8th March. Women’s International Day. Here are my thoughts.
Release the hashtags and the selfies with your beloved women friends. Dedicate that Osho quote to your mother, or your grandmother; smile at the world, young woman, because today is your day, right?
Let’s be coddled with appreciation and love; let’s accept the flowers and the compliments we receive from men and companies that take the day off today to celebrate us, to empower us. Tag a woman who inspires you, they say.
I hate being a cynical. I hate that that I look at the doodle on Facebook for Woman’s Day and I immediately roll my eyes to how cheesy and insencere it feels.
What does it feel like being woman every day?
I mean, I can look around and get an idea of what it feels like for other women. I can see hard-working women who battle against lack of sleep and time to take care of themselves, so they can provide for their family. I see women nodding and silently walking past the challenges they face at work, in the streets, in the parliament, in relationships.
It means silence.
I see women forcing a smile and hunching their backs when their coworkers make the same sexist jokes in a pub after work. I see them forcing the same smile, when their husband comes back to work and says “How was your day?”, their eyes not even locking.
“Fine, and yours?”
How much womanhood there is in that quiet and forced colloquial conversation; how much silence and closeted thoughts are hidden between those three simple words.
How desperately we push and squeeze ourselves inside those forced words. How quickly do we shift our attention to others; again, giving and giving back, without asking for anything in return.
The truth is, deep down inside we have lost that belief in our words, in our emotions, in ourselves. We look inside, within the cracks of an open heart, and there is just the echo of a long, distant silence.
But I don’t want to be cynical; as I have already said.
When I think about women, I see their stories. The ones that have touched me, and the ones that haven’t open their doors to me yet.
I see my grandmother; her delicate hands chopping up vegetables, hand washing our clothes, caressing my cheek and holding my hand when I speak. I see her silence and her strength in her expressive dark eyes; I see her kindness, shining like the first summer sunrise.
She is my right hand. My better hand; the one that knows how to reach me in the dark.
I see my mother; getting back from work when it’s too dark to have a conversation, too early for me me not to notice her absence. I see her walking like only a Spartan hero could; she would be a Greek goddess in an alternative life. A witch who somehow managed to juggle the single mom life with and wearied of a fight in a reality, where your existence as a woman of colour, an outsider, is seen as a woman who could steal your husband, steal your job, steal your light.
I see her like I can imagine a twin seeing her own sibling. I am her, she is me. I am her best parts and her worst; I feel pain, she feels pain. I burst with joy, she is happy.
She is the comfortable silence in a conversation with somebody who understands you so well, that she doesn’t even need to ask. As a mother, she is everything. She is the beginning and the end.
But it doesn’t stop there.
And you know how you always seek for the same look, the same butterfly-in-your-tummy feeling when you first fell in love?
You do the same with the women that stumble into your life.
You look for that perseverance, that tough, but delicate hand touch that only a woman can have – you see it in every single one of them who crosses your path.
You look for the same qualities that you saw in your mother, when you were a toddler and she was an angel beaming with white light; her voice like a siren’s melody that guided you in the dark ocean of not knowing you exist yet.
I always look for my mother in other women. I always look for my grandmother in the crowd.
I see it in my friends when I come back after years of living away from them, and we hug and everything feels like we are part of the same tribe. We breathe life the same way, we reject the same struggles. Their touch, their words, their tears – they are so overwhelming with love and appreciation sometimes, that I can’t do anything, but think
How Proud I am To be Woman Today.
When I see my best friend and we look at each other and we just can’t speak a word for the amount of emotions that are passing by our brains; I know what love for a friend is.
I know that we just don’t live in this tough world for nothing; I know that there are people who are here to make those rough edges a little bit smoother.
And I know that it’s because we are women.
It’s because we are linked to our stories, through our mothers, our grandmothers; the queens who died, the women who hid themselves to survive, those who sacrified their lives for passions that weren’t recognised. It’s written in our history, our pain flows in our blood. From Cleopatra, to the burned witches, to the indigenous women who fight for their lands and their families.
Our toughness. Our never-ending fight against death and misery. Our impossible stubbornness to surrender.
We are fighters. No matter what they say about being obsessed with ourselves, being the weaker kind, the sluts, whores, gold diggers, psycho bitches and worthless scum –
We are fighters and we remain fighters.
The world out there is not a pink, candy-flossed Barbie house.
It’s not thriving, it’s not empowering. It’s a massive pool of mud that we have to continuously struggle to get out from and then clean up afterwards; because it’s not good to complain.
It’s not good to be a woman who complains.
But it is there. That pool of mud is there. We may be sitting on a green grassed hill, looking over that disgusting, filthy pool of mud; but even if we turned our heads the other way, it doesn’t change the fact that some of us are stuck in there, struggling, grasping to get out.
I see that pool. And I want you to picture it today. Because I want you to be happy and filled with love for the women around you on that happy Sound Of Music hill, but I also want you to be aware that you have to gaze that way at some point.
Because being in that mud is also part of being a woman today.
Being in that mud means,
Living in a society structured around communication and words, yet you are part of the 64% of adults in the world who can’t write or read.
It means silence.
That you could possible be one of the 62 millions of girls who don’t start their day with going to classroom. 39,000 of them every day are sent to get married, when they should be opening their textbooks and learning how to write their story.
Or it could be worse; you could be one of those 70,000 girls who die every year from bringing a child to life from the body of a child itself.
It means silence.
It means fighting against all odds to obtain a job. A slime chance that gets even smaller when you’re part of a minority. And when you do get it, you realise that your job, your hard-working tough job is 74% of what a man gets for doing exactly the same thing, except you’re in the pool and he’s not.
And you know what’s funny? You work hard, you nodd and say ‘yes, sir, I’ll skip on that so I can improve’. But even after all, even if you’re more educated, more successful, and more fierce – only a 2.8% of you, the biggest workforce of all, will reach the top of the Himalayan mountain of women CEOs. Only a few of you will get out of that pool of mud.
It means silence.
Because no matter what they say; that you matter, that you are the kinder gender, that you are what the world needs, that your inspiring work needs to be showered with awards and prizes – the world doesn’t seem to be ready for you, because the world was built for men and men only.
You existence is a threat. Not sure to whom, but it is a threat according to the facts on what happened and continues to happen to women in this world.
The world is a world where you could be one of the 40% women who are killed by their partner every single year. You could be one of the 145 millions of women who go through genital mutilation. You could be one of the 43 millions of women who flee their countries as refugees; or you could be one of the women that are the 2/3 of the victims of human trafficking.
It’s a pool of mud, didn’t I tell you.
Being a woman today is silence. Silence about your struggles, about your disability, your sexual orientation, your hopes, your dreams, your race, your story.
It’s oppression. It’s making yourself so small that you even remember that you exist.
The stats speak loud and clear; the world is changing, but we are still stuck in a pool of mud.
But I don’t like to be cynical. I like to be aware of the sharp edges that are around me, yes, but I don’t like silence.
Because I believe this pool of mud is a story. It’s our story.
I believe that today we should be silent in listening other women’s stories, but we shouldn’t be silent about how it feels to be stuck in a pool of mud.
Today is about us, but any other day is about us too, because when you struggle, there is no time, there is no space. There is only excruciating pain.
But in pain, there is strength. And we have so much strength. We can move mountains, we can change laws, we can save lives, we can make lives.
It doesn’t matter if we are on a wheelchair, if we don’t have a voice, if we don’t feel like we’re women, or we look like women; it doesn’t matter if we like women, it doesn’t matter if we love make up, or love coding.
It doesn’t matter, because being a woman is beyond that.
It’s beyond the struggle.
Being a woman is in the fight.
And I want you to know – that you matter because of your fight.
You matter because your fight is a story that will reach other women, exactly like you have been reached by the women in your family, the women in your class and your society.
The fight in that pool of mud is our story. Now and ever is the time to share it.
Happy Women’s Day. To all of you.
This is for you.