On International Women’s Day, I’ve been looking after my Mum for most of the day, doing mundane things like making food, doing the washing, shopping with my Dad, and thinking about packing for a weekend trip. I chose to wore red in solidarity with women across the world protesting, celebrating, and striking.
I found myself thinking of all the women who have fought hard for the rights and privileges we have today, and yet how easily those rights could (and are) sliding backwards. I have always felt that I am not free if any woman anywhere is not free, even if they are on a different continent, within a different culture, as Audre Lorde more eloquently put it.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” – Audre Lorde.
The women in my family are strong, even in their hardest moments. I am strong because they have modelled that strength for me – I am strong because their resilience and power has always been there on display, even in quiet, small moments. Granny, my Mum’s Mum, was an opinionated, yet caring, warm, and intelligent woman, and in my adulthood I appreciated her all the more. Mum is one of the strongest and most beautiful people I know, not just because I’m biased and she’s my Mum, but because she has so much warmth and love to give to people. They are giving that back to her in her illness. And it’s beautiful to see.
She has had to fight so hard for my sister and I, so we had equal access in our education, being deaf, and for anything that needed to be fought for so that we could access everything on an equal level to hearing people. It is a privilege to be here for her when she needs us the most; to care for her in the way that she deserves to be cared for. To give all the love back to her, for all the years she has supported and been there for us. Strength comes in the small, quiet moments, when you know everything is okay. Some days are harder than others, but still, we are keeping on, like generations of women and men before us.
Today I’ve also been thinking about the evolution of my own feminist education. When I discovered feminism, when the rose-tinted patriarchy-glasses came off, I was incredibly vocal, searching out a community online, starting my own feminist blog. I would critique (to my partner and family) any advert or remark that I felt was misogynist or sexist. It was like having blinders taken off – the world exposed in an alarming shade of blood red. Eventually, I saved my energy for writing and an an MA in Women’s Studies, where I developed a more nuanced, intersectional feminism. I owe my rekindled drive to write from this period in my life, when I wrote and researched my dissertation. I swallowed feminism. It took root in my heart and soul, and has remained there ever since. I don’t shout about it very often, but maybe I should shout about it a little more. I’ve written a little about it in Fragments, about this journey from girl, to woman, and feminist.
Let’s all be feminist, because we are not free until every human being has equality, every human embraces that we are a mix of masculine and feminine (and neither is inherently better than the other), and that we have the right to choose whatever gender and sexuality we wish to be without fear or persecution. I am not free until every woman or female-identified person is able to access high quality healthcare, legal advice and protection, education, and freedom of movement, freedom to choose, and freedom to be who they are. We are not free until there is an end to the idea that rape, abuse, and sexual assault is the fault of the victim. I will be an ally to women and men fighting white supremacy, and against homophobia. I will be feminist to the end of my days, because this will not all be solved in my lifetime: but I take heart at the advances that are on the horizon.
‘Visionary feminism is a wise and loving politics. It is rooted in the love of male and female being, refusing to privilege one over the other. The soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules. When men embrace feminist thinking and practice, which emphasises the value of mutual growth and self-actualisation in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.’ – bell hooks, ‘Feminism is for Everybody’.