Below is my contribution to an article published by The Guardian last Friday in recognition of International Women's Day. The full article, found here, features writers who were in the Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism anthology, a full review of which can be found here.
At this time in women's history I feel proud and sad. Not angry. Proud because despite what is done to us, we show an almost super-natural strength. I do not care if women call themselves feminists or not. I care, beyond language, about women's self-determination, freedom, unity, justice and joy. There has always been a global women's movement and it has many names and many faces.
But I feel sad that whenever we speak about what is done to us, we are told that we are liars trying to get innocent men into trouble out of malice. It is rapists, harassers, exploiters, bullies, discriminators, stalkers, leerers and jeerers – plus the millions of silent men who do nothing to challenge their brothers – who act from malice. I wish they did not excuse, defend, even reward the perpetrators. I wish women had not absorbed all this loathing and turned it towards themselves and other women.
We have achieved some things in some places, but our position is still tenuous and can be revoked. The fundamentals have not changed, close to home and far from home. I am tired of how much we are despised – and horrified by how transparent this is. Freedom, justice and equal representation are withheld from us with laughable excuses. I wish, after thousands of years of abuse and exploitation, cultural contempt and casual dismissal, marginalisation and belittlement, for things to change. I wish people believed what we say about the things we experience and witness. We are telling the truth.
There is now an understanding that rape, domestic violence, harassment, sexual exploitation and labour exploitation happen endemically, not only in times and places of macho war-mongering but also in peacetime and seemingly happy societies. These issues are brought to the debating table when the men in power chat among themselves about what is best. But they have not actually ceased happening.
There is one thing that could halt the oppression of women virtually overnight. There is one thing that could save us from exploitation, from fear, from anger, from violation, objectification, baiting, mockery. The perpetrators could stop.