I am at war. My body – my gendered body – is a battlefield. Territory that I fight for sovereignty of every day. My mind is often my only defense against the onslaught of advertisements, overheard conversations, gendered language, and looks and comments from men (and women) that all tell me, over and over, that my body is an object, and that I, as a woman, am little more than my body. That I am somehow less – less human, less worthy, less self-determined, less – than my male-bodied counterparts. I am not less. But the constant battle makes me weary, makes it harder to get through, and my life becomes less. Less opportunity, less speaking up, less visibility. It is a silent war, but a deadly one nonetheless.
Having helped organize Making Noise, an ‘Arts & Activism Fair’ about gendered violence, and International Violence Against Women Awareness Day events, I’ve been reading a lot of stats lately. Did you know, for example, that one third of women aged 15 to 24 experience violence in intimate relationships? Or that half of Canadian women over the age of 16 have been physically or sexually assaulted? Half. That’s disgusting.
And while reading these horrifying stats, I keep thinking about how lucky I am to be in a relationship with someone who completely and utterly respects me as a person, and how dating a feminist is so liberating and fulfilling. It may not be obvious to those who haven’t dated both feminists and non-feminists, but there is a huge difference. For the first time, there is no pressure in my relationship. There are no doubts, no expectations, and no fear. But I shouldn’t have to be lucky to have that kind of relationship. That is a right. A right that 51% of women in Canada don’t get to live out all of the time. Women on this campus.
Women have the right to feel (and be) as safe on this campus as men. But we’re not. And violence isn’t just about the sexual assaults that take place every day. It’s about the way we throw around words like “bitch” and “slut” and erase womanhood with terms like “you guys” and “mankind”. These are not just words. Language is the filter through which we see and construct our worlds. Words matter. Jokes matter. Movies matter. Commercials matter. Each is a small reminder of our status in this world. Each is a weapon used to keep us in our place. Women in one place; men in another. Both confined to tiny little cells. Prisoners of war.
We are all at war. And here at Laurier, we are slowly building up an army, and we are starting to win. Man, woman, or whoever, if you’re sick of being imprisoned, join the fight. Join LMAC (Laurier Men Advocating Change) or visit the Women’s Centre. You won’t regret it. It is so much easier to fight this battle every day knowing that there are other people on your side.