SOLIDARITY SISTER: Demonstrators march in defence of women's rights and against hatred and bigotry as they participate in the Women's March on Sydney on January 21.
SOLIDARITY SISTER: Demonstrators march in defence of women's rights and against hatred and bigotry as they participate in the Women's March on Sydney on January 21. Richard Milnes

Hear ye, 'I'm a feminist'

ONCE upon a time, I stood on a chair and loudly proclaimed: "I am a feminist.”

It was a liberating feeling to put into words the decades of quiet anguish I, and possibly most women, live with most days.

It meant I stood for real equality. I stood against benevolent and violent sexism. That is, to not be patted on the head by a political leader, to not be groped in broad daylight, nor chased home in the dark and ridiculed for "running like a dog” (all actual events).

It gave voice to fears of violence and it trumpeted for the people like my mother who fled abuse and prospered without any aid.

It also shone a light on my constant internal interrogation - am I within my rights to say this? Do they want my input? Will I be talked over? Should I wear this? Do I look fat, cheap, skanky, domineering? Will this upset someone? All of these questions to make others feel at ease, never mind how vexed it made me.

How wonderful it was to recognise all this insidious inequality and reject it in just four words: "I am a feminist.”

But I am just one person and in the face of open hostility - mostly men sharing anti-feminist agendas online or commenting about women being needed back in the kitchen - I am not as brave as I would always hope to be.

For every empowering article I share, the petitions for improved legislation against domestic violence, the cries for tax-free hygiene products, the silence from my male friends and family is deafening, and should one happen to edge around the subject, the inevitable vitriol goes unchallenged.

Then there are the anti-feminist women saying 'we happen to like men', as though this was a war on sexuality.

We have so far to go, I thought, and I'm so weary of it all.

So yes, I got off my chair.

But while I sat, I was privileged to see women around the world unite. They rallied with high spirits and I was grateful. They smiled in spite of the hostile attacks they faced because they stood together.

And I remembered that I might not need to shout from a chair, or be a keyboard warrior. I have my own way of showing my solidarity, and even if I whisper, I will still be heard.

We all get tired sometimes, but my two daughters and my son will always have those prepared to fight for equality, to stamp out domestic violence and femicide throughout the globe, to see inequality for the ugliness that it is.

And if inequality is still around when my children are grown, I imagine it will no longer be such a soul- sucking effort to stand up and speak out.

Peta Jo is an author and mother of three. She is a feminist. Visit her at www.petajo.com or find her on Facebook.



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