The Worldview of Womankind
TW: Mentions of rape and infanticide in relation to the crimes against humanity in Myanmar
It is only really in the last few years that I have to come to truly appreciate the diverse, troubling, beautiful, complex and wide chasm that is the worldview of womankind.
Today, out of the billions of us that live on this planet, I will mention two people. Myself and someone I have never met.
My experience as an identifying female covers the myriad of emotions from entering the world angry and hungry to sitting here writing this blog fairly balanced and full of porridge. What has happened in between is quite ‘normal’. I’ve been a girl and a woman. I’ve been a gymnast and an actress. I’ve been a high achiever and a rock bottom quitter. I’ve been the comforter and the comforted. I’ve been across the world and I’ve spent whole days melting into the sofa. I’ve been told sit down and ‘be quiet’ and I’ve been given a platform to speak freely. I’ve been reprimanded for my strong-headedness and I’ve been admired for my courage. I’ve made people laugh. And (much to my detriment) I constantly make myself laugh which is not always a good look but…fuck it. I’ve been judged and I’ve been the judgemental. I’ve opened my eyes and I’ve taken a good hard look at things. I still have so much to see and understand better.
And there are limitations on all of this. I suppose I hadn’t always (especially through my teen years and university years) appreciated the boundaries of my own female experience; the sincere privilege I experience as a woman in comparison to the daily lives of others. Of course, that knowledge is always there, but it is when you become directly concerned with the dilemmas and difficulties that others face that you start to shine a light on your own experience of the world and how you can be a part of empowering, caring for and appreciating others.
This bit now is different.
Something that has pulled me into this headspace, almost like being plunged into ice cold water or waking from a bad dream is the two occasions on which I have accounted the stories of the Rohingya people.
I sit here in my bed, safe and warm (good for me) and across the world a woman sits in a refugee camp, far from the knowledge of safety and comfort. Something in her eyes as she stared down the barrel of the camera- I felt I saw some kind of void in there; a group of violent soldiers had taken her spirit back in Myanmar. They threw her baby into a fire, cut her son’s throat, raped her in front of her daughter and then left her for dead. As was the fate of so many other women and children in the violent attacks that took place in 2017. And the grief extends to the men of the community too- a shared wake in the absence of all those they have lost and the parts of themselves that have gone with the dead. I am almost regretful that I have shared this image in what feels like a blunt and sudden fashion. But it comes to me as I walk down the street or wait at a bus stop. These are real people’s lives that have been savagely torn apart. I feel anger and shame and a sense of ‘well, what now?’ I will never meet that woman- tell her how I desperately wish her life could have been different. But I wonder is it enough to think of her? Is it enough to simply…care…which seems like such a pathetic word in the face of such horror. This is a matter of war crimes. Hallmarks of Genocide. Burned and pillaged towns and burned and pillaged bodies. And as an individual how can I stop that? If it were my job to hold those responsible to account then perhaps I could. But as another woman in this world, I find I can only sit and cry for a pain I do not truly comprehend and can only really imagine.
So I ask myself: What is it to be a woman on International Women’s Day? I have just now listed plenty of things to you that I have been able to realise and explore about myself in the last 25 years. What I have been and who I am now; where I am going. On this page I am a kaleidoscope of things because somewhere and somehow in my spaces I have been provided with the opportunity to be. Even when I have been pushed back as a woman, I have been able to express my frustrations for this and look at an avenue to counteract that behaviour. And yet it seems I have been able to (or really through no choice of my own) reduce this woman’s life to her trauma alone. She too must see herself as a rainbow of complexity and beauty and experience- within her own context of the world- but now it seems the only image is one of pain. How is it fair that she is summed up in a single snapshot? This is what a group of men have boiled her down to when they rendered her life valueless.
There’s a woman across the world in pain. And perhaps there is a woman next door who feels something very similar. I know there are people living all around me in my community who would say my view of being a woman is but one very specific thing in a web of difference. And that difference is important too. We must also be able to celebrate it. I suppose we are all on these varied journeys. But I find it hard to reconcile myself with suffering. I read a book recently in which a survivor of Genocide says that we cannot compare our sufferings or experience, even though I clearly have here and I wouldn’t know how not to in this case. I suppose in some hopeful place in me, there is a small pocket of her she has been able to keep for herself- a power and grace that one day can rise up and roar. I take that hope from a piece of theatre I saw recently called dressed, performed by a group of wonderful women who explore the important notion that women can come together to heal each other in the face of adversity and sadness; in place of having something stolen from you, you find the joy that exists still in the world that melts into the broken seams and holds you gently.
But I am worried this woman has too many wounds to soothe. Will the world give her a chance to carve out another version of life?
So what now…
I suppose what is left now is action. And I like to think that each day I spend in this world as a female I fight back a little more. And that really for all my 25 years of experience I have been fighting in my own way. I expect better. And indeed, I can still do better. For everyone. And the issue of women’s right becomes the greater worldview of the human rights of those seen to live outside the fringes of society – on the edge looking in.
The final thought that comes to mind is this. I have been a part of the inclusive company called Chickenshed for the last 13 years. I remember I had a t-shirt I would wear to these other more mainstream dance classes on Wednesdays when I was younger – which held a Chickenshed statement: ‘Life is good when you are in it’. People would read it and ask ‘what does that mean?’ I thought it might take a long time to explain and I usually just said I didn’t really know. But it makes sense to me now. It is not enough to simply exist in this world. It is the acknowledgement, respect and space granted from other humans, for that very existence, that makes a life truly lived.
Concept illustration of women of the world and nature combined
I’d like to ask the internet to provide me with some recommendations – blogs from women all over the world talking about their experiences of life and the things that interest them. For now here is a current 2019 list I have found that has many different female perspectives. Sites include perspectives from women of all different cultures, countries, ages and passions.
Please also see a link to Oxfam’s specific aid for the female refugees who ‘bear the brunt’ of the Rohingya crisis