Ever since I was a little girl, I was made to believe that boys were better, stronger, smarter, funnier. That my life would only be complete once I found a man to support me financially, emotionally, and intellectually. That my greatest accomplishments would be fulfilling my womanhood by bearing children and raising them. That my wedding day, when I would be dressed in virginal white and given away like property by one man to another, would be the happiest day of my life. That I should be content playing with baby dolls, training for my future, while my male peers experimented with science and played sports. That pink was my only colour. That being pretty was my greatest goal and being skinny the best way to achieve it. That my success lies not in making myself happy but making others happy and comfortable. That, although I could study and pursue any career I wanted, professional fulfilment wasn’t really the point.
These ideas were not inculcated by one specific person and my family have always supported the non-traditional way I’ve lived my life, but that doesn’t change the fact that culturally, globally, subconsciously, institutionally, these ideas have been the norm for centuries, that women have been seen as the weaker gender, the damsels in distress, the serviceable walking wombs that must wait at home, barefoot in the kitchen, for their strong, hungry husbands to return from a hard day of running the world.
I am infinitely grateful that women much stronger than me have fought and rallied and protested for our rights so that today, even if many people still disagree, I do have a choice over how I live my life. But I am privileged and am painfully aware that not all women have those same choices, and until we all have a choice, none of us are truly free. Even before the internet empowered sexists and misogynists by offering them a place to hide by offering them a place to hide while spewing their hate, abusive men have had a problem with strong women speaking out, and still today, any time a woman is decisive, sure of herself, opinionated, or dares to demand equal rights, men come out crying, bawling, complaining that they can no longer make sexist jokes because we’re oh so sensitive. The poor things! Maybe they should stay home so all of us bad, mean women don’t hurt their feelings?
I will never apologise for living my life on my own terms nor for defending every woman’s right to do the same, whether that means staying home and raising children, taking on the corporate world, or aimlessly travelling the Earth in search of the perfect beach, so long as it’s her choice. Violence against women is never okay. Jokes about rape and abuse are never okay. Inequality based on gender (or race or class or religion or sexual orientation or profession, but that’s for another day) is never okay. And if you are one of those people who stand against feminism because you think it’s unnecessary or damaging or divisive, or because it’s taking away your liberty to insult, belittle, or condescend to women, then you stand against me personally. And I dare you to try and knock me down. Because I know my sisters stand next to me and we are stronger together, stronger than you could even begin to imagine.
So let’s not celebrate this day with flowers or chocolates, like it was a sad consolation prize for the hell women must endure the other 364 days of the year, but let’s stand up with our heads held high, empowered by the strength of knowing we deserve everything men take for granted—safety at home and in the streets, a living wage, choices over our own bodies—and keep fighting for equality, because even if we don’t achieve it today or even tomorrow, it will at least really piss off all the sexists (who are sometimes women, let’s not forget) and that’s a way more enjoyable consolation prize.