘addressed:’ parents called in (but even then, not always), boys told off for having wandering hands but not scolded. Instead, girls are penalised for wearing short skirts when those skirts are part of the uniform. The issue is sensitive but often just does not seem to get resolved. At 16, she will get her first boyfriend and he will love her for more than her looks, more than the enticing curve of her ass, more than the temptation of her protruding tits, for more than the easy access to her pussy under the table. He will want to love her for who she is but may not get the chance. She will shut him out because, despite his openness and respectful desire for intimacy, she has become ‘damaged goods.’ She has been touched too many times in the wrong way and when having found the strength to say something in opposition, her courage has been met with a brick wall. No action’s been taken; she’s been barred from expecting respect.

Everyone has had sexual experiences, regardless of gender, and hopefully, they have been wonderful consensual ones. But behind every man and woman, there may be an individual story of a not-so-wonderful experience. So by celebrating women we celebrate moving away from such stories becoming normalised, we move toward the courage to speak up being met with action as opposed to deafening silence.

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