I have had a female upbringing. On an artist and academic background, I have had one male teacher for every ten female teachers. And those are literal numbers, because if I was to rank them in terms of importance, my primary school teacher, course directors, dissertation supervisors are all female.
On the other hand, sexual segregationism exists, it is real and true. But I choose to celebrate inclusion without borders or an agenda, so it would feel forced to be promoting that I have no prejudice and then partaking in divisionism on a set event. Inequality and injustices are not options to be taken by modern boys and girls. They ought to be resisted and it starts with education, not payback or revenge. I mostly shy away from cultural celebrations based on genres as I believe they promote a division rather than acceptance for all and it is not joyful to be resentful.
Men and women are equal. It is acceptance of the true valiance and skills of human beings that will lead us past the appointment based on criteria we have no control over. Structural sexism is to be abolished, which is not to be for quotas against women represented in boards or government. It is not to perpetuate the hiring of white men for position of power. Many beings that fit this criteria have proved to be unfit and have only made themselves useful through nepotism. It is to give the same access to education for everyone and hire them based on merit, capability and potential, regardless of gender. It is to promote the desire to enrich knowledge, to further skills to reach better opportunities.
I want every girl to have the opportunities I have had, but I don’t want any boy to feel guilty about being born the same way I was. Boys should not feel guilty because other men before them treated people unfairly. They should be taught how to treat people right because they too should be dealt accordingly.
It’s fundamental to be educated and shown good paths that please us as we become more pleasant people. When I was 9, I threw a paper catalogue out of the car window because back then I had seen people dispose of rubbish like that. The driver stopped the car and told me to pick it up, because rubbish was meant to go into the bin. So I learned my lesson and since then I clean after myself and also what others throw away.
Education is the single divisive tool that enriches you to overcome everything. If you are in contact with the world, you see how hatred divides poor people, how preconceived judgements put them at war, how it segregates them in housing conditions that are immoral to support. You need to be educated to deal with this and give the right answers to the questions that are unfairly posed to you, and that means to want the best for everyone, so that anyone has the options and possibilities you enjoyed too. To want it all to yourself is degrading to society and a disservice to the education that I received.
I mostly know how feminist issues are discussed within Europe and Northern America and I am glad it evolved from an angry and toxic environment built on revenge. We all feel that we are owed something in reparations, but you are set for a lifetime of disappointment if you go after everything that you feel you are owed. You should fight injustice with a face, not unclear and presumptive holders of said prejudice, as that only shows your own prejudice. Ultimately, nobody has the perfect life and we all face incredible challenges that request the best of what we have inside to succeed. And succeeding is doing it together.
I sometimes joke that If I am the face of white male privilege, then I want my advantages, with no price to pay for them. Because everything has a price. My fight is for everyone to be allowed to pay for it and live with dignity and justice in this world that we all inhabit. To grow up as a young boy nowadays poses a different challenge than growing up as a girl. It is not easier or more difficult, it’s just that the circumstances are different. In the same way, your surroundings differ from those faced by your parents, even if you grew up in the same country. To be feminine is to be different from being masculine and none is negative. The idea of masculinity as arrogant and self-indulgent ought to be changed, but as feminism is elevated, it shouldn’t occupy the high ground that masculine oppression once occupied (or perhaps nowadays still does). Women are as able as men to do anything: to lead, to work hard, to inspire, to nurture, to be loving, to be creative, athletic, intellectual. But the same negative adjectives, lifestyles or demeanor that persist in humanity is equal to men and women. That is why we all need to be educated to coexist and enjoy what we are, with all our apparent divisions within the grand unifying project that is the life of our species.
Prejudices are not to be tolerated but eradicated. Regardless of the feasibility of the measures you are meant to be for healthcare for all, for the accessibility of the best education possible the state can provide to the masses. These are not to be denied to anyone in principle and equality is meant to be sought. You would not deny your mother, grandmother or sister to be less able than your masculine family. Like talent can come from anywhere as long as it is nurtured, positivity will bring positivity, regardless of background. Our reality is made up of things we observe and things we feel and we should all feel good in our bodies.
Male, 31, Portugal.
Around two years ago I experienced something that I thought that wouldn’t happen to me, since I live in a small city on island. But, the following happened: when I was going to school by foot a random guy, that was riding a motorcycle, slows down and says some sexist and provocative comments and moves on, showing that even in smaller cities men doesn’t have shame and/or common sense. And that situation put myself so uncomfortable, which still to this day I fell almost the same way only thinking about it. I now wonder what could happen if he stopped and got out of the motorcycle? It has so many possibilities, that today I fell, in someway, thankful, because it could be worse. Situations that are similar to mine and others more serious should not happen in our society that is doing such great things, like helping the children in Africa that are starving, and unfortunately, we, women,need to raise our voice even higher to men ear us and change the wrong things that some do.
Female, 18, Portugal.
Being a young woman, I’ve always struggled with most things all girls have to put up with. If I know I’m going to walk alone from point A to point B and those are a bit far from each other, I’ll wear jeans because I don’t want to “provoke” men who can’t keep their filthy minds from saying something horrible if I’m wearing a dress.
I walk with my eyes on the ground because I have big green eyes and I don’t want men commenting on them and relating them to other parts of my body just because “they can”.
I’m tired of catcalls being called compliments and I’m tired of having to shut my mouth when men tell me nasty things on the street just because I’m a woman. No, I’m not scared of you. I’m tired of you and I’m tired of when I talk back you saying “oh you can’t take a compliment”. Well, maybe I can’t; so shut up.
I had a very toxic relationship where I was called names and I was told I was ugly and fat and that I was lucky to be with this individual. The worst part is that I believed and I started feeling very self-conscious to the point where I wouldn’t even go to the beach or I would shower in under 2 minutes just so I wouldn’t haveto deal with my body.
That hurt me more than I could ever imagine and now I’m in a new relationship with someone who loves me for who I am and supports me in every way but I’m still not 100% comfortable with myself so I would appreciate if I could go outside in skinny jeans or in a tighter top and not be cat called just for existing.
Being a woman made me braver and actually taught me that it’s not up to random creepy men on the streets or any boy you think loves you to tell us we are hot enough or beautiful enough or intelligent enough for them to want us. We are hot, beautiful and intelligent and we’re also stronger than they could ever imagine!
Female, 27, Portugal.
I usually laugh and brush it off when my friends say they are concerned that I’ll walk alone at night, even just for 5 minutes. It’s almost like I’m not afraid of being harassed, assaulted or raped. In reality, I am very scared of those things. The thing is, I learned at a young age that those things don’t just happen in dark alleys at late hours, or with drunk college guys around. They can happen within your own safe place.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was when it started or when it ended. There was a period of years when I forgot that it had happened – I think my brain was trying to protect it self from the weekly pain, disgust and fear.
Every Sunday, ever since I can remember, my Mom and I went to my grandfather’s house. He couldn’t cook for himself, so my Mom made lunch and cleaned the kitchen, which was on the ground floor, and the rooms, above the kitchen. So, I was alone with my grandfather for about half an hour. That was the normal routine.
One day, that routine grew. I must have been around 8, 9, 10, 11 years old. Like I said, I can’t pinpoint the age precisely. My grandfather started calling me to go by his side, when my Mom was upstairs, and then he would start touching me: in my bottom, in my crotch. I would go downstairs and he would be waiting to kiss me on the lips, and touch me some more. I wanted to vomit because of the rotten smell of his bad breath. I didn’t know what to do. I just froze in discomfort, screaming inside for my Mom to come downstairs, because that is when he would stop. He would insist if I did not go by his side, and I don’t know why I simply didn’t stay in my place. I think I may have been afraid of getting in trouble if I disobeyed. I didn’t know, I didn’t know. I didn’t understand, either. It felt so wrong, but I didn’t know how to say it, how to talk about it. I didn’t know what it was. On another occasion, I was sat with my cousin in my auntie’s house, we were reading one of my Tintin comic together and having fun. My grandfather came to sit by my side, and put his hand has much has he could inside my pants, from behind, and I just stayed there, not knowing what to do, feeling so ashamed, so violated. I just kept on reading, but I did not see the story. I remember that episode so clearly, I remember the exact trousers I was wearing, I remember the light of the sunset coming through the windows, I remember thinking how beautiful of a day it was and, at the same time, one of the worst in my life. I never told anyone at the time.
One day, it stopped, I don’t know when or why. I don’t know how long it lasted. 1 year, 2, maybe? It always seemed like an eternity anyway. I had to forget it, unintentionally, until I was 16, almost 17. Those Sundays are a blur, I guess the routine was back to normal. Nothing happened. At least, I don’t even remember remembering. I must have been protecting myself.
Then, at 16, circumstances changed, and my Mom and I had to go to his house more often, 3 times a week. He was starting to have dementia, and if his hygiene habits were bad, they were terrible now. I think the smell revived my memories. We started staying over on Saturdays and I could not sleep sometimes, because I was paying attention to any noises that would indicate he was coming to my room. Even though his physical strength was decaying and I could probably overpower him, I still felt the same defenseless child who didn’t know what to do.
Finally, at 19, I told my Mom what her father had done to her child. We had just discovered that the cousin I mentioned before had OCD, and it was triggered by our grandfather. That gave me the courage to tell her, that meant I was not the only one who had been affected.
Well, guess what? I still had to visit him in the nursing home every week. I had to look at his face and be reminded of the worst part of my life. Almost two years ago, at 21, I told my mother that I would not visit him anymore, just accompany her during the car trip. She got mad at me, we had many fights, she once told me I was not her daughter.
My grandfather died in September, last year. A few days ago, we were having a fight about the fact that I was so sick of having to still hear about him, and I asked her if she had believed me, and she said “I believe you if you tell the truth”. I was shocked and hurt, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. For context, my Mom did not even believe me when I told her I needed glasses at 10. I only started wearing glasses at 18.
I am 23 now. I have anxiety, bouts of depression and terrible self-esteem, which I am in therapy for. I don’t blame solely the abuse for it, but it affected a lot of my life. I am lucky enough to have an amazing boyfriend, who helped me more than anyone with all this crap. I have been groped in broad daylight, catcalled, sent dick pics, harassed online just for being a woman and a feminist. But this is my most relevant story for the topic. It’s also my most personal. Everyday I see stories of people who experience the same things. Everyday I am reminded that it’s not over yet. It probably never will. But that is why we need to keep fighting, isn’t it? It’s not acceptable, it shouldn’t be normalized. It’s painful, it’s damaging beyond belief.
I still walk at night alone. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I just don’t want to be afraid anymore.
P. S. – I’m so sorry if this didn’t make any sense. I wrote with my heart on my sleeve, and I couldn’t force myself to re-read it. But I hope it helps someone.
Female, 23, Portugal.
Então, vou partilhar contigo duas experiências (de tantas que já se passaram…):
A primeira passou-se quando eu tinha 12 anos, numa festa de casamento numa aldeiazinha no interior de Portugal. Eu estava a dançar com o meu pai e um homem passou e disse ao meu pai: “Que gaja tão boa que arranjaste!”, ao que o meu pai, enfurecido, disse que eu era filha dele e que não era modo de ele falar assim de uma mulher. E o outro homem disse “Ah, se fosse minha filha, eu sei bem o que lhe fazia!”, seguindo este comentário com um movimento de ancas para trás e para a frente. Na altura, não percebi muito bem o que se tinha passado. Mas agora, só de pensar nos modos como esse homem se dirigiu para mim e para o meu pai, quando eu era claramente uma criança, sinto-me revoltada só de pensar neste tipo de mentalidade que abunda tanto na nossa sociedade portuguesa: só porque “uma gaja é boa” o homem “sabe bem o que lhe fazia”, não importa se a rapariga é criança, se é sua filha ou nem sequer importa se a mulher não consentir (se bem que penso que este homem não fazia ideia do que seria o consentimento)
O outro episódio passou-se recentemente. Estou a tirar o curso de Direito na FDUC e um professor disse o seguinte: “Os rapazes estão neste curso porque querem ser todos advogados e ganhar muito dinheiro, as raparigas estão aqui porque querem ser mulheres de um advogado”. E eu pergunto-me se isto é coisa que um professor de ensino superior diga?! E não é o único, porque um amigo meu de Engenharia Informática, também na UC, disse-me que um professor insultou numa aula duas raparigas, porque esse curso “não é curso para mulheres”
Female, 18, Portugal.
I live in a country where polygamy for MEN is allowed by the constitution. A man can have a second wife but there isn’t any law that obliges him to get divorce from his “first” wife or the wife to be informed in anyways, baring in mind this same law forbids women to be polygamous. It is seen as something inadmissible. Today I wanted to speak about something that is important, something that can happen in the world and to show that directly or indirectly women are still suffering from this patriarchal society. I have nothing against polygamy if all the persons involved in this relationship are consensual,but to have a law that gives all power to men in this matter and categorically borbids women to have same liberties is shameful. Hopefully, there’s a change in the system but this is a message to all women and men who think that we have reached equality between the sexes, you are wrong! Don’t just look at your privileged situation. Look around you it’s still there.
Female, 22, Algeria.
I’m 15 and I need to say something to the boys of my age. They joke around with this subjects, and even girls do, but I need you to understand some few points: you’re a male, so never anyone told you what to wear, because if you wear a miniskirt in the night you’ll get raped, you’re male so even I I work harder than you, I’ll get paid less, even if I do the exact same thing as you, you’re a male so you’ll never have to work harder than a female to feel acknowledged, you’re a male and you’re privileged. So please, I’m not hating men, I’m just hating the privilege that you guys have in this society.
Female, 15, Portugal.
I think most guys of my class(I’m in 9 grade) don’t know what it is to be afraid to wear a miniskirt in the night and don’t want to walk with it because you might get rape. They don’t know how it is to feel that even if I work harder and better compared to them I still will get paid less. They don’t have the feeling of being in hook culture as a girl and being called a hoe or a bitch, but if it is a boy in the hook culture suddenly they are Superman’s full of power. They don’t know nothing of this because they don’t feel the struggle to be acknowledged and the struggle to feel like we can do something. Because the society says no to us. And for now it will always be a no.
Female, 15, Portugal.