Guest post: International Women’s Day; though I have freedom, I don’t have equality

This (our first ever guest blog post) was written by @VivEgan41 to mark International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I did some marvelous things to mark the occasion.

I woke up next to my boyfriend with whom I have a respectful, loving relationship. I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant with any unwanted babies because I live in a country where contraception is easily accessible and affordable. If something ever goes wrong, I’ll have access to a safe abortion if that’s how I choose to handle it. I may get married one day or I may not, but it’s not something I have to think or worry about – neither my self-worth nor my financial standing will be affected by it. I don’t feel judged by society that I’m unmarried and sexually active.

I went to work in my job as editor of an online magazine. I’m lucky that, in a fraught market, I get paid a decent wage, the equal of what a man would be paid in my job. I’m extra lucky that I have the skills to do the job because my parents invested in my education, and encouraged my talents and extra-curricular activities. I’m respected by my colleagues in a workplace where there are more women than men, and they’re in roles of authority, and no-one thinks it’s weird. Harassment of any kind is about as likely as my boss doing cartwheels down the corridor (really unlikely).

After work, I bought two bottles of red wine. I don’t live in a time or a place where women drinking booze is frowned upon, or outlawed. I walked around alone, at night, without fearing for my safety, and without being judged for not being accompanied by a male relative.

I visited friends for dinner. A male friend, Jack, cooked, as he does pretty much every day. Sometimes I cook for him when we hang out. We both enjoy cooking. We usually share the washing up, or else Jack does it because he’s a bit of a neat freak, and I let him because I’m not a neat freak.

There was a game of two-a-side trivial pursuit, boys versus girls. The girls lost by a narrow margin, but no-one implied, even as a joke, that it was because women aren’t as intelligent as men (if anything it was because I’m Aussie and didn’t know the answers to questions about East Enders and the British Parliament, but who’s counting?).

OK, so I didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary yesterday, but everything I did on International Women’s Day was a small, but miraculous thing thing because I enjoy freedoms as a woman that are unprecedented, anywhere, ever. I will never forget – and I’ll always be grateful – that I’m benefiting from the struggle of the women who have gone before me. I call myself a feminist in honour of them, in honour of the women who still lack the freedoms I have, and in honour of the continuing struggle for the freedoms we’re all still striving for, because though I have freedom, I don’t have equality.

When every last woman in Saudi Arabia is allowed to drive, when no female foetus is aborted because of her sex, when no employer begrudges maternity or paternity leave, when no female politician’s worth is judged in tandem with what she is wearing, when images of women are no longer grossly misrepresented by the print media, when there is no genital mutilation, when every other day isn’t International Men’s Day, when we have equal political representation and boardroom presence, when there is no violence against women, when we have stamped out a thousand little instances of sexism and scared off a billion misogynists, then we’ll have equality.

4 responses to “Guest post: International Women’s Day; though I have freedom, I don’t have equality

  1. “when no female foetus is aborted”

    WTF?

  2. Sorry, that should say “no female foetus is aborted because of her sex”. I’m referring, of course, to the practice of sex-selective abortion that happens in some cultures that value male children above female children. It also manifests in killing and dumping female babies. Hope that has cleared things up, and we’ll change the text.

  3. Vivienne, I loved reading the description of your day. It was so refreshing to read an account from a woman who has been able to structure her life so well. I hope your account gives other women more confidence to believe that they can also have happy fulfilling lives.

    What I didn’t understand was your comment at the end, “…because though I have freedom, I don’t have equality.”

    I think most men would think your life is superior to theirs. Perhaps they would even be a little jealous of the way you have really gotten your s**t together. All power to you for that. But isn’t your life superior to most people’s?

    • Hi John, thanks for your comment and question – very though-provoking!

      I guess my response would be that the things I’ve got in my life are a result of feminism and also of privilege. But the implied flipside (ie not having access to contraception or being paid less than a man for the same job) are realities for loads of women – they happen often and could easily happen to me.

      When I say I have freedom, I mean I have personal freedom and can control certain aspects of my own life, but I don’t have equality because there are many variables that may still affect me as they affect all women (a few examples in the list in the final paragraph), which is why I regard myself as not having equality. Because women as a whole are not treated with equality.

      An important part of modern feminism is the idea of being aware of your own privilege. Just because I’m white, straight, non-disabled and middle-class doesn’t mean I’m going to stop calling for equality for women who aren’t. I hope that makes the distinction I’m going for a little bit clearer.

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