“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I have held up on writing this post for a while now because it’s a nasty one. For days I end up frustrated by all the stories, the articles highlighting this vile, the unbelievable treatment and hatred against the bearers of the world. Using a female’s gender against her! It is truly hard to fathom.
Just so we’re on the same page, I’m going to highlight the definition. Misogyny is hatred or contempt for women or girls. It is a form of sexism used to keep women at a lower social status than men.
Women who reject subordination are punished by misogyny. Examples of punishment are sexual harassment and violence against women which includes domestic violence, and in its most extreme forms, femicide and misogynist terrorism. Misogyny also operates through coercion and psychological techniques aimed at controlling women, and by legally or socially excluding women from full citizenship. In some cases, misogyny rewards women for accepting an inferior status.
I can affirm that it’s tough to be a woman at times because of how intensely misogyny permeates all aspects of our culture. I was especially raised in a society that saw women as the donkeys of the home, sweating their hands off, cooking, cleaning, catering for the children and the whole household as the men sat and laughed and asked for Chai every so often. All this in the name of “preparing the girl to be a good wife in future”. There are few things I dearly despise, and this makes the list.
This is not a case of men against women or women against men, we need men to be allies and to stand in solidarity with women with regard to the very important issue of misogyny and violence against women and girls. We need them to listen so that they can learn from our lived experience and then stand with us, speak out and take action.
Women of all ages have been targets of extremist violence and terrorist acts including the use of sexual violence and slavery, kidnapping and targeted killings to undermine their essential freedoms and rights.
These terrorist attacks that target women and girls cause ripples that curtail the freedoms of women not directly affected by the attacks. Heck, I live some days terrified of what might happen to me when I pass a bunch of men. We know how it starts, by limiting or offensively commenting on the choices of clothes women wear.
We know that women are more likely to experience domestic abuse, are more likely to be subjected to coercive control (those abusive actions that restrict personal freedom and instil fear) and are more likely to be seriously physically and mentally harmed or killed. I WILL NOT EVEN BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE WOMEN IN AFGHANISTAN.
We want to be part of a world where everyone has access to experiencing freedom, joy, authenticity, empowerment, and inclusion. We must talk about this more openly.
I read this piece by Malvika Dangwal
‘A journey of unlearning’ and it was exactly what I needed to say so I conclude by linking it below. Unlearn and learn to be better.
“When I was young, just starting to understand the world
I learnt to dislike features of my body
I wanted to be a particular height
Not too long, not too short either
Just exactly like the image
Of the princesses
I yearned for an hourglass body image
I wanted my eyes to be blue
My skin colour fair
That’s the shade I had coloured all the pretty barbie girls in
In all my colouring books since kindergarten
Of course, that was my definition of beautiful
I learned wanting to be soft-spoken
Even when my mind revolted
I was bustling with so many ideas
How could I learn to subside the storms in my soul?
But you see, I was taught to be a ‘good’ girl
And ‘good’ girls didn’t answer back
They didn’t raise their voices
‘Good’ girls tolerated, they kept quiet
They suffered so they could keep their societies together
They sacrificed their careers, everything they stood up for
When it was time for marriage
My society idealized obedience and conformity
I grew up not wanting to be happy or ambitious or successful
Instead, my teenage was a lot about being the perfect ideal of beauty
Looking down upon girls who were comfortable with sexuality
It took education, awareness, unlearning, years of it
To dismantle it bit by bit
To consciously unlearn the misogyny I had internalised
Before I could even begin to appreciate the idea
Of loving myself
I learnt that bodies are different
To decide that I won’t let
The hourglass image become my truth
That I could be successful and ambitious
And not feel guilty for it
It took time to be comfortable in my skin
To love the brown on my hands and legs
To be comfortable with hair on my body
To unlearn the need to wax
Whenever I wanted to wear shorts
To be comfortable in wearing a swimsuit
To unlearn that how I dressed
Was a label on how I wanted to be looked at
To take a stand
To speak up
To be a feminist not just in my head
But especially in settings where casual misogyny
To call out sexism in my circles
To stand for what I believed in
It took time, a lot of it
And I’m still unlearning at 20
So I share this story today
With every young girl out there
Who will be told that her bust needs to be a particular size
Her skin a shade fairer
Who’ll be given a label meter
To judge her skin colour
I say this to you
When they attempt to give you the rulebook
The Dos and Don’ts on how to feel about your body
I hope you chuck it in the bin
And I hope you let no one tell you
Who you can and cannot be
It’s a big wide world out there
And it’s all yours to be
I hope amidst all this noise
That gets louder every day
You still listen to your voice
That tells you, it loves you
And roots for you, throughout the way.”