Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Radically valuing women

There are certain things I can't stop seeing or hearing. The word 'bitch' recurs no matter how hard I try to minimise my exposure to it. It's not surprising when people who are easy to identify as misogynists offer it up, but I've noticed that feminists also join in in this cruel dehumanisation. When the very people I look up to as role models start insulting women along these lines, I know there's a deeply embedded problem with misogyny in global culture.

It's a radical action to love, value and respect women so much that we elevate each other whenever possible, and keep our criticisms constructive. It also takes a lot of character and goodwill. By refusing to buy into a semantics where women can occupy the space of 'bitches', we are transforming culture, one conversation at a time. It does take willpower to wade through the incessant name-calling and refuse to take part. It can be so tempting to revert to the popular teachings about women's place in society. But if we see the need to create a new vocabulary with the aim of radically respecting women in mind, we can achieve great things!

There is a real shortage of positive messages being sent to women about their worth. When women are interrupted so a man can speak, it sends the message that she's not significant enough to be listened to. When a man strikes a woman, it sends the message that she doesn't have the right to feel safe in her body. These are just two of the thousands of examples I can think of, and you only need to browse through the site Everyday Sexism to realise that women are subject to slights and injustices on a daily basis. 

I'm doing my best to think of women in a positive light. We are all trying so hard to be the best versions of ourselves. My new friend is passionately volunteering with youth, and is completing a degree by distance education while adjusting to the stresses of the big city, while trying to keep up with the million and one things that capture her interest, like TEDxSydney. All this, with a physical disability. My mum, one of my biggest supporters, holds down a stressful job as an academic and handles the majority of the housework. She still finds time to give me pep talks anyhow. Another new friend keeps her sense of humour despite facing regular street harassment and violence. Being trans is harder than most cis folk can imagine, yet she manages to remain supportive and encourages me to thrive. 

I can think of another woman's wisdom that's worth mentioning: She's currently the oldest person in the world, and lives in the United States. Her advice for those who wish to live as long as she has (121, I think), is to be nice to everybody. It obviously worked for her... and why not be nice to everybody? We're all doing our best, even those of us who are behaving like internet trolls. Most of life's problems can probably be fixed by the application of more kindness, more compassion, more love...

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