I wrote this for my English Language class where we were tasked with writing a speech about something we are passionate about. We had to write as though we were actually giving a speech in front of an audience.
I am both happy and honoured to be here speaking to you all today. It gives me great pleasure and upholds my extreme thankfulness for the invitation and opportunity to speak of an issue that I am extremely passionate about.
For generations upon generations, past and sadly, present, the issue of gender inequality is a real problem. Perpetuated by the values and beliefs of the patriarchal-driven world we live in, the day when we can finally say gender equality has been achieved, seems a very long way off. If you look at this notion, and see it as a reason to be discouraged to fight, please, stop. Instead, listen, be encouraged – look to the strength and determination possessed by the world’s youngest activists – realise your power as an individual to help – be the change you wish to see in our world.
Over a century ago in 1848, the first ever Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York; it was what I can only describe as revolutionary. Organised by two abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery convention, the event saw an attendance of 300 people of which 200 were female. Influential women such as Amelia Bloomer and Susan B Anthony gave lively speeches, the event as a whole concluding with the presentation of the Declaration of Sentiments; a list of resolutions and grievances which included demands for a woman’s right to education, property, a profession, and the vote.
For the 300 people in attendance, the dream was simple; they dreamed of a world that was equal, fair; they wanted justice. The women were tired of being second-rate citizens, inferior to men. They were tired of their opinions being cast aside, their lives moulded by the rule of men. They were tired of being so sub-par; they wanted to be equal, to walk side by side with men.
Instead of this becoming reality, all they got was a world turned against them.
It took the United States government almost 60 years to take the campaign seriously. 60 whole years of fighting for what they believed in, struggling to find acceptance for a new era of women in a world stuck in misogynistic tradition. The day that had been hoped for did finally come, however, because, on the 26th August, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified and women (note only white women as in some Southen States African American women were unable to freely exercise their right to vote up until the 1960s) were finally able to enter the sphere of politics as undisputed, in-dismissible registered voters. A day that was so glorious, setting the scene for many movements to grow from this, putting the wheels in motion for Feminism to branch out and be heard from all that subsequently joined – women would not stay quiet and passive any more, the time was now and their voices needed to be heard.
In today’s modern society, a much more intersectional, global movement in women’s rights has taken shape, but people have the audacity to say Feminism is dead, outdated, futile. To even think this, to even say that progress to give women equality has halted, or even slowed, would be drastically wrong, a gross miscalculation; something I wish to dispel. We have come so far and have seen many, many achievements accomplished by way of bringing women control in their lives. In the past 5 decades alone, women have seen the legalisation of birth control, for example, or even the abhorrent and disgusting act made punishable by law of 1994, that rape in marriage is made a crime after 15 years of serious campaigning. How terrible, how horrifying to think of a world where this sort of behaviour was conducted as the right of a man? The list really does go on, laws to abolish, and movements to discourage wrong behaviours of men towards women; it’s paramount, and it is such a testament to the women – and men – who have fought to bring justice.
In our world now, women are up there: we are doctors, we are going to university, we are writing novels, saving lives, catching criminals, creatively expressing ourselves, taking on roles as top business-women and putting to shame traditional and damaging notions of what it means to be a woman; we are living.
To look at it this way, for many, it would be clear to them to say “quit while you’re ahead”, or some comment relating to the erroneous assumption that women and men are finally equal. In many ways, equality has been achieved, but what you neglect to remember is that while we are saving lives, and taking on roles of top business-women, we are doing so on a 23% wage gap to men, worldwide. Yearly.
23% less than that of a man’s wage for exactly the same job; this is even less for women of colour.
23%. How much does this really add up to in terms of a lifetime, though? $50,000? $100,000? The answer is truly shocking; $500,000 is what a women loses out on because of what? The deplorable fact that she is a woman, that’s what.
And if you thought that was bad, you really want to hear this next line because those of us who thought continuing onto college and receiving a higher education would benefit us are noted for earning $800,000 less over their lifetimes than equally qualified men.
Sit there and say again that Feminism is outdated.
Tell me Feminism is outdated when right now for every 9 seconds that passes, in the United States alone, a woman is assaulted by a man.
Tell me Feminism has gone too far when at least 200 million girls and women alive today, living in 30 different countries have been forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation as they hold no control over what happens to their bodies.
Sit there with a straight face and tell me that it is ok to say Feminism is some kind of joke by ‘obsessive radical women’ when in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia 80% of its girls are unlikely to ever start school compared to 16% of their boys.
Justify how Feminism is wrong. Explain to the one third of girls in the developing world how it is ok for them to be forced into marriage before the age of 18, or the 1 in 9 before the age of 15, and all the consequences and implications that comes with that. Tell all the females of this world that their suffering is ok, that their right to a voice must be suppressed, that this movement is about greed of an already satisfied population of women. You can’t because you know that that would be a complete and utter lie – a horrific and unforgiving misconduct of truths.
When we try to have our voices heard, we are told to stay quiet, stop whining and complaining, stop exaggerating and that everything is actually fine for us. We are told that our struggles and injustices do not matter, do not deserve or are not worthy of discussion.
Please, I implore you, do not ever stop. Never let your wronged lives go as disregarded, let your voices be heard in the loudest way possible. Stand up, stand on your tiptoes, as high as you can reach. Shout from your very heart, let each word resonate with sparks of electric around you because you are worthy, you do matter, your voice should be accounted for and never misunderstood.
My dream is for a future that sees the equality of all genders. We will all walk hand-in-hand with one another, as brothers and sisters, as friends, allies. We won’t be measured on what we are, how much we have, or don’t. We won’t be judged on what we look like, our race, our sexuality, our interests. Instead we will be judged on how much we love. How we help those in need, how we try our hardest to make this world exist in harmony. Judgement will fall on how we care, how we are generous and beautiful inside, and then naturally, outside. Gender equality isn’t a matter of choice, it isn’t a matter of belief or tradition, this is real, this is now. Life is happening, we are one, we will unite.
Please, allow me to leave you all with one final thought, an extract from a very beautiful quote; “You were created as you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimetre farther along its path back to God. You are a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contributions. Give us what you’ve got.”