It has been a hard week for women, a hard day. A hard month, a hard year, a hard lifetime. I could write this sentence at any moment in history and it would have been true. Even on the weeks and days when victories are won, the backlash is the shadow lurking behind them.
I spoke to someone recently about why I do the work I do. Why, she asked, did I think I’d chosen a career where the chance of success – of women being full free and equal in my lifetime – was so small?
I’m not a person who self-sabotages, and I’m not a masochist either, so the question gave me pause, and I took that pause to try and find the thing in me that makes me believe in the value of women’s activism and in broader gender activism today.
And it is this: I am defending the line in the sand that others before me have drawn, and I will never, ever, let that line be washed away. We have made progress, that progress was hard won, and we must defend it.
The beauty is – I’m not alone. Each day thousands of people around the world wake up and choose to speak our truth, to write our stories, to go to court in the name of justice, to be there for and with survivors of violence and to believe their stories, to demand reproductive justice, to rally against legislative inequality, to demand better representation in government, to demand safe transport and better pay, to demand the rights to our lives and homes and land — each day we do this and we dig that line deeper. We dig our heels in and we defend. We take steps forward and we advance in the name of justice and what we know to be right. Each day we draw strength from one another, and are grateful for the others who are with us. We draw this line in the sand around the world, and we will never, ever let this line be washed away.
This doesn’t mean that this is easy. It is hard to fight every day. It is very, very hard. And it is alienating sometimes. It can lead you to some dark places and make you doubt your sanity and make you feel different and alone and afraid. It can make you angry, so angry you explode like a bomb. It has cost hundreds of human rights defenders their lives. It can make you sad, so sad you can’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy anymore. It can give you headaches and back pain and body aches. It is not easy.
The patriarchal system forms the bricks of our culture, and the world continues to build systems and institutions with these bricks. This system of inequality so pervasive that at times it will try to convince you that the line is isn’t worth defending, that you’ve won already. Complacency is the threat we face. The misogynists are easy (more often than not) to spot, outright sexism and hatred – even easier. But the idea that we are fine now, that we can pack up and go home because of the the law will be enough, that idea is dangerous. It is not time to rest on our laurels.
The situation today demands constant vigilance. It demands courage. It requires that you find allies, and friends, and loved ones who will support you on those hard days. It requires self-awareness and self-care and paying attention to the signs that your body and heart give you that say that this might be a day for rest. It requires love and hope and passion.
For you, who is reading this today and feeling like International Women’s Day tomorrow is nothing more than ceremony. It isn’t. It is our legal line in the sand. It is our rallying point. It is our call to do more, to advance further, to remain aware, and to be brave.
As if it is a new year I wish for you, reading this now, a year of bravery and certainty that you are not alone. We are here with you, and we will never, ever give up.
See you at the line, today and always.