The answer to this question is quite simple: because we are forgetful. And, in some cases, completely and utterly ignorant.
So here’s the thing. When I was learning at school as a little girl (a white little girl, western culture, european by the way), I thought (in part because that was what I was being taught) that everything had been conquered. History books and classes told me about the times when women weren’t allowed to go to school, delegated to the domestic world learning how to sew, to cook, to clean instead of how to read, to do math. I was in horror when learning how hard it was for women to be recognised as citizens with the right to vote. I was in awe and idolized the many women who fought to earn that right.
I was a little girl going to school and succeeding at it. But yet I was growing up in a very sexist society within a patriarchal family. The male figure, my dad, was the authority, the one bringing food to the table. My mum was a home stay mum, delegated to the roles of motherhood, the domestic sphere completely under her supervision. Somehow, I didn’t think that was strange because I was so used to it. As a little girl I knew I didn’t want to believe like that when I grow up, but never questioned the order of things. I did crave for independency from a very young age. But, stupidly enough, because I was being told everything had been conquered, I thought it would be easy and simple.
Oh well, spoiler alert – it was not and it isn’t. Due to simple fact that I do not possess male genitalia hanging between my legs. The simple little things started to annoy me – apparently, I don’t smile enough and have too many opinions. Showing a serious face meant I was rude and thought too much of myself. When debating about any theme, speaking out my mind, I was told off – why was I acting out so angry, so hysterical? While a man with an opinion arguing is considered an assertive intelligent being, a woman doing exactly the same was just being irrational.
Walking by myself down the road, no matter night time or day time, what I had put on that day, meant (and means) catwalking and sometimes stalking. When I complained I was told to just ignore. Are you telling me I don’t have the right to walk by myself like an independent human being and not like a doll to entertain the stares and disgusting teasings of men?
At work, things got complicated. As a young woman, I was seen as a threat to older women peers while men had a hard time to learn I was as or more competent than them. When I had to manage a guy that was older than me, he thought the way to deal with her younger female manager was with flirtatious jokes – spoiler alert, I was accused of being a bitch when I told him to back off and do his job properly.
So I soon started to realise that even though we could now vote, have an education and even apply for jobs and think about getting a career, life for me and all women was far from being easy or equal to the lives of men (and here I stress out I’m speaking about straight white men). Women are criticized for being too fat, too thin, too eager, too submissive, too ambitious, too serious, too naive, too sensitive or daredevil. When not wanting to have children, they are selfish and unnatural, for choosing not to get married or not to date the same thing because OH MY GOD how can a woman think she can survive without being held in the arms of a man? And who does she think she is to believe so?
I’d rather be a rebel than a slaveEmmeline Pankhurst
These are the issues and annoyance I endure on a daily basis as a WHITE, STRAIGHT WOMAN living in a WESTERN society where we are taught in school that
ALL PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN SORTED AND WE LIVE IN A EQUAL SOCIETY. The inequality only persists in those far away lands, but here everything is fine, are you not working, don’t you have a well paid job? WRONG.
We fail to realise this over and over again. Because we are forgetful and worst of all we are the best on lacking empathy. As I’m here disclosing some of the annoyances I face on a daily basis, let’s remember the below.
Still there’s no global law protecting women at work: everyday hundreds of working women face sexual harassment and violence in the workspace. Just in Europe, this so called developed continent, it is estimated that 40% to 50% of women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment at work. A lot never speak out afraid of retaliation – we pretty much live in a society that blames the victim, especially if she is a woman.
Speaking on blaming or shaming the women – in Portugal, where I’m from, 3 out of 5 women are suffering or have suffered of domestic violence or abuse. Not to mention that in average, women earn less 18% than men in the same roles. And this in a country that, according to the OECD, falls in fifth place as having the less discrimination against women. Well, where the hell did you take those stats from? Only surveying men?
Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.Simone De Beauvoir
But let’s travel a bit farther away – at any war or crisis women and children are the most affected. Raped, mutilated, murdered, left to die with no help whatsoever. Women are used and abused as mere weapons in the wars of men.
Forgetfulness is dangerous. Lack of empathy is ignoring what makes us human. We, women, have a long way to go. Not just towards equality. But also to be good with each other – simply I have found for my sadness and despair that we, women, can be the worst enemy to one another. It still baffles me how cruel girls and women can be to each other, when that energy could be spent in support, protection and care.
Do not take any of what you have for granted. Others have fought hard to conquer what we have today – look around and remember that everyday. think about how much we still need to conquer and, about how much you have that others like you are still so far from achieving.
At the end of the day we can endure so much more than we think we canFrida Kahlo
So happy international day for all women out there. And a warmer one for all who everyday fight to break the infinite barriers created to make us feel less, to makes us look weak.