On International Women’s Day, I am not chanting, I am not protesting, hell I almost wasn’t writing until just a few moments ago. And I want to explain why I am disgraced with myself because of it.
On International Women’s Day, I am in a cozy coworking space copyediting an academic paper with my feet perched up comfortably. How lucky. Right?
As I sit here casually and comfortably, I receive a direct message from a woman who is from another country. She tells me how she wishes she wasn’t working today. She wishes she could protest. But, where she lives and works, it is nearly impossible to celebrate or protest on International Women’s Day.
She explains that where she is from, they are fighting against femicide. The act of men murdering women for the sole sake of them being female. Even devoted activists in the country said it’s safer to not protest on this day, International Women’s Day. A day where we should be shouting from the rooftops, “I am a woman who deserves respect, recognition, equality, and safety just like any man standing next to me. If not more.”
I chose to work today because I have deadlines to make, I had a team meeting this morning, and I sure as hell didn’t want to damage my reputation. I chose to stay silent after I said “Today is International Women’s Day” in public and I saw at least one eye roll. I chose to pretend this day wasn’t happening. I have the ability to choose. How lucky. Right?
Yet, I have women counterparts on the other side of the world whose only reason they went to work and stayed silent is because of the fear that they may lose their jobs, or even worse, their lives.
You might think I stayed so complacent today because I’m comfortable in this cushy life of mine. Honestly, though, it has a lot more to do with your comfort. And that’s a complete disgrace on my part.
If I explained in explicit detail the sexual harassment I’ve endured in this short life of mine, in and out of the workplace, would you look me in the eyes? Or would you look me up and down wondering if I asked for it?
If I told you that in just 23 years of life, where only about half of those years have been spent working, I have already been sent home from a former employer because I “distract the husbands,” I cowered in my old workstation after a customer wanted to “make my p***y purr,” I cried in the bathroom of a former workplace because my boss put his hands on me out of anger, I quit a job because a coworker cornered me and tried to have their way with me.
And you know what? In comparison to so many girls and women around the world, this is nothing. I. Am. Lucky.
Yet, my stories make you uncomfortable. The privileged white professional who has a cushy life has endured enough to make you uncomfortable. No wonder you want to silence “the others.”
Of course, the women who have it a million times worse than me are the ones who can’t protest today. It’s the women who will blow my stories out the water that won’t be able to stay afloat if they try to rise up. It’s the women who would happily trade lives with mine who are afraid for their own. It’s because of those women, that no matter how “good” I have it, our fight is not over.
I’m disgraced to say that I wanted to stay quiet today because I have been trained to believe that, yes what happened to me sucks, but I didn’t have it bad enough. So, hush. I have been trained to believe that I am lucky, and in future circumstances, I won’t receive justice. So, hush. I have been trained that being brave is good, but being openly brave is shameful. So, hush. These are the lessons that have kept us quiet for so long. Because with silence, “people” aren’t uncomfortable. So, just hush, hun. Okay?
No. No more. I’ve finally begun to put my foot down and push back.
The sad reality is if we don’t share our traumatic experiences, or at least voice our opinions, the injustices will never be acknowledged. The injustices will never stop. So, I’m fighting this internal battle of being concerned that I might be making you uncomfortable, because there are women out there who can’t be as vocal as I can.
So, sorry if I make you squirm, but we’ve been silenced for too long. Look us in the eyes. Listen to our stories. Let us have what we deserve.