Why on earth should we have a day dedicated to raising the profile of the suffrage of women, and celebrating the women who have gone before us?
Well, because we still very much need it.
I think I first became aware that my world was limited by the breasts that I didn’t even have yet when I was told I couldn’t play football. I was 8 years old. I was a football maniac. I loved nothing more than hanging out with the boys playing football, climbing trees, and going on adventures. When we played make believe in the garden I was usually a prince or a warrior. I don’t recall ever being that in to being a princess. As a small person figuring out the world I got as far as understanding that there were certain things that people thought I shouldn’t do simply because I was a girl.
I stopped playing football when we moved to a village. The school didn’t have the ‘resources’ for a girls team, and I wasn’t allowed on the boys team except for friendlies. I was herded into the netball team. Girls play netball. Boys play football.
I learned how to whistle. Man, I was so excited that I could make a tuneful noise through pursing my lips. I whistled loads. Then my nana and other people said “A whistling woman is no good to God nor Men.”
That blew my mind. What the frig was going on? I had a musical instrument in my face, and apparently God hated it, and it was useless to men. I had no idea why that had anything to do with me. I was’t whistling for them.
So, those are the ‘nicer’ ways that I was being moulded into society’s perfect vision of womanhood. No whistling, no football. Got it. This was before puberty. When you start to get boobs the external pressures get intensely worse, and become a lot darker.
I have three beautiful nieces. Who are growing up in an age where the dangers are more insidious and malignant. The dangers are hidden in the multitude of screens that we fill our homes with. We live in an age where denying reality is just part of life. We have presidents and prime ministers who construct their own narratives. We have a whole generation of young people who are growing up in a world that their parents, teachers, grandparents, and all adults, barely understand.
The advent of the internet made us all feel more connected, but as with all new forms of technology, it is so easy to corrupt by heinous human nature. The internet isn’t bad, or good. It just is. But the people, all of us, who populate it have not learned cause and consequence.
If you fill your world with images of unreal beauty, badly photoshopped thigh gaps, no pores, manga eyes etc then these children grow up in a world where society and it’s pressures are evident from the get go, and are all over the house. I could escape the extra pressure of the external forces because my time exposed to them was very limited.
I didn’t have loads of screens telling me how I should look and act in the house. Yes, I had a crappy TV and in the back end of the year 2000 we got a modem for our ancient computer. It was so slow and made such a horrible squealing noise that I only really used it for early internet research. Going to the library and reading books was faster. But, my lifestyle was mainly spent outdoors burking around with the other kids. I mean to say that it was easy to ignore and to grow fairly independently.
We still need international women’s day to consider the effects of biological oppression and how we are compounding it in various different ways. We have come a long way since posh women got to vote in 1918. Women like me didn’t get the vote for another 10 years after that. 100 years of considering our place at the table is not long enough to instigate the radical changes that we still need. I am a very lucky woman. I am strong. My personality was to gregarious. It thwarted most of the oppressions thrown at me. But, I am very aware that not all women have my stubborn streak of righteous self assuredness.
My experience is very singular, and not representative of the oppressions that still face women in other countries. My rights and liberties are currently enshrined in law, which is extremely helpful. However, there are other oppressions that are passed out by our law makers and government even now – tampon tax, the loss of maternity pay, the loss of on site and free child care, the erosion of the social care services, access to safe abortions, access to refuges, the rise of domestic violence. All of these things I would like to change for the better, so that my nieces don’t have to live in the stranglehold of the oppressions that I have outlined.
In my writing today I have avoided going in to so many things, the darker side of our oppression. The sex based harassment, the rape, the forced pregnancies, the workplace inequalities, the servitude. Mainly because it’s Sunday, and I reckon that we have enough to think about, and we should focus on celebrating. Today I celebrate all of the strong and fierce women, the nasty women, the whistlers, and the footballers. Thank you for paving the way for me, I shall continue in your stead. Now, I celebrate the young women of today, the pioneers of the digital age. We will stand together in the continued fight for equality. One day you won’t have to worry about all of this. One of these days. I hope.