When I think back, there was an actual lightening bolt moment when I realised that I was just a ‘woman’. A mere girl. I am talking about my awakening, my realisation that gender was important, the moment I understood that in being a woman I was somehow compromised by vent of my very existence.
I grew up in a large family of girls and boys. I have a male twin, we were two halves of one whole, not a girl and a boy. There was no distinction. Gender wasn’t a thing. We were just people.
And then, in my late teens I was pointedly exposed to a “typical woman” comment. What? I was taken aback. I, as a woman, (according to the men in the immediate vicinity), couldn’t possibly understand. As a girl, it was beyond my capability.
I began to question if this opinion was evident elsewhere in life. It was. It really, really was. It still really, really is.
I was, and I still am, stunned that I had spent such a significant proportion of my life so unaware of gender politics and gender discrimination. Gradually, I began to understand that processes and incidents that I had believed to be normal behaviour were actually constrictive, oppressive, violent, sexist, abusive and wholly dysfunctional.
I began to understand that life was typically portrayed from a male point of view. I questioned my reading, examined my perception of idols, sought to understand the ways in which I functioned in the whispery shadows of stronger voices. Where was the female perspective on my life? Whilst studying history and politics at university I was surrounded by his-story, male opinion, men’s testimony, male heroes and role models. I began to see what I needed to see and made my voice louder. Frequently I had to shout to be heard. I still have to stretch high to pull myself above bullies who continue to exert their influence over women because they think they have a biological or societal right to do so.
Dangerous Women, Nasty Women, HerStory and even Damn Rebel Bitches are working hard to reassert the power that women in the past have been denied possession of. It is formidable and welcome. There campaigns are wholly necessary. I applaud their strength and beauty. We can’t rest on our laurels by thinking we’ve said enough. In so many aspects of life, we haven’t. We must march on.
Hearing Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes last night speaking so pointedly, calmly and concisely was inspirational. This was a woman, speaking for everyone, and being heard intently. Her words challenged our disfigured landscape, tearing at the epicentre of despicable crimes against humankind. Her speech isn’t just a fightback against indecency and intolerant behaviour, it also demonstrates how respect for our fellow human beings, manifested culturally, socially and politically, can be impactful in dampening the intensity of even the most deafening of voices.
That’s a starting point from which we can all begin to thrive, as women and men. I’m proud that I am able to witness this world through the eyes of a woman who is awake, politically and socially. I know that I can use my voice to ensure I stay vocal, present and strong, but I am also proud to know that together we can calmly work to make a difference. More power to us all.