Destination: Some Place Else

…to get away for if only a moment


30. To be a woman

We are beautiful, we are sensual, we are limitless, we are intelligent, we are funny, we are emotional and sensitive, we are crazy, we are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. We are loyal, we are proud; we are vessels of light and love, and hope and strength. We are fighters, we are survivors. We are so many things. But we can also be victims.

Ever since I was little, I always believed that I could do anything a man could do. I was the biggest tomboy. I would do things because I believed…. no actually it was because it wasn’t even in my vocabulary to think that I wasn’t allowed or wasn’t capable of doing what a man could do. I was lucky enough to be born to parents who nurtured that and in a society where the general view did think that women were the lesser sex. The older I get and more educated I have become, I have realized that living in a patriarchal society , there are so many systems in place where men have often had better opportunities. They are statistically paid higher wages and given better job opportunities ( I am not being a man hater here, I am just stating fact).

I read an interesting article ‘the hidden penalties of being a mother in the workforce‘, which looked at if you chose to have a child, their were certain penalties you would have to face when returning to work. ie less job opportunity, salary, responsibility. Yes, things are changing with men becoming stay at home dads, equal rights ….but there is still a long way to go. Really the issue I want to talk about is far more devastating.

A few days ago, I watched a BBC documentary that was aired on Four Corners last weekend called India’s Daughters. This documentary that took over two years to make, was actually banned in India, because it followed the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, in Delhi in 2012. I urge you watch this if you can stomach the sheer horror of what happened, especially knowing that it is estimated that a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. Jyoti came from a poor family who had sold their ancestral land to put her through medical school as all she wanted to do was be a doctor and help those who were less fortunate. When she was born, all the people in her village asked her parents why they were celebrating her birth as if she was born a boy. ‘Because they were happy either way’ they said. Like many countries, this view is still held strong, that to have a boy is the best gift one can have.

In December 2012, 6 months away from graduating, she went to see a movie with a male friend. Afterwards, she boarded a bus and was brutally gang raped. What I still can’t fathom is that they also butchered her like a cow, pulling her intestines out and left her for dead on the side of the road. I am really sorry to be so graphic but it is that part where I had to stop the film as wasn’t sure I could continue watching. These are the times when my usual upbeat personality, who tries to see the best in any situation, just simply cannot and do not wish to. That this type of atrocity can happen in the world is horrible and what makes it so much worse is that the perpetrators and defense lawyers and many people within that society believed she deserved it. One lawyer actually said that if his daughter went out like this woman did (and all she did was go see a movie. Even if she was dressed in the shortest of skirts with a male friend, that NEVER EVER should warrant it ok to be raped or assaulted), then he would take her to a barn and set her alight with gasoline. It is so backwards thinking, but definitely not the only country that holds these views (I would definitely like to point out, it is not the opinion of every single person in these countries and it is far more than just the role of women in a household, it is about their place in society).

But something did happen and this is what is worth something. There was an outcry amongst universities, women and men of India after this happened, and they began to riot. The following week, while Jyoti’s poor parents sat with her in hospital, knowing that she would not survive, there was a change. It got worldwide attention, as the article below states ‘ it quickly became clear that the protests were about far more than cruelty and the issue of police security for women in public places.’ The only thing that the family can take away is that she has now become a symbol of change in India and hopefully throughout the world. That does not change the fact that they have to learn to live life without her.

The human condition should be of love and acceptance, not of fear and shame. Men and women have fought throughout the ages for freedom of speech, of equality and it is still an endless struggle. I say this all from a lens of watching, from news and stories I have read and seen, from visiting countries that are poor and uneducated and different. Every single country has their own beautiful environments and people and structures and belief systems, but I don’t think there is one country that shouldn’t have these types of things challenged either, including my own. The rights and sufferings of women have long been documented and fought for. The more we do nothing, the more these sorts of acts continue. It is not only the judicial systems in place; it is the educators, the corporations, the men and women who are part of the solution.

Stop and think about your right as a man and as a woman and how education about these issues can lead to empowerment and movement for change. I am about to become a mother so maybe that is why this has resonated with me so much more. No one should ever have to live in fear, no one should have to not speak up because they might lose honour because these types of acts are happening. On the same day this documentary was aired, a NSW school teacher went missing the week before her wedding and there is now a hunt for her body. It was like with the rape and murder of Gill Meagher, these types of things happen everywhere. But the differences are the attitudes of the general society in which they happen that makes all the difference.

If only it was as simple as saying I love and accept myself, now why can’t I do the same of others.