Do you remember when you first became aware that you were a female and that the differences between the sexes ran deeper than the psuedo science the magazines covered?
I do know that voicing my opinion about the difference in equality is something I’ve got more comfortable about as I’ve grown older. This is down to two things 1. Anger and 2. Knowledge.
Where we are in the western world, we are in many ways lucky, the battle we have here isn’t for the vote, or for the right to work. The battle here is in the finer details. There’s a law against paying me differently to a man for the same job, but it isn’t always enforced. There’s a law against sexual and violent abuse against women, but it doesn’t stop a guy from shouting at me in the street. It doesn’t stop a guy from seeing me as a sexual object. It just tells him not to act on it.
What I worry about is that we’ve put laws in place and think that they can substitute for education. We don’t need to teach guys to treat women correctly because there is a law about it. We don’t need to teach girls to grow up demanding equality, because there is a law in place. It’s a given that they’ll get that equality.
Except of course when it isn’t.
The other week, I was working with a group of young people, that were mainly made up of girls. I asked them about feminism and whether or not they considered themselves to be feminists. I asked the whole group this. There response was… What is feminism?
Now I know that feminism has many different definitions and branches, but I gave them my answer. I told them that to me feminism simply meant equality for everyone. They could get on board with equality that was fine, but they didn’t see the need to label it, because in their young eyes, they thought they already had it.
Later that week, I was walking down the main road on which I lived, and a car slowed down, so that the guys in it could yell something at me. I didn’t bother taking my earphones out, this happens way too much on this street for me to pay any attention to their words anymore. Instead I scowled at them, and was glad it was broad day light. 20 meters down the street they slowed down again, to do the same thing to 2 girls who couldn’t have been any older than 15. They didn’t scowl they giggled.
This got me thinking. For these two young girls this kind of attention is new. In some ways to them, it’s a sign that they are growing up, that they are becoming sexually aware and that others are aware of them sexually. I hesitate to use the word flatering, but it is certainly confusing for them. They were together and it was broad day light, and the car was gone as soon as it was there, but there giggle undid any effect my scowl might of had on the guys in the car.
I didn’t stop and speak to the girls. I maybe should have. I maybe should have asked them, in the big sisterly way that I felt towards them, how that kind of behaviour made them feel. And if it would have made them feel the same if they had been on their own, and it had been getting dark.
Maybe in teenage brovado they’d have shrugged me off, but maybe it would have started to make them think. To think about whether the law is a preventative measure or a defensive one. Whether they really do feel equal, and whether they are happy with their equality, and therefore not prepared to fight for other peoples.
We don’t need to go in to schools screaming and yelling. Regardless of how angry stuff like that makes us. When has that ever worked with teenagers. Instead we need to promote knowledge. We need to start those whispers, set off their brains thinking. Both young men and women, equality isn’t a law, it’s a way of life, and a behaviour.
Not so much ‘I am woman hear me roar’ but ‘I’m a girl, and one day I will be confident enough to do more than whisper my opinions.’
But the sooner those whisperings start, the better.
Live life & feel equal x