Change, not Cupcakes
International Womens Day is a global day celebrating women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements. It is held every year on March 8th to mark a celebration of women's rights - usually with a bleak cupcake morning tea and maybe a dedicated social media post. But what else gets done? What's your experience of being a woman in 2023?
Some things you missed this year...
23 countries in the world still rule abortion as illegal, and 11 US states
The pay gap in Australia is still 22.8%
In response to 22-year-old Mahsa Amini police brutality death - after one strand of her red hair escaped from her Hijab, women in Iraq are being killed, fighting for their right to choose.
Afghanistani young women are being refused to go to secondary school, universities, sports and even work for international organisations, thanks to the Taliban's new ruling
An average of 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, compared to 1 in 33 men
84% of gender equality portfolios are run by women, the ones directly affected by it
When I read statistics like this, it's hard to feel in a position to share my experiences - but with a world trying to silence us, my writing is how I feel I get my voice heard.
My Feminism journey
I am a feminist. I believe in equality for women and I am a woman.
I didn't use to be like this. I grew up in the days of trashy magazines, tearing women to pieces in the 00s. I scrolled Tumblr daily and adapted the personalities of pixie dream girls. I posted statuses and joined in a roasting session of someone - desperately trying to 'not be like the others'.
But the thing is - I am like the other girls. We are a sisterhood. No matter the place we come from, where we grow up, what we believe in or what we want from our lives. We have fought for our place our entire lives. The ancient tradition of marriage - passed from man to man like cattle. Needing permission to have access to our own money. MAKING our own money! Even the rules and regulations regarding our body.
This is where I've found my biggest challenges growing up as a woman.
The choice to have children
It's always a choice. And I preface this section with the emphasis that as a feminist, you support all woman's choices - even if they look different to yours.
The way we live our lives has changed dramatically over the past few decades, with more women entering the workforce and achieving higher levels of education than ever before. As such, there's been an increasing number of women who choose not to have children at all--or at least not for a long time.
This can be attributed in part to advances in technology: birth control pills have become easier to access; abortion procedures have become safer; there are now ways for people who want them (and their partners) can avoid getting pregnant altogether without having sex like condoms or IUDs (intrauterine devices). There's also the cost of living discussion - many people simply can't afford to bring a child into their lives.
I don't know where I stand on having kids. I feel connected to them. I have fun when I spend time with them. My ovaries ache when I'm in love with someone who can give me them.
But I feel this utmost responsibility that I'm not in a position to provide the best life to a child. For one, I don't have a partner. I have leaps and bounds to go in my career. I'd like to travel to more places in the world. So since I've been 16, I've been on birth control.
Birth Control Inequality
Birth control inequality is unequal access to birth control by men and women. It's the control of the system over women's bodies and their right to choose. It's the journey we go through whilst we watch the male methods be thrown out time and time again.
We spend our money as we do with hygiene products. We suffer serious side effects. We read that male methods have fewer side effects, and no hormones, but won't go through the testing stages. We see males who choose vasectomies and reverse them if they want children. We wonder why this isn't the norm.
The pill was originally only available to married women, so single women had no way of controlling their own fertility. This was changed in 1960 when it was legal for single women to use birth control pills. However, even today there are still many inequalities in access to birth control.
When I went to get my first pill at 16, my male doctor 'needed to check for breast cancer', and gave me an examination, touching and pushing my new breasts. When I spoke to my girlfriends, none of them had the same process.
I went through all the types of pills. Then, I got injections. I even got a rod in my arm, now replaced with two lifelong scars from when it was dug out by the nurse. On every trip, I asked for a non-hormone Copper IUD. The one that felt the most natural - since we were changing my natural cycle, instead of focusing on a new way to stop the swimmers.
I was refused. Every time. Doctors would tell me that I need to have kids first before they would consider it. At 18, out every weekend doing god knows what, with my new first boyfriend - it was hardly a good thought to put into my head. I voiced what I wanted, but I was denied access to it. Even though it affected no one else but myself.
So I went back in. Again and again. I suffered body changes, acne, depression, sex drive changes, and appetite changes. I felt like a stranger in my own body. I felt like I was betraying her, somehow. She was so pumped full of drugs she could barely function. Brain fog followed me around constantly.
A Copper T
The IUD is a small, T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. The IUD works by preventing sperm from reaching the egg, which prevents pregnancy. The device can be used for 5-10 years and does not need to be removed when you have your period. It's made of copper, or the hormone one, which is made of plastic.
I went on the hormone Mirena for a long time, watching my stomach bloat to the point people started offering me seats on the bus. Then finally, I was allowed to get a Copper one at 26 - but only if I got it inserted in New Zealand, where I'd finally felt like I was listened to.
I recently got it replaced, and now I'm protected until 41. I can go in and get it removed, almost brutally, when I am ready. I went through the procedure, both times, alone.
I felt the clamp inside and my whole body went into shock.
I felt the nurses on my legs and one by my head.
I felt the tequila shots I'd taken do nothing because I wasn't allowed anaesthesia.
I saw the messages the next day from a boy I'd been talking to, asking if I could come over later.
I dealt with the cramps, the internal bleeding and the emotional changes the whole next week.
I speak to the women that ask me about birth control, feminism and the right to choose. I've seen my friends recall the experience of pregnancy and childbirth. I've looked at hygiene items, ever-expanding and increasing in price, for all the natural changes we experience in our bodies.
I've read about moon cycles and bio-hacking. About the phases, women go through every month. I've spent days curled in bed not being able to move and then working an 8-hour shift.
We need more than cupcakes
I am proud to be a feminist, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my story. The fight for equal rights is not over, but we have come so far in the last century. As always, we keep fighting. We share the stories between us and the ways we can help each other.
I hope that sharing my experiences as a woman who has struggled with these issues, will help others feel more comfortable with their own identity as well.
I'm still suffering from the appointment from last Thursday, with painkillers by my bed. I get up and go about my day - because that's all I've ever known.