On International Women’s Day

It’s a small thing.  In the grand scheme, next to violence and employment and education and the right to control one’s own fertility, it might seem nothing at all.  Still: it’s something.  Maybe something that sums up, in its own microcosmic way why we still need International Women’s Day: why the job that began so many decades back is still no more than only partially complete.

It is about sitting in a restaurant in a town (Zurich) in a country (Switzerland) that is not my own. Attention drifting from the conversation going on around me, I look out the window.  Outside are lights, shops, streets: a strange and exciting city to explore.

It is also 11 at night.

In a town and a country that is not my own.

Little risk…

I hesitate.  I decide against.  Not because I consider the idea intrinsically dangerous.  A short walk: a window shop.  Where’s the harm in that?  The “worst” that is likely to happen is a look, an encounter, a confrontation.  I don’t anticipate attack.  Still less the attentions of some would-be Swissish rapist.

Though of course, that possibility, however remote, remains always back-of-mind.

So why not take that almost midnight walk? The risk, as t’menz constantly point out, is so very small.

To which I have two answers, neither of which bring great joy to those, today, talking up the progress made by women. I also bring a perspective, a near-unique point of view that I possess.  For I grew up enjoying not – as some might argue – absolute male privilege:  trans men and women rarely enjoy the full privilege accorded to their birth gender, but a shadow thereof.

Still, there are some privileges I had and that I am very aware of in the not having of them now.

…much privilege

As a male, one may walk easily and without challenge at night.  People leave you alone: your presence on the street, unless you are determined to make a dick of yourself, is mostly unquestioned. As a woman, your solitary presence, after some unspoken yet culturally consistent curfew hour is that of guest and interloper.

Violence, challenge, danger are not random events that occur rarely and intermittently: they are the mood music to your very existence.

Alongside the risk is something else, a sense, perpetrated not just by men, but by some women too, that to take that risk is to take on blame. Should anything untoward occur – whether outright violence, or uncomfortable encounter – you should have known better: should have had more sense.

Which, in the end, is why I didn’t do what I very much wished to, and go for a little light window-gazing.

Not because the danger felt all that great.  This is, after all, Switzerland, home to cheese and bankers and high standards of cleanliness and interpersonal propriety. But because, with a heavy heart, I know that the response to any waywardness I encounter will not be entirely sympathetic. For work, for a story, I’ll happily run the risk. Because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a job: would be confined, as generations of women before me, to home and houseworking.

But the truth, as I suspect it is for so many other women is this: I can’t be arsed.  Can’t be arsed taking the small risk that walk would entail.  Can’t be arsed putting up with the soul-sapping lectures that I suspect would follow.

Is this, then, a smidgeon of regret?  A hankering after lost privilege?  No.

It is, however, a perspective: a deeply personal understanding, as few others have, of the difference in lived experience. How many freedoms remain a privilege exercised  unconsciously and without awareness of how it may be otherwise by the male of the species.

And how a better world does not involve gaining, or regaining privilege: but in simply according equal respect, equal freedom to all, irrespective of gender.

Advertisements

About janefae

On my way from here to there
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to On International Women’s Day

  1. Rosie says:

    Jane, this is fabulous. Thank you so much for this perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s