Today is International Women’s Day. My friend Ruth wanted me to do something nice today, but that is my friend to the core – generous, strong, feisty, caring. In fact she embodies everything that is good about the feminist movement. She is a doer, not a pontificator, and for that I adore her. I hope to catch her later and tell her how wonderful she is, because it is important to tell other women that we see them and their sacrifices and their hard work and the fact they never gave up in the face of extreme hardship. So, to all the single mothers, the carers, the ‘take the smallest portion and go last-ers’, the sacrificers, the kick-ass professionals, the sportswomen and the campaigners…I see you. Have a good day…but until every day is a good day for all women, can we really stop and celebrate?
I am all for celebrating women. I love women. Women rock: we are the backbone, the heart and the soul of society. Behind every great man? Yep, there she is, steely eyed, wondering if they have to kill the king in order to secure their place in society, or at least get the carpets cleaned before she throws a dinner party, whilst juggling work, home and oftentimes children too. I personally would rather work for my own benefit and glory, not to push some man up to the higher echelons of the business food chain, or the political mudpit. It never did appeal to me to promote and nurture male talent, whilst my own got hidden, snuffed out and trodden down, but then I never was much of a man pleaser.
When I was young I found it almost impossible to come out as being ‘not straight’. I hate the label ‘bisexual’, it really doesn’t fit me. More like I was attracted to women but society had a problem with that and so I forced myself into relationships with men that I found more or less repulsive, because society has far too much to say about what it expects women to do and be. Despite being intensely individualistic, I felt unsafe going against the grain back then in yet another way. It was enough that I was so different and ‘left of center’ in other ways, adding being an out the closet lesbian to that mix was just too much. For what it is worth, it looks to this old woman that being a lesbian is not any easier now than it was then, especially for lesbians in less tolerant parts of the world. Fragile male egos have looked towards lesbians for either titillation or else in jealous fits of pique. There is not one exclusively lesbian bar in San Francisco, at least when I last checked. What is a girl to do? Not celebrate, at least not yet. Not until we are all free to kiss our sis in peace…if that is what we want to do.
With the caveat here for those fragile male egos, who seem to have an intense need to be patted on the head, reassured that no, not ‘all men are like that’, and given a careful and measured out from being called on their bullshit, really, to be absolutely frank….yeah SO many men ARE like that and it really isn’t good enough.
It is important to stop for a second and tell the women who are doing good things for other women that they are doing a great job. The women who work in domestic violence organizations, the women who campaign tirelessly for sex-based rights, and the women who bother to do vital but mundane stuff such as anti-spiking campaigns, putting out literature, drink test kits and raising awareness that yes…some men really are like that…and yes…it really is overwhelmingly almost absolutely men who are the perps and women who are the victims….and even when the victim is male or non binary, the perp is overwhelmingly, almost exclusively male.
You see the world has got too nervous about calling men out on their bullshit. We are meant to be so careful not to offend anyone that reality takes the hit. The awkward unpleasant reality is men hurt women, and they do it in a myriad of ways. See my above caveat – yeah not all men, and yeah yeah men get hurt too, but can we, just for one day, concentrate on the overwhelming reality of life for women, can we for one day, center women and the abuse and the trauma and say, fuck it, boys, this really is not good enough.
As I am writing this there is a nagging thought in the back of my mind that perhaps I don’t want to awake the incels, the tendie lords, the fragile men who lash out at women and take the inevitable abuse that will follow even daring to speak the truth that women are discouraged from speaking, the truth that men hurt women, that men kill women, that men are a danger to women, and that even the good ones need to do more to stop the never ending onslaught of male violence and abuse wrought upon females. To be frank, I probably would do well to heed my own warning and leave it alone, but then again, leaving things alone, being a coward, a quisling was never my style.
It is not just the men who hit back against reality, the handmaidens are even worse. I am rolling my eyes in anticipation of the hordes of enabling women, who want to insist that ‘not all men are like that’, that their husbands, their men are good men, and there are bad women too. They are sometimes more virulent than the men they protect and excuse.
I got lucky. My son saw me almost killed repeatedly and made up his own mind to never ever hurt anyone. He is a peaceful soul who has made it to his teen years without ever getting in a fight. He has never hit, never punched, never wanted to. He has never even slammed a door. He saw a violent man and decided he did not want to be that guy. I adore him. I love him enough to tell him that the world does not revolve around him, that the sun does not shine out of his backside, and that he has a moral responsibility to call other boys out on hateful, abusive and violent behavior and to never ever make excuses for other males. We live in peace and harmony. He is my best friend, the light of my life. I am beyond lucky to be his mother. All that said, I watch him for signs of toxic masculinity like a hawk. It is ever mother’s duty to do so, and to squash those tendencies as they appear. Perhaps then we would have fewer men who have the capability to do so much evil towards women. Perhaps then we would see progress. Then again, once again that is putting pressure on women to fix men’s issues, but what can we do? It is a matter of life and death for us.
Because, let’s face it, there has not been much progress. I am loathe to wish anyone ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ while our Ukrainian sisters are being shot at, their children killed, and some of them raped by Russian invading forces. I am loathe to celebrate while there is genital mutilation of young girls happening anywhere in the world. I refuse to be joyful while there is a single women suffering domestic violence, or being subject to Hague Convention abuses, or forced into prostitution, or denied education. There is no time to celebrate while women of color suffer worse birth outcomes and struggle to break past barriers and prejudice. There is no time to celebrate, Sisters, we have work to do.