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you don’t own me

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

A PSA is going around the internet at the moment, aimed at women voters in America. A bunch of female identified people are lip synching to Lesley Gore’s 1963 song, “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore finishes off the PSA with a statement that essentially says: I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit.

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

I feel this PSA also relates completely to the current political environment in Australia. I’m tired of people (mostly male identified people) telling me what I can and can’t do with my body. I’m tired of being judged for what I choose to do with my body, from the clothing that I wear to the makeup I put on it. I’m tired.

This world is hostile to women. We aren’t free. This world is even more hostile to women who are people of colour, who have disabilities, who are queer, who identify as other genders. I don’t aim to speak for these people. I feel like it would be condescending as I don’t identify as all of the above. But I do want to bring it up to acknowledge that I know, along with white, Western women, women of colour, women with disabilities, homosexual women, people who identify as other genders are also (even more so) marginalised, judged and vilified by the world. Killed by the world.

I get tired of constantly fighting all the time. Of always having to speak up for myself. Of calling out people when they say shitty things. I wish we had an inclusive world but I know we don’t. I know we need to speak up. To refuse to be ignored and marginalised. To demand respect and attention. To call out –cist behaviour when we see and witness it. But what about when it isn’t safe for us to do so?

When women, even in the Western world are jailed, raped, beaten, and killed for speaking their mind? For simply voicing an opinion.

I don’t know how to solve this. I know having a voice is essential. I know that teaching respect is paramount.

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7 thoughts on “you don’t own me

  1. I feel like your hyperbole about Western women being jailed, raped, killed and beaten for “simply voicing an opinion” (examples?..) obscures any other message you are trying to convey in this article.

    Sure, it *is* tiring supporting unorthodox causes that need constant public support to gain greater economic equality for women in the Western world. That doesn’t mean, however, that just because we haven’t achieved true equality we live in a world that is entirely the opposite.

    We have a rapidly growing proportion of women in politics, and, in particular, a non-married female pm and a non-white, homosexual female finance minister. So when you say that you’re tired because women “aren’t free” and are “killed by the world” I feel like that undervalues their achievements – not to mention the real, legislated achievements of the 1960s rights movements.

  2. Kristine, your privilege is showing. Yes, things have got better for we white, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual Western women. We have moved forwards.

    But we’ve left so many of our sisters behind. Women of colour are paid even less than we are (which is still less than men) and are subjected to the double whammy of misogyny and racism at the same time. Women with disabilities still can’t get the services they need to live with dignity and respect. Non-heterosexual women are denied the basic human rights that heterosexual women take for granted. Poor women are still expected to both work to pay for their families while being vilified for not staying at home with them. Trans* women are slaughtered in the streets simply for being who they are.

    Feminism is not about looking after white women alone. In the words of Flavia Dzodan, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    Not to mention for ALL of us, domestic and sexual violence are still rife, we are treated as sexual meat only valued for our fuckability, we are disadvantaged in the workplace and worst of all we are not allowed to have control of our own bodies and reproductive systems.

    Our job is far from done. And for those of us not sitting back and going “Well things are alright for me these days.” it’s bloody exhausting.

    • I hate how often the phrase ‘check your privilege’ replaces meaningful discussion. Kristine makes a completely valid point that the claim that women are raped, jailed and killed in the west for voicing an opinion without providing any examples seems highly exaggerated.

      Most of the issues you raise seem like they are more connected to other problems, ie. do women with disability actually get worse care than men? And yes women from poorer backgrounds are unfairly judged for not staying home with their kids but men are unfairly burdened with a higher social expectation to provide. As a result they are more likely to fall over the edge and actually become homeless because people are less likely to support a man that doesn’t earn. LGBT people definitely suffer in many ways but framing it as a prejudice against women seems like it is taking us one step away from the problem. I don’t want to highjack this and claim men have it worse because I don’t believe that but it seems like you are obscuring the real issues simply to make a more dramatic case for how bad gender equality is. Whenever I say this kind of thing I am immediately judged to be anti-femenist but in reality I actually believe understanding root causes is the most important step in resolving these things. If we keep making the most dramatic sounding argument at the expense of truly understand the world we are harming the cause.

      On a less relevant side note this song irritates me no end because the only freedom that is discussed specifically is the right to ‘go with other boys’.

  3. Kath, I think you misread Kristine’s comment. She says specifically that she feels Sonya is being hyperbolic in regards to the plight of Western women.

    I agree with you – feminism needs more intersectionality, and I doubt anyone could ever claim that the fight for gender equality is anything short of exhausting, especially in regards to more marginalised minority groups.

    But I do agree with Kristine that we should acknowledge what we *have* achieved, even while fighting the rest of our battles.

    I think that claiming that the ‘world’ is ‘hostile’ to women is problematic, also. To me, it creates a paradigm in which we are victims without support, and without agency. As a woman of colour who is a migrant, and grew up with a very traditional, conservative culture in which women were and still are incredibly marginalised, I take time daily to thank the women in our past who fought so we could have the freedoms we do have today, and vow to keep fighting so our future daughters can have even more rights.

    I don’t think that acknowledging that we have come a long way means automatically ‘sitting back’, as you say. I think it’s a naturally positive thing to take note of, before moving on to the next fight and the next issue that needs to be discussed.

  4. I’ll cop to occasionally being hyperbolic! I mostly stand by that statement though. And I don’t believe I should have to list off a bunch of examples.

    I apologise for not acknowledging what our foremothers (??) have done to pave the way — you guys are completely right on that and I believe it would have made me feel more hopeful and less hopeless.

    I certainly did not mean for the claim that the world is hostile to women to come across as I think we are victims without support and agency. I don’t think ALL women are like this at all.

    • I didn’t think you were being too hyperbolic, or implying that we are victims, Sonya! That came out wrong – I meant more that that sort of thinking often pervades feminist thought, and that I think that can be harmful more generally.


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