My Backyard First
While Clementine Ford wasn’t the penis-shrinking maven I imagined (or hoped?) she would be, I was awestruck by her tenacity, bravery and admirable use of easy language to discuss complex ideas.
After an hour-long interview on stage, the floor was opened up for questions.
I was gobsmacked to hear the very first person attack Clementine, insinuate social media feminism was frivolous and anyway, what was Clementine doing about circumcision in Africa, Trump in the US, child marriage in Australia, and floggings in Indonesia?
While clearly, this woman hadn’t read Clementine Ford’s impressive body of work, she also didn’t know of Clementine’s persistent letter writing to lawmakers who dish out paltry sentences for violence against women, or could see that Clementine faces the most disgusting and terrifying online abuse daily.
While the woman in the audience saw herself as a feminist, letter writer and a marcher for women’s rights, she didn’t see what I saw clearly in that moment and how her question affects me too:
Every time I am asked to consider the noble notion of international women’s rights over my own, I am forced into a gaslighting framework that keeps me scared and silent about my own rights.
(And you already know how I feel about gaslighting).
While I pondered this, my mind transported me to an airfield tarmac and I was overcome with compassion for the woman in the audience, who like us all, is being gaslighted about the validity of her own needs.
In my mind, I heard the flight attendant say, “In an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first and then help others with theirs.”
Which of course, makes so much sense. I can’t help anyone if I haven’t helped myself first.
But…if I listen closely behind the white noise of the engines, I could hear a different announcement for feminists and for women in general.
“In an emergency, those identifying as woman must take a deep breath and help others first – preferably starting with the cheapest ticket holders. Please refer to the bookings database for direction. Once all oxygen masks are on all other passengers, take another big breath, don your cleaning gloves and walk or crawl towards the toilets – because when we are through this, the other passengers will appreciate a clean toilet.”
Of course, I’m being a little bit silly now, but I hope you’ll see that my point is not so silly.
Plus, not only am I doing myself a disservice by helping others first, as an individual I simply can’t fight a war on all geographical fronts – in Africa, in Indonesia, in the US, in Australia…
But if I worry about my own infringements, I’m ridiculed for how silly they seem and how don’t even the problems are for the women over there.
“You’re worried about the corporate glass ceiling? Those women over there don’t even have paid jobs!”
“You’re worried about not feeling safe to go out alone at night? Those women over there don’t even go out by themselves during the day!”
“You’re worried about being threatened with rape ‘jokes’ on your social media pages? Those women over there don’t even have social media!”
There is this underlying message that I should be happy with my lot because those women over there get it a lot tougher than I do. There is also the threat – if you don’t shut up, things can always get worse for you…
But even though the infringements on my own sovereignty may seem whisper small in comparison to other women, they are still infringements that are affecting my human rights.
And my rights matter.
All women’s rights matter and not just the ones that are a problem over at my neighbour’s house.
You see, if I’m spending all my energy worrying about the weeds growing in my neighbour’s backyard, then the weeds in my own backyard will continue to grow unchecked.
And like a climbing boundary-crossing weed, these infringements are best addressed when they are small.
Nipping them in the bud is so much more sustainable than the energy required for a war on all fronts.
And make no mistake, this is a war.
And so much of it is a war I’m waging with myself – giving myself permission to fight so that in my own backyard, my needs matter, my rights are worth something, and it’s okay to be seen. So I’m asking you to see me, support me, watch me.
Watch me join my own army.
Watch me pull on my gardening gloves and start my own fight.
Watch me launch my fairy lights across my pergola and beat my drum.
Watch me light my fire, burn my incense and brew my truth.
And then please, come join me so we can laugh and love and dance our freedom under the moon together…
In my backyard that I made safe first.
Menstrual Superpowers Leadership Coach
In 2016, after nearly 2 decades working in corporate, I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. Designed to celebrate the cycles (lunar, menstrual + seasonal) I also loved interviewing imaginative women in inspirational careers. Now, I'm a Life Coach + I support Corporate Wonder Women just like you, to explore + harness your own Menstrual Superpowers. When a client discovers her Menstrual Superpowers + plays to her strengths on these days, her corporate life + home life transform. She is more productive, more inspirational, more creative + more rested. Yup. All of it.
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Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis