As most of you already know, I have recently moved house. The reasons for the move were many, varied and complex, the move itself was horrendously stressful. But now we are here, and it is paradise. Behind the big cypress hedge, the rest of the world just disappears. We have no close neighbours, only cow paddocks on three sides and across the road. The previous owners completely surrounded the house with shrubs, medium height trees and towering gums, creating a calm oasis on the windy creek flats.
It took me a few weeks to coax the ducks down to the dam, but this morning I sat for an hour watching my Muscovy duck with her six Pekin and Appleyard ducklings, along with Derek the Pekin drake and his mixed group of girls, enjoying the new-found water. They splashed and bobbed and preened, the ducklings attempting to flap their stubby down-covered wings.
As I sat on the dam bank, at the start of a new year, I thought, why can’t it always be like this? Why can’t I hide from the world and just be oblivious to everything that goes on? Why can’t I take a year off from being a feminist?
It is tempting to shut off the world and ignore all the terrible things that people do to those who are vulnerable. Plenty of people manage to do that perfectly well, I suppose, otherwise there would be more outrage and more done to prevent it. But the only way to completely insulate myself from it would be to never leave the property, never communicate with the outside world, never turn on my computer or watch a movie or read the news.
For me, to participate in society means I will see things that I need to speak up about. I have been kept silent and obedient in the past, and I won’t do it any more. I have not only survived, I have succeeded. And for me, to hide from what I have learned and ignore what I know is to betray every vulnerable person who suffers still.
It is only ever a matter of time before I read another news article about a ‘nice, ordinary’ man who has slaughtered his family, or a politician who thinks women can’t be trusted to make their own reproductive choices. Or a celebrity who thinks she can’t be a feminist because she likes to cook dinner for her husband. Or how men being able to access free porn at all times is more important than the health and safety of the people who make it. Or read a post from a woman who thinks she is clever for hiding a purchase from her husband so that she doesn’t get in trouble for spending money.
So I will continue to speak up. I will speak for those who have been silenced. For the women who have been taught to hate their bodies for not looking like supermodels or porn stars. For the women in abusive relationships who know all too well why they don’t ‘just leave’. For the one woman every week who will be killed in Australia by her current or former intimate partner. For the rape survivors who know that preventing rape is not just a matter of getting up and leaving if you don’t like how things are going. For the children who are at the mercy of the adults in their lives, for better or for worse.
It is a part of who I am, as much as the cooking, the animals, the soap. I will continue to inform and to challenge my circle in the hope of a ripple effect that might help make a change. I will continue to expose the harmful effects of the patriarchy and its toxic gender binary on all people. And I will continue to point out why that thing that you don’t think is a big deal is a symptom of a deeper, more troubling issue.
Happy New Year, everyone.