International Women’s Day: Personal experiences as a woman

One of my favourite days of the year is International Women’s Day. It’s like the feminist equivalent of Christmas. I don’t simply love it because it bigs up women across the world by celebrating our achievements and and flying the flag for gender equality. I love it because women across the world have the chance to voice their experience as a woman. After all, feminism isn’t the same for every woman. Whilst women in the UK have been (rightly) fighting against the tampon tax, women at the other side of the world have been protesting against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

I thought I’d use International Women’s Day to voice some of the things I’ve experienced as a woman. I decided this because recently I was telling my boyfriend about the times I’d been harassed by men in the street and his exact words were ”I didn’t stuff like this was this bad until I started dating you”.

 

  1. Street Harassment

 

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Undoubtedly, this has something that has plagued me since I hit puberty. A particular incident that stands out in my mind was when I was walking home one evening aged 17 and a man in a car drove past. He then turned his car around and followed me down the road asking me to get in. This wasn’t an isolated incident: I’ve had men approach me and refuse to leave me alone until I give them my number, I’ve had men challenge me when I tell them I don’t want to talk to them let alone give them my number. During the summer to some extent, I become wary of wearing dresses or skirts because I don’t want to receive unwanted attention from men. When I walk past a group of men I almost immediately avert my eyes to the ground to avoid catching their attention. Considering how vocal I am about being a feminist, it even surprises me that I think these thoughts or behave in such wary way.  When a man is challenging me when I tell him I don’t want to give him my number, I suddenly feel at loss. It’s humiliating because a man that doesn’t even know is questioning my decision like he has the right to receiving my number.

2) The tampon tax

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Hell hath no fury like a woman paying VAT on tampons. I mean, let’s be honest. For most girls periods are a pain in the ovaries. I mean there’s always a feeling of relief when it arrives as you thank the lord that modern day contraception really is effective but the mood swings, bloating and stomach cramps quickly overide that fleeting sense of relief. So as if it’s not bad enough, 2015 also became the year that more and more women became aware that they were paying VAT on tampons. To put things into perspective, the government was/is taxing tampons on luxurious ”Non essential” grounds. However, helicopters and crocodile stakes were not subject to this tax. Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t know anybody who believes their period is a luxury. The week running up to it you can’t wear crop tops because you feel bloated and fat, You start getting emotional about things that normally you wouldn’t think are a big deal and the cramps make your insides feel like they are disintegrating. Periods are a byproduct of being a woman, we don’t just think ”Oh, let’s have a period once a month for the fun of it. If it’s really bad this month then I may be able to pull a sickie”. Periods are just a part of a woman’s life that play a part in keeping the human race existing, so we shouldn’t be taxed for it.

3) Not wanting children

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When it comes to having children, I’m undecided. I’m not one of those people who cannot imagine a life without having kids. For me, to bring a child into this world I would want to be financially sound, in a stable long term relationship and generally be happy with my life. A child is such a huge responsibility that I don’t want to commit to bring another life into this world unless I’m reasonably sure I can give him/her the best life possible. My friend doesn’t want children and decided this years ago. Like me, she’s faced comments such as ”Oh, you’ll change your mind one day” as if we don’t know our minds and bodies well enough despite living with ourselves for over twenty years. There’s still a stigma attached to a woman who doesn’t want children: That she will change her mind once she’s met the right guy, that she will won’t be fulfilled unless she has children, that she’s selfish. It’s startling that some people still want to exert control over a woman by telling her that she’s wrong for not wanting children. There may be a million reasons why she doesn’t want children, maybe she’s saying she doesn’t want to have children because maybe she can’t have them and doesn’t feel like going into it. Whatever, her reasons are it’s not an invitation for you to question her decision.

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