I was nineteen and out with friends, sitting around a tiny table in a dance club. It wasn’t late yet, maybe eleven, and the dance floor was still only lukewarm so we were just talking and waiting. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and a boy leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette (it was long enough ago that you could smoke in a club), leaned towards me. He was in a leather jacket. I remember the lines in the leather on his sleeve when I turned my head so I could hear him above the music. He had blonde hair. I don’t remember his face. He was just someone I was walking passed. He asked me if I wanted to dance. I smiled. I know I did, because I smile at everyone. And I said “No, thanks.” That’s all I said and I turned back towards the bathroom. And he said, “Fucking bitch”, and put his cigarette out on my arm.
I find it so very difficult to talk about my feminism. And I think I know why.
I am worried that I will find out that you don’t feel the same way about women that I hope you do. I am worried that I will find out you secretly think feminism is nasty, cheap, foolish and whiny. That you will think that women have nothing to complain about. Nothing to fight for. I am scared that I will see in you a belief that you… as a woman, are okay with the status quo, or that you, as a man secretly do believe that you are just that little tiny bit more valuable and entitled.
And then we can’t be friends anymore. We seriously can’t. Because you are part of the reason that women get blamed when they are raped, when they are fired, when they are overlooked, excluded and when they are beaten.
But in the western world at the moment we have a proper, undeniable, insidious and dangerous misogyny problem. So I will speak of my feminism for a moment and let the chips fall where they may.
I march today for the girls I know who have been groped, hit, raped, drugged, and belittled. It is no small number. And for the ones who have had to make difficult decisions silently because other people feel they have some right to an opinion about their bodies. And for little girls who don’t know yet that they can’t walk home alone without being sure they have running shoes on, and their phone in their hands. For those who cringe before they walk past a construction site or a sports field or a pub. For those who have literally had their ‘pussies’ grabbed at a concert while they listen to music. For all the girls with a half dozen degrees working in shit hot jobs who are still earning less the men around them. It’s not a myth, it is a fucking reality. For the girls who work, parent and still do all the housework because… women. For all the women who have been mocked - ‘you must have your period’ - as though we don’t understand our own bodies. For the sportswomen who get half the pay and half the exposure even when they win more championships. For any women who has ever been called a slut. I march for the women who have so much worse than I do in the privileged life I’ve had – women of colour, refugee women, women of the LGBTQ community, trans-women, women repressed by religion, women in countries where their bodies still kill them. I march for every woman who has to negotiate her gender all day long, because this is something that only women have to do. I march for my sons, so they know that women speak up for what they believe, that they work and walk together, that they are a united front. So that they will march for their daughters.