Sometimes — often — I wish I could be a man for a day. I honestly believe that it must be as different as different can be. What must it feel like to be born into the most powerful place of privilege in the world? To walk out of your house each day knowing that, in all likelihood, no one is going to talk down to you or hiss or catcall or roll their eyes down your body as if you were a particularly appetizing treat just waiting to be unwrapped and devoured? To know that no stranger is going to call you “baby” or “little girl” or “princess” during the course of a normal conversation?
It was International Women’s Day this week, and although I kind of dropped the ball on having a post ready, I think it’s worth posting one late. Why do we still have these days anyway? Why do we have Black History Month or Labor Day or Veteran’s Day? I’m not trying to downplay the importance of any of the groups these days are supposedly commemorating. Quite the opposite — there shouldn’t be one day a year to remind us to value the roles black people or vets have played in our country and the world; it should be something we strive to value and remember every day. These pseudo-holidays are consolation prizes, the power structure’s way of pretending it hasn’t systematically ignored and undercut the needs of these social groups. Women’s Day? That’s a fucking joke. Think about this for a second: why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?
Women make up over half the world’s population and yet we are consistently valued less than men. I don’t hate men in any way. That whole man-hating feminist trope is passé. But I do hate that my rights are constantly under threat by the international patriarchy. I hate the fact that both the country I was born in and the country I have chosen to live in teach women how not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape. I hate the fact that there are men who see my confidence, both sexual and otherwise, as a threat to their masculinity, who see my tendency to wear clothes that sometimes show my legs or my shoulders or a moon-slice of my stomach as an invitation to lewdness and eye-fucking. And what I truly hate is the fact that somewhere, far beneath my confidence and surety and independence, in the deep, dark place where we keep the things we hate to admit even to ourselves, there is a tiny piece of me that urges me to adhere just a little more closely to the feminine mold society has soldered for me because one day, somewhere, a man might do me harm, might subject me to violence because of the woman I’ve chosen to be, the woman I am. I hate the fact that I know this feeling to not be ridiculous, because of the number of women I know who have been subjected to this kind of violence, and have, moreover, been made to feel ashamed or as though they bear the main brunt of guilt. I resent that the patriarchy has instilled that fear in me and in other women, even if I choose to live my life my own way in spite of this fear.
Women have the right to be whomever they want to be, the right to be with anyone, do anything, say anything, and wear whatever they want, and they have the right to do this without having to fear the way this autonomy might cause men to react to them. If they so chose, women (and anyone else for that matter) should have the right to be naked without strangers feeling that their nakedness was an invitation to be touched. I want to live in a world where any expression of self, precluding expression harmful to other beings, is accepted and, if not appreciated, tolerated. Women, like men, should be able to walk down a street without being subjected to any kind of harassment.
People tend to laugh off feminists — to label us as angry, humorless, a kind of caricature. We should be angry. Millennia have passed and we are still paid less than men, our opinions valued less, our ability to make our own decisions about our lives and our bodies questioned and often denied. People will say we have come a long way, but I say that it is not enough. It is not enough when jokes about women being in the kitchen or cleaning or being raped are still traded like currency. It is not enough when women are having acid thrown on their faces for rejecting a man, when young girls are kept out of school during their periods or are forced to marry and bear children before their bodies are ready, when women are put in jail for having natural miscarriages or stillbirths. It is not enough.
I am just one woman, one voice, with a blog read by fewer people than could fit into a modest high school auditorium. You may have noticed that I didn’t speak much about Ecuador in particular, considering this is a travel blog, but I am extremely wary of assuming that I know what other women’s lives are like, especially women from other walks of life, from cultures and backgrounds as foreign to me as mine must seem to them. But I believe that if each gender-identified woman could find her unique platform and fill it with her individual voice, telling her own inimitable story, I think we as a social group would find that we have enough power to make the world into exactly the kind of place we would all deserve to live in.