It’s March 8 today, which means it’s everyone’s favourite holiday, a day about which no one ever complains, ever, or makes “Where’s International Man’s Day?” comments. Yup, it’s International Women’s Day! Cue the confetti and jazz hands!!!
I woke up this morning with no plans to post anything at all about this, and then…I was just struck by the urge. About a month ago, I wrote a post that touched on just how damn privileged I am — to have been born when I was, to the family I was, in the country I was — factors that have 100% through pure dumb luck given me the foundation that allows us to live this insanely cool and weird life that we do.
And I honestly can’t say I’ve ever been deeply and profoundly impacted by sexism in my day-to-day life as a Canadian, beyond having to endure the occasional mansplaining by dummies that were blips on the radar of my life.
That said, I have experienced sexism and threats while abroad, for the simple fact that I lack a Y chromosome, and I have multiple female friends who’ve dealt with the same.
While traveling with my friend Gina in India, I was groped multiple times by random, strange men. In Delhi, we were walking down a market street, and a guy just grabbed my boobs out of nowhere, like a quick “honk, honk, I’m out”. Another time, we were walking back to our hotel in Mumbai, and a guy followed us on his motorcycle. He knew that we knew he was following us, and decided to taunt us by driving around the block, passing us multiple times and slowing down to leer. When we rounded a corner, both of us screaming at him at full volume, a local woman took notice and called the police. And then there was that time I awoke on a night train, and a compartment-mate was caressing my ass over my jeans.
Another time, Geoff and I were walking through a night market in a to-remain-unnamed Asian city. Geoff was about 10 steps ahead of me, and it was packed with people, requiring me to walk slowly, and deliberately weave my way through the crowd. At one point, I felt an unknown hand fondling my butt, lingering far too long and moving too deliberately to be an accident. Without even thinking, and without looking, I grabbed the hand and twisted it hard and sharply up, holding it over my shoulder for just a second. I kept walking, rushing to catch up to Geoff, and when I did, I looked back and saw a man buckled over in pain.
And then there’s our friend M, who spent a year teaching English in Saudi Arabia. Despite being fully covered by a niqab and abaya whenever she left her apartment, men driving by her regularly THREW ROCKS AT HER from moving vehicles, just because.
I have more stories like this, both my own and those of women I know. And they make my blood boil every time I think of them. But here’s the really screwed up part: most of the women I know, generally speaking and from a systemic level, are protected from the worst of it by their extremely high levels privilege. We’re not garment workers working in unsafe conditions, for slave-like wages, for example, or Moldovans who’ve been smuggled out of the country to unwittingly become sex slaves in Western Europe and Turkey.
And that’s why we need International Women’s Day. Because as much as being a white, educated Canadian woman in 2016 is awesome for me — and it is, although let’s keep in mind “awesome” still includes those 3 separate stories of minor sexual assault, and one of intimidation — for the majority of the world’s women, including many Canadian women, it’s a different story.
So rather than chipping away at the to-do list I built yesterday, topped to the gills with things that really need to get done, I want to acknowledge International Women’s Day with a shout out to the bad ass feminists in my life!
Mi Amigas Mejor, Kristen, Mary & Gina (BTW…I have no idea if that’s correct Spanish for ‘my best friends’, but I’m going with it anyway)
I’m lucky to have a steady group of insanely intelligent, thoughtful, worldly, and freaking hilarious girlfriends who’ve been a constant in my life for at least 23 years. I’ve traveled through Mexico, China and Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, and Southeast Asia with these ladies, plus visits in Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, and Scotland. If you can joke about that time you shared a toilet during bouts of food poisoning in one breath, and then switch to a discussion about international affairs in another, you know you’ve found your lobsters for life. Plus, these ladies are all doing awesome things with their life, working in sustainability, garment-workers’ rights, and for troubled and addicted teens.
Yes, my friends are awesome.
Our Moms, and My Mom Specifically
Somehow, in three generations we went from a world where women basically had the option to be teachers, secretaries, nurses, librarians, or housewives, to a world where I can travel the world and make coloring books.
I don’t know how, exactly, that happened, but holy crap how lucky are we to live in 2016?
When my mom and dad split up in the 80s, my mom went to one of the big Canadian Banks to get a mortgage, and they wouldn’t give it to her without a co-sign from her husband or father.
Seriously, WTF? In my lifetime, less than 30 years ago, the big Canadian banks wouldn’t give women mortgages without their husband’s or father’s involvement. I feel like I would have STABBED SOMEONE if I had to deal with that.
Instead of getting my grandpa to sign the mortgage, my mom went to a credit union and became a loyal, lifelong customer.
And then she raised me and my brother to be independent, self-sufficient, people-respecting non-a-holes (non-a-holes, despite not saying thank you to her nearly enough). Add to that, she influenced generations of kids by being one of those INSANE teachers that found the cheekiness of 12 and 13 year-olds mostly endearing, and chose to spend her career encouraging them to be good and intelligent people.
Yes, my mom is awesome.
Geoff, My Brother, & All the Other Modern Partners Out There
I am horribly bad at wife-ing, if you define wife-ing along traditional gender and role norms. I am getting slightly better, but left to my own devices, I have been known to eat wine for dinner. Geoff regularly has to remind me that cleaning is a thing that we’re supposed to do frequently, and then shakes his head in comic disbelief when he remembers, once again, just how bad I am at cleaning.
What’s awesome about this, is it’s okay. Our relationship doesn’t function along traditional gender lines, and when I think about it, I honestly can’t think of a single hetro couple in our circle of close friends who aren’t genuinely equal partners who share housework, cooking, and kid-raising equitably.
Yes, there are misogynistic d-bags out there. A lot of them. Even in mostly young and mostly educated circles (aka: you should know better), like the digital nomad circle, there are a lot of bros that either have very little respect for women, or they do a great job of pretending to be misogynist.
That said, I am lucky to be surrounded by awesome men, and that’s something to celebrate.
There you have it – the 6 feminists I’m celebrating on International Women’s Day. Wherever you are today, be sure to hug a feminist who deserves it!