Feeling Called to Action, Ready to Speak Up for Women’s Equality and be a Feminist

Thursday, March 08, 2018 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is the Time is Now.

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Around the world events are being run by women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, political parties and media. In London they are celebrating women in Technology; in Alberta the focus is on influential women. Brisbane is hosting a fun run while Melbourne’s theme is 1000 Women, 1000 Futures. In Vancouver they are presenting Making the Case for Women’s Equality: Reframing a Hyper-Sexualized and Pornographic Culture. In Ontario they are hosting a Shefights amateur Mathai event; in Dubai there is a women’s Art Expo and in Nigeria the main event features Fashion Business. The possibilities to get involved are myriad, with something to inspire everyone.

The Women’s March movement has shown endurance from its inception, with more than 120,000 protestors gathering in New York City advocating for causes from reproductive freedom to immigrant’s rights. According to a statement made in Vox on January 20, 2018, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Movements like #MeToo and #PressforProgress are calls to action to end patriarchy and support gender parity.

The lack of gender parity in education is one of the most important situations that needs to be addressed. It continues to be a significant factor in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, Africa, and Afghanistan, to name a few. In a powerful Ted Talk titled, To Learn is To be Free, Shameem Akhtar advocates for change in opportunities for education in Pakistan. Shameen is a trailblazer for a woman’s right to an education in her community. Posing as a boy to receive her own education, her success planted the seeds of change for other women and girls.

 

Global Sisterhood is a movement of women devoted to transforming themselves and transforming the world together. Their vision is one of a world where women respect, trust, and uplift each other.

You don’t have to join a movement to make a difference though. You can start right now, by making a conscious choice to empower the women in your community. You can notice when you think or speak judging statements and reframe them, choosing to practice compassion and empathy instead.

Currently I’m reading Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara. One of the activities in the work book was to explore female role models in your life with the goal of identifying their qualities that inspire you. My list was long, but my top three were Oprah, Margaret Atwood, and Brene Brown. Oprah for her awareness and commitment to make a difference, Margaret for the power of her voice in the written word, and Brene for her willingness to be vulnerable and address social issues. It is my wish to embody those attributes in my commitment to myself and to making change in the world.

Living as an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed incredible change since my arrival in May of 2015, and progress for women is no exception. In October 2017 King Salman decreed women would be allowed to drive, to be effective in June 2018. Women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study or make complaints. There are more women in the workforce. Recently I read an article where a religious cleric advocated that women should no longer be required to wear abayas; that it should be a choice.

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Choice, freedom, and equality are the central themes of feminism. Unfortunately, the ideology of feminism has been given a bad reputation. Some men who feel threatened by women reclaiming their power would have you believe that all feminists are lesbian man-haters, but these ridiculous statements are merely smokescreens to distract men and women from creating real and honest change. Writer and self-proclaimed feminist, Ngozi Adichie, speaks passionately in her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. She urges us all to be begin to dream about and plan for a better world, where men and women all take a stand for equality and women no longer need to shrink themselves to feed a man’s ego.

 

It isn’t only women who suffer from the restraints of a patriarchal legacy. Men suffer too. They are driven to be hard, macho, insensitive and unfeeling. They are told not to cry and to buck up. Men need to be given the space to embrace their fullness as human beings. They are so much more than the genetic result of the y chromosome.

As for me, I feel called to contribute using the talents and gifts I have been given. I choose to be a positive advocate for change by using my most powerful tool, which is my voice. I choose to speak my truth, to be open and honest in my conversations. I will continue to write my blogs and write my books. I will not tone myself down to make other people more comfortable.

I choose to change the world by changing mine. To quote Maya Angelou, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” I may not be a young girl, but I’ve still got some ass-kicking left in me.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to action, ready to speak up for women’s equality and be a feminist.

Feeling Compelled; Wanting to Recover the Feminine from the Bonds of a Patriarchal Society

I’ve been feeling with intensity the rising global energy of women who are tired of being subjugated, belittled, or treated as ‘less than’ in any way. It resonates deep inside me, within the legacy of my own inheritance of the cycle of abuse, as well as in the experiences of women from other cultures, with other experiences, all over the world.

The bondage is pervasive and complex. It is woven into the fabric of women’s stories about our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our souls.

Women are dictated to by men on how to treat their bodies. In some cultures, women are viewed as prizes or trophies, to be displayed or hidden. In others, we are viewed as objects to be used as seen fit by the men who desire us. And often it begins when we are girls.

Waking Times featured an article, What Rampant Cyber Pornography is Doing to Adolescents by Christina Sarich. She talks about the dangers of “wacked social norms about sex” that are prevalent on the internet. Sarich claims there are “pedophilia dark-net websites … child trafficking… (and) extreme sexual behavior.” Boys view these pornographic images and build unhealthy ideas and expectations about what women want.

It is a socially accepted myth that when a woman says no, she means yes, or at least maybe. According to Sarich, “Doctors are now reporting … girls as young as eleven to thirteen years old showing up with incontinence and ripped up anal and vaginal tissue due to being forcibly entered.”

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/07/18/rampant-cyber-pornography-adolescents/

 

Research found one fifth of girls to have suffered violence or intimidation and that one in five boys demonstrates extremely negative attitudes towards women. I believe the numbers are much higher, that the tools of blame and guilt and persecution keep many girls from reporting.

Margaret Atwood, known for her futuristic writing, including the bestselling novel The Handmaid’s Tale, speaks out about a woman’s right to control her own body on the issue of abortion. She talks about how, when governments, like those in Texas, adopt anti-abortion legislation, they force women into a lifetime of servitude and debt. She talks about the real expenses of prenatal care, health insurance and in-hospital delivery, not to mention the costs of caring for and providing for a baby into adulthood. Atwood goes so far as to suggest that governments that enforce such legislation should foot the bill.

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While the argument of the financial burden of forced parenthood is a viable concern, there are also emotional and mental ramifications that anti-abortionists fail to consider. There are women who get pregnant who are unable to provide loving, stable homes to their children. Women who are suffering from mental illnesses, addiction, and poor self-esteem. Women whose role models were parents who abused them. Forcing these women to have their babies perpetuates cycles of dysfunction. A baby born into a home where they are not wanted is likely going to experience attachment disorders, making them at risk to develop serious psychological and social challenges as adults.

Let me be clear; I’m not pro-abortion. I’m pro-choice. We cannot, as a society, determine what is the right decision for everyone. Every woman who becomes impregnated has a different story; a different set of values, different supports, education, income, and health.

When a woman is raped, her choice is taken from her. To take away her choice on how to deal with a resulting pregnancy further traumatizes and punishes her. Some women are raped within the supposed sacrament of marriage. There is no singular solution, but forcing women to have babies that are the result of rape is, in my opinion, barbaric and cruel.

For women who do choose motherhood, it is increasingly challenging to feel positive about the necessary changes that occur to our bodies. Our society’s view of sexy is limited to the physical attributes of young, slim-as-models, pre-motherhood women. All outcomes of motherhood are deemed unattractive, needing to be fixed, eliminated and annihilated.

In an emotionally impacting video featured on Allure, titled Dispelling Beauty Myths, Alexa Wilding shares her personal story. She talks about the wad of flesh she was left with after post-pregnancy muscle diastasis. The obstetrician recommended that she undergo a Mummy Makeover, which is essentially a process involving a tummy tuck, boob lift, and liposuction to erase all physical evidence of her transformation from maidenhood to motherhood.

Cultural messages of guilt, blame, and shame are all emotions inflicted upon women. They are held responsible for the abuses inflicted upon them, for being too pretty, too bubbly, too naïve, too weak, too sensitive. The list goes on.

We read in the news about women in India who have acid poured on their faces for the shame they place on their families by being raped. We read about women in Africa who are genitally mutilated in a custom that is upheld as cultural, but is really a sadistic form of control and manipulation. Women in Afghanistan are oppressed by being denied the right to education. Women in North America and Europe are objectified as sex objects, their exposed cleavage and ass used to sell everything from beer to cars.

I spoke personally to an Imam in Bahrain who stated that women need to cover themselves with abayas and burkas because they are too sexually arousing for men. I spoke to a taxi driver in Toronto who self-righteously claimed to cherish his wife as his most precious belonging, justifying the limits on her social behaviour and restrictions of her dress because of her value as his possession.

I challenge these beliefs. I suggest that all people, men or women, are responsible for their own behaviours and cannot blame anyone but themselves for what they do. I know men who have greater expectations for themselves, who have control over their sexual and physical desires. It can be done. Blaming a woman for being raped, ever, is ludicrous and unacceptable. Placing restrictions on women because of a perceived inability of men to control themselves is demeaning to both sexes.

So, how do we move forward? My daughter, Scarlet, is wondering the same thing. Like me, she doesn’t have all the answers. But she knows, “it’s going to take a transformation… that she needs to participate in the conversation … (and) be a part of the movement.”

Holly Truhlar, in her post The Environmental Movement Has Failed, believes that as a society we have a problem with long-term engagement. She posits that we are not emotionally resourced to deal with experiences “that will break our hearts and bring us to our knees if we feel them.” She goes on to say that we are living in a traumatized society suffering from intergenerational wounding in a system set up to divide and exploit, oppress and abuse. She, like Scarlet, believes we need to have the conversation. We need to engage in “an emotional and spiritual revolution requiring us to expand into the largest sense of Self that we can.”

http://www.hollytruhlar.com/environmental-movement-failed/

I believe that the heart and power of a transformational movement begins with girls; the women of the future. And I’m not the only one. G-Day Fundraising is a growing celebration of the spirit of girls. Its aim is to support and guide girls in as many communities as possible to discover their power and become champions of the future.

Humankind would evolve towards reaching its highest expression if all abusive behaviour could be stopped. Right now. It is a worthwhile goal, but the reality is that we live in a society where many people don’t get the help and support they need, and so these cycles continue. What we can do, right now, is empower children to speak up. We can teach them appropriate boundaries. We can tell them to honour their bodies and that they can say no. We can trust them. We can give them back their voices, helping them to find the language they need to express their feelings. There is a global rising. We won’t keep quiet.

So yeah, I’m feeling compelled; wanting to recover the feminine from the bonds of a patriarchal society.