Over the past few years, I’ve tried to favour listening to firing back in disgust. I’ve tried to educate myself on the nuances of controversial issues, and I’ve tried to strike a balance between blocking negativity from my life and remaining open for respectful dialogue. In many ways, I’ve become quieter on social media as a result, but there are simply some things I will not remain quiet about.
Yesterday, millions of people across the world marched for women’s rights. Comfortingly, it seems the majority of my friends and family see the value and purpose behind this march. In an age where reproductive rights are being threatened, where sexual assault is normalized as “locker room talk”, where there are countries around the world moving to decriminalize domestic violence, countries that do not allow their young women an education or a choice in their future, the vast majority of people have lent their voice to the cause.
Still, there have been dissenters. There are people close to me who are out of touch with these inequalities because they have been content to stick their heads in the sand of their own bias. There have been opinions flung about clouded by ignorance and entitlement, and by the comfort of a life where they have never needed to avail of Planned Parenthood, be it for affordable healthcare or for help making decisions about their reproductive health or for testing and help in the wake of a sexual assault.
In this day and age, I have had the utter displeasure of sharing professional settings with people who have placed more value on a woman’s body than her mind, who have highlighted sexualized women as an ideal over educated women. I’ve encountered people who believe a woman should fit in a box labelled “homemaker, wife, and mother”, and who have not agreed that a woman should be allowed to have aspirations beyond this, or that a woman could aspire to those things for reasons beyond tradition.
Personally, I have been catcalled, been called a bitch for not reciprocating unwanted advances, been fearful to walk alone at night, and been touched uninvited. I have witnessed the women in my life have ugly names flung at them for performing to their best in our profession, and I have witnessed these amazing, strong women at a loss for words. Shock, as much as fear, sometimes steals our voices in the moment.
Too often, it is only in hindsight we think of the things we could have said, the things we wish we had said. For all those silent moments where women are surrounded by misogyny, they are motivated to march. For the voiceless women, in abusive marriages, fearful of honour killings, or of losing their career for speaking out, those privileged enough to be able to march will march.
For those women, for the wee little women too young yet to know these struggles, and for all women, I will not remain silent. We shape our future in the present day, and in doing so we foster hope. This is a hope that one day we will not need an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, it is a hope that one day a woman will not be harassed as she attempts to receive healthcare, it is a hope that our daughters will grow up without fearing our sons, and yes, it is a hope that our world leaders will support all these examples of equality and more.
That is why we march.