Hey, everyone! What does International Women's Day mean to you? Does it remind you of the struggles women have been through, and still go through to gain fair treatment, equal rights and be safe in their communities? Does is encourage you to honour and respect the females in your life? Does it make you cheer them on when they aspire to achieve great goals?
I've been fortunate enough to have many people root for me when I've told them my goals and dreams. But I've also had many people actively discourage me, and most of those people were women. Many of them had excuses for their attitudes like, "You'll never succeed in that industry, it's too competitive", "You shouldn't go for that job when you're so pretty", etc, but the worst one was, "You should be thinking about having children." Then when I told the woman who said that last one that I didn't want children, she responded with with, "Don't you?!" Her horrified reaction said it all - she seriously couldn't believe I refused to do what society still expects of all women. When I called her out on her sexist attitude, she claimed she "couldn't" be sexist because she was a woman.
This is exactly what I'm talking about - too many people think only men can be sexist, when they make grab or make inappropriate comments about our boobs, control our bodies through abortion legislations, force us to get certain beauty treatments to fit their own selfish ideas about what women's bodies should look like, pay us less than our male counterparts doing the same work for the same hours or commit gender-based violence. However, I have seen many women reinforce these harmful ideas by telling each other how to dress, not to flirt openly with men or go out at night, that they need to look more feminine or tone down their intelligence otherwise "no man will want you". When I told a woman who worked for a feminist organisation about being judged for not wanting children, she told me to take it as a compliment because "I'd be a great mother". You know, no man would ever be told he should have children because he'd be a "great father". And this, coming from someone in a feminist group!
I have also noticed a trend among women who've judged me as such - either they had unplanned children or they gave up their lives to look after sick or disabled children. Let me make this clear - just because children have interfered with your lives doesn't mean they should interfere with mine. And to the women who've criticised me for wearing my hair short because you think I'd "look better with long hair" - you are entitled to wear your hair long, but again, don't force it on me. It's my hair and I'm not growing it out just to make YOU happy. Men don't usually say anything about it, but when they do, they say they like it or that it suits me.
And don't get me started on women's magazines that fat-shame or skinny-shame female celebrities, even when they're naturally overweight or underweight. How are women supposed to be empowered by that? Not to mention the women who've accused me of not being a "real" feminist because I like wearing skirts and high-heels, shave my legs and armpits and sometimes wear make-up. For heaven's sake, feminism is not about women trying to be men, it's about men and women being EQUAL and giving women freedom of choice without judgement. Then there's the magazine "agony aunt" who responded to a woman whose husband was forcing her to get a Brazilian wax against her will with "Do as your husband says". Do I need to remind you that women have the right to ownership of their own bodies, regardless of whether they have husbands or partners?
When women tear each other down instead of supporting each other, we are allowing male chauvinists and toxic patriarchy to win. We will never get anywhere be competing with each other and ripping into each other. To quote an article on internalised misogyny I read in a magazine, we are just as guilty of sexism as men, and have as much responsibility to respect one another.