Many people say it should not matter to me if it doesn’t hurt me. What they don’t understand is that this is actually quite damaging to women´s rights, the women´s movement, feminism or however you like to think about the idea that women are beings of equal value to men and deserve to be treated as such.
At a time when women in Iran are fighting to be allowed to speak their own minds and not be randomly murdered for showing cranial hair in public; when girls in Afghanistan are being sold by their fathers as brides for the Taliban or beaten for smiling in public; when women in Saudi can still be accused of adultery if they report a rape (which still has a possible stoning offence); when girls in Nepal are still ostracised from their homes during their monthly cycle; when in China the son-bias still drives a ratio of 8 girls to every 10 boys; when women in Europe, Africa and Asia continue to be enslaved by the sex trade; when women in Qatar cannot enjoy basic freedoms without the permission of their male guardian; when lesbian women in South Africa are still subjected to ¨corrective¨ rape, when female genital mutilation is still common in some African countries and honour killing still exists as a concept in some Eastern ones; and while globally women are still getting paid less while performing the same work as a man despite what is still (generally speaking) a greater burden of responsibility at home and with offspring: I feel there is still a very long way to go before anyone can seriously say we have reached a point where women have enough privilege or should move over to stop pulling focus from other causes. If another cause means taking away from the fight for women’s genuine equality, then it damages women’s rights. People in the USA make it all about having a choice to have an abortion; but it is about so much more than that choice or women being the decisionmakers of their own health care.
It is about men worldwide interiorising that women have equal value to men; intrinsically as human beings. It is about relationships with women being based in respect for a person with vital value rather than a hole, other, mystery, image for gratification, servant, cook or punching bag for venting frustrations. I recently saw Elisabeth Banks in an interview express eloquently that people still see women as second-class citizens and that is why they continue to diminish women´s achievements as lucky rather than deserved or the result of work and talent. In my own work life, I once had a boss tell me I had an uncanny knack for <<stumbling on>> the best solutions to issues that needed fixing; rather than acknowledge my capability for doing my job or my MBA or decade plus of experience. I´m quite sure I am not the only woman to have had their ideas dismissed in meetings only to hear them praised when they were parroted out of a male mouth minutes later as though they were a new take.
Men don’t generally think about any of the aforementioned unless you bring it up in a discussion. I once commented to a colleague at work I did not want to have to travel to Saudi Arabia and he was perplexed as to why. I spelled out women´s rights in Saudi and he said ¨oh yeah, I didn’t even think about that¨. I´m quite sure no woman on earth that hadn’t been living under a rock or that was otherwise completely ignorant of the existence of Middle Eastern cultures could ever discuss potential travel to Saudi without having the treatment of women in mind. It makes me angry when I see paid advertising on international news networks that showcase business opportunities in Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi with no thought to the fact that they are ostensibly indicating a return on investment is more important than the values of the country you might sink your money into. I despair that climate conferences have not driven more tangible actions from western civilizations that are happy to criticise the practices of China as violating human rights while simultaneously they kowtow to Saudi Arabia. But of course, these governments are still mostly driven and run by patriarchal groups that don’t truly believe that women’s rights are human rights. If they did then they would have invested more in alternative energy sources decades ago whether or not they believed in the imminence of the climate crisis; simply in order to advance human rights. But of course, women’s rights take a back seat whenever decision makers don’t have them front and centre in their minds or written objectives. So, when a man comes to Europe and ignores the female leader in a meeting with the EU no one in the room calls it out. So when Sweden drops equality from foreign policy requirements people say it wasn’t getting anywhere anyway. So the world cup was awarded to a country where women are treated like possesions or children; but it isn’t until years and numerous migrant worker deaths later that anyone thinks really it was not a good idea to award the cup to Qatar, and even then women’s rights seem to be an afterthought behind freedoms for gay men. By the way; I am not in any way intending to diminish the importance of LGBT rights. I mean only to say that women’s right are not less important and should not be considered less (or an afterthought) because of a patriarchal worldview. I mean, did you see the Australian team’s video? No mention of women at all… Which is my point.
Feminism has not achieved its aims; indeed, has had to fight not just against the patriarchy but in recent years also against European women and men claiming feminazis want too much. In my personal experience that idea generally comes from a place of ignorance regarding the definition of feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
But it is true many women don’t want to be equal. Many women don’t want to be subject to any potential draft in any form whatsoever. I am sure quite a lot of men would rather never be subject to any draft either. It is not about women vs men it’s more a question of conscientious objection to my mind; and incorporating non-front-line services for those who prefer not to hold a gun. Although Ukraine and Israel show quite well; if history wasn’t enough, that women are quite capable soldiers if needed. Many women don’t want to lose preferential consideration in child custody hearings; which personally isn’t thinking about the best for the child but just being selfish.
Many women don’t want to hear that having your period isn’t a valid reason for calling in sick to work in the age of over-the-counter pain relief and other freely available treatments. But equality is the goal and to achieve it means benefits as well as responsibilities. Can you imagine any argument justifying equal pay at the same time as government approved menstruation days? It´s absurd. No one is saying that there aren’t some women with heavy flows that require extra care. I myself had to take the pill to reduce my 15-day long periods to a manageable 3 and still had cramps and other symptoms but dragged my ass to work. When I was studying for my MBA, another woman once said in a group exercise that she didn’t feel capable of decision making while having her period because she got hormonal mood swings. I asked her; do you realise you’ve just said in front of a class of men that women should not hold managerial positions and that made her angry for sure but not as much as the pusillanimous idea that periods make women inadequate for leadership positions. Did she think men aren’t hormonal and distracted most of most days? Some of the male MBA students actively watched porn while we were in work groups; and judging by how often an average man fails to look a woman in the face until after he´s looked at the rest of her I am fairly convinced their hormonal impairments are month long every month of the year not merely coming to the surface cyclically.
So given that women are divided on how much equality is needed or wanted and a lot of women vote against their own interests; like trees voting for an axe because the axe has a wooden handle, it is easy for other groups to demand women move aside or shut up because they feel more important than women´s liberation or equality. But truly we are considering 49,5% of the global population. How can any other group be more important than the interests of basically one of every two people on earth? And if we fight for women’s rights isn’t this defacto fighting for all the other equalities of all the demographics that those women belong to?