It’s always been hard to be a woman. In the past and in any place in the world. Things got better in some places. And not in others. It took a lot of women and a lot of sacrifice over a long time. But, I’m not going to write about it here. Instead, I’ll write about what I know and what’s in my heart.
I was a girl born on the in SFRJ. A girl/woman on the Balkans. Looking back, I don’t think female offspring was appreciated as much as it should have been. Now, I realise the same is still true in many parts of the world today.
On the 8th March we did little handmade cards at school as children for our mothers or grandmothers and were taught to show our love for the crucial women in our lives. It’s a really nice thing to do as a kid. It’s a good attempt to teach children about the role and position of women in history, and also how we should treat our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, etc. It would have been great if that idea had a better footing in the society as a whole.
I was often called a boy, because of my short hair and trousers. When my mother was a young girl, she had been told that red lipstick and red nail polish were for only suitable for prostitutes.
When a woman applied for a job, she was asked if she was married, how old she was and if she had any children. Because she’ll need time off for maternity leave, and then more sick leave for her child. If a young woman was offering child-minding services, it was often thought she would be game for anything else required.
When young women or teenage girls complained that adult males twice their age in positions of ‘power’; (teachers, vicars, psychologists, etc.); behaved inappropriately (to say the least) – they were told that it was normal. Often, no support was offered best slimming pills. The word that should have been used is commonplace, not normal. It was also normal that a young good-looking woman would often be patronised or flirted with by a bored male employee of a shop or a bus company. It was also very normal that a woman would be asked by the priest in a confession if she was using contraception while having sex with her boyfriend/ husband.
It was also normal to ask any teenage and young woman if she has a boyfriend and, if not, what she’s waiting for? And if she didn’t have a boyfriend yet, then something must clearly be wrong with her. Something must be wrong with her if she’d rather read books, not cake tonnes of slap on her face and not follow fashion blindly. Surely, something must be wrong with that (young) woman, because her role in life is to get married, have children before she is 25 years old. Because, women’s only role in life is to get married and have children. I write this with heavy sarcasm. What about their wishes, their talents, their passions, their interests, etc?
In some parts of the world women’s rights are better than they have been in the past. Or should I say haven’t been, as mainly they were non- existent. Yet, despite this, there were and are women who have set examples to their daughters, sons and husbands, that it’s not OK to be treated like this. They have succeeded despite all the obstacles, and have followed their dreams. They have turned those NOs into a lot of moving ONs. They bravely faced the odds stacked against them and pursued their dreams. These women have become successful in their careers and become role models for younger generations.
One thing has become clear to me: education is the way out. The way out for every woman. When I say education, not just the education of self, in schools and universities, but for our own futures, and that of our daughters, we should educate the world to give women their rightful place in society. Because, otherwise, nothing will change and people will still not know or think any differently.
Happy International Women’s Day!