This past week, I’ve been asked the same question by three different sources, phrased three different ways, requiring three different (but ultimately the same) responses.
I thought, given that I’m so *passionate* about the issue-at-hand, I would address it here. So what is the question, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’m about to go there, anyway…
Earlier this week, a close friend inquired, much to my surprise, “why women?” Huh, I thought?WHY WOMEN? “Why are you interested in women, specifically?” She questioned. “Why not human beings more generally?”
Later in the week, the question was once again put forth in a job application: “Tell us more about your commitment to feminist principles.”
And this morning, I woke up to find a “mention” on my twitter page: “@CulturalCurator, what issues and social causes are you passionate about?”
There it was again!!! Right there in my face. Probing. Begging me to think about it. Waiting for a response. So I’ll answer the question, here and now, once and for all. Or… at least I’ll try to.
What issues and social causes are you interested in? Easy. Women’s and girl’s rights, gender equality, and civic engagement.
Speak to my feminist principles? Well, I’ve always been a feminist, since I was a young girl. It even says so in my Grade 8 yearbook. Last Will and Testament: ”A Feminist Protest Sign”. Ok, I added the “feminist” part in, but you get the picture. It also said I was most likely to become an “aspiring actress”. So far, that’s been a no-go. What did my Grade 8 peers reallyknow, anyway? As it turns out, a lot…
I’m not big on holding protest signs though. I mean I have. I’m just not big on it. I choose to express my feminist inclinations via other means, such as writing and my various projects. I read somewhere that “feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” How true that is. And just because I’m a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men (in spite of the fact that my Grade 8 yearbook also stated that my pet peeve was “straight men”). On the contrary. I love men. In fact, I think they’re 50% of the solution to all that is wrong with our world.
Which brings me to my friend’s question: why women specifically? It was an interesting question. I thought the answer had been obvious all along, so I’ll address it here as best I can. Women are still persecuted against, all the time, and all over this world. I know. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and I’ve heard the stories from their mouths.
I recently returned from Africa, where I was informed by one woman that whenever she wants to say something, she is told that her husband should say it on her behalf. This woman is powerful and outspoken, anything but a wallflower, and yet her voice is diminished… only because she has a VAGINA.
Speaking of vaginas, don’t even get me started on all the little girls who have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (where they are sewn up against their will so that they will be “tight” and virginal [as if they weren't already?!] for their much older husbands-to-be) and the Girl Child (“brides” as young as five or six are *sold* to men old enough to be their grandfather).
Rural women, as another example, often do much of the work (maintaining a household while also manning the farmland or walking miles and miles to fetch water from the nearest well) and receive little or none of the pay-off or accolades. They are the first to put food on the table and the last to eat. If they’re husbands want sex, even if they are exhausted from all of their daily chores, they must succumb to the demands.
In a village in India, where I was leading a workshop with men and women, the men informed me that they beat their wives regularly so they wouldn’t stray. “But you let your cows roam free and they return to you. Why not your wives? Don’t you think if you treat your wives and daughters with respect and care, that they will return to you, as well?” I cringed at the thought of comparing women to cattle, but as it turns out, even cattle(!) benefited from more freedom and compassion.
And for those of you who say to me, “Jackie, it might be that way over there, but over here, in the ‘developed ‘ world, we’re managing just fine”, I’ll challenge you on that. Because, sadly, we’re not fine. Not at all. So long as women’s shelters continue to exist (and they do in hoards!), we’re not fine. Are men abused by women? Yes. But please don’t try and tell me that we can even compare, because we can’t. The numbers speak for themselves.
Until corporations stop hiring men over women for senior positions (I’ve seen this first-hand in an international company that I worked for a few years back) because women can’t find a way to be both moms and boardroom betties, when, in fact, women are better multitaskers than any men I know, and until the media stops feeding (errr, perhaps ‘feeding’ is the wrong word) us bullsh**t about our bodies and how we, as women, are supposed to look (see my post below), we will not BE fine.
So that is why I focus on women. Because I am a women. Because I love women. And because I think we need women — healthy, focused, strong women! — around to make the changes we need in this world. And like I said, men make up 50% of the world’s population and we need them too — to respect, support, and love us women. We need to teach our fathers, our sons, and our brothers everywhere that it is never ever okay to lay their hands on a woman(no matter how she looks or what she is wearing), to buy or sell a woman, to take ownership of a woman.
We are not yours to touch. We are not yours to buy or sell. We are not yours to own.
I want women to be able to walk down the street – any street – and not feel afraid. I want women to assume high-level positions, whether it be in politics, business, or elsewhere. I want women’s voices to be acknowledged and their contributions (of which there are many, many, many!) recognized and celebrated the world-over.
I’m passionate about women. And I always will be.
* Note: Jacqueline is currently working on her first book, ‘From Docs to Dior: Around the World in 100 Women’. To learn more, visit www.jacquelinestein.com.