Jump

I generally see myself as a fairly independent, strong, and confident woman. But I struggled with something today that left me feeling frustrated at myself and furious at the world: I couldn’t convince myself to go out for a walk.

Sure, like anyone trying to get fit, there are times when I’m just too busy, too tired, or too lazy to motivate myself to do exercise. But none of those were reasons today: I had the afternoon free, I had plenty of energy, and I actually really wanted to go out and do something active, since I’d spent the whole day at home. Yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to walk out the front gate. I put on my exercise gear, then took it off again, three times; I paced between the sofa and front door for what seemed like an eternity; I picked up my phone and considered contacting people, but then put it down again.

All the while, my head was buzzing with questions and doubts: It’s going to be dark soon – is it too late for me to be out walking alone? But it will do me good to get some fresh air and watch the beautiful sunset, won’t it? Maybe I should cycle so then it’s harder for guys to grope me? But my bike light is broken – maybe it’s not safe to be riding in the dark? Maybe I should wear a baggier t-shirt so I don’t draw any unwanted attention to myself? But why shouldn’t I be able to just wear what makes me comfortable? Maybe I should wait for my boyfriend to come home and we can go together? But why should I need a man to escort me? Maybe I should call a female friend? But what if they get harassed or assaulted on their way to meet me?

Around and around I went and, eventually, it did get too dark.

I felt as if the issue was all in my head and, at the same time, so overwhelmingly bigger than me with its roots so firmly grounded in systemic inequality.

How, I wondered, could this shit still bother me? I’ve worked in the field of gender equality for almost a decade, so I’m mentally prepared; I’ve trained in kickboxing and kungfu, so I stand a decent chance of defending myself; I’m fluent enough in the local language here to coherently yell back or ask others for help; I’ve travelled alone around the world and have always managed to take care of myself. And yet some days it’s just all too much and I don’t have the mental energy to face the fight.

Just yesterday, some colleagues and I were discussing the barriers that stand in the way of women achieving goals, the challenges that make it an unequal playing field for women and men. Earlier today, I saw that The Equality Institute has created an image that perfectly sums this up. Sometimes these are really tangible obstacles – having babies, being paid less money than a man for the same work – and sometimes these obstacles are much more elusive – fear of what might happen, doubt of whether you’ll be able to handle the situation if something does happen, expectation that the authorities won’t take you seriously if you try to report it. Obstacles like that hold women back not just from relatively small things like going for a walk at sunset, but also from big things like applying for a promotion at work, studying a traditionally male-dominated field like engineering, or leaving an abusive relationship.

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In the end, I wandered over to my neighbours’ kids’ trampoline and I jumped up and down, surrounded by a protective mesh trampoline barrier, next to an enormous wall topped with barbed wire, within a compound that has 24-hour guards. I tried to see the sunset over the wall but I couldn’t quite jump high enough.

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Masculinities Mondays: 8th of June 2015

On June 16th, MenCare, in collaboration with the Clinton Foundation and HeforShe, will launch the very first State of the World’s Fathers report. The report is intended to provide a periodic, data-driven snapshot of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving globally by addressing four issues related to fatherhood: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal, newborn and child health; men’s caregiving and violence against children and women; and child development.  As the MenCare Campaign explains, the report aims to provide the basis for concentrated social, political, and healthcare initiatives; broad institutional change; and public awareness to bring about a transformation toward equitable, involved fatherhood. It defines a global agenda for involving men and boys as part of the solution to achieve gender equality and positive outcomes in the lives of women, children, and men themselves. Speakers will include Chelsea Clinton (Clinton Foundation), Gary Barker (Promundo), and Dean Peacock (Sonke Gender Justice).

For those of who will be in New York, you can register for the event for free here. And, for the rest of us, we can follow the event live here.

Masculinities Mondays: 25th of May 2015

Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

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Reactions to the ‘yes’ vote. (Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters)

With Ireland voting ‘yes‘ to same sex marriage, just one week after the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, this has been a pretty good week. Becoming the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage by referendum, Ireland is, as Irish PM, Enda Kenny, said, “a small country with a big message for equality.” Congratulations and thank you, Ireland! Now the rest of us just need to sort ourselves out.

This week is also wonderful because, to mark Orange Day on the 25th, we have come across a bunch of excellent, touching and though-provoking videos to share.

  • To learn about why research is crucial to ending violence against women, check out this informative and inspirational Tedx Talk by Mary Ellsberg:

* TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains descriptions of violence, which some viewers may find triggering or distressing. 

  • And last, but not in any way least, we would like to share this incredibly powerful Tedx Talk by Bella Galhos, entitled ‘My own father sold me for 5 dollars!’, about the urgent need to end violence against women in Timor-Leste, for the sake of the next generation:

* TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains descriptions of violence, which some viewers may find triggering or distressing. 

Masculinities Mondays: 13th of April 2015

When women get arrested for trying to stop sexual harassment, something is very wrong. The stickers that these women had planned to distribute on public transport in Beijing on International Women’s Day said, “Stop sexual harassment, let us stay safe.” With hindsight, they should have used holograms.

Sending out thoughts and support to these five brave women in China.

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(Clockwise from top left): Zheng Churan (郑楚然), Li Tingting (李婷婷), Wang Man (王曼), Wu Rongrong (武嵘嵘), and Wei Tingting (韦婷婷). Source: Telegraph UK

Yay for Sweden!

Two heartwarming stories to come out of Sweden recently, that make us want to buy some crisply-designed, light wooden furniture and eat some Kalles Kaviar.

  • The Swedish Academy announced that they will be adding the gender-neutral pronoun, hen, to their official dictionary in April. Coined in the 1960s, hen was later revived by Sweden’s transgender community as an alternative to han (‘he’) and hon (‘she’).
  • And Swedish photographer Johan Bävman has created a beautiful series on men during their paternity leave. In Sweden, parents are given a total of 480 days of leave which they can choose how to split between them; however, if men do not take at least 60 days, those days are lost. Says one father in the series,

I think it’s important to share the responsibility of staying at home with your children, even if you lose out financially. We have less money because I stay at home, but at the same time I will have more time to bond with my daughter and that is what is most important for our future together.

Thanks, Sweden – keep on showing the rest of us the way, please!

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© Johan Bävman

Masculinities Mondays: 30th of March 2015

Taking the starring role this week is a tweet by user Texpatriate that went viral about rape prevention tips. Unlike the Spanish Ministry of Interior’s suggested list for women on how to prevent rape (which included such helpful tips as ‘don’t put your first name on your letterbox’ and ‘close the curtains’), Texpatriate’s list is directed at men.

There are so many gems in there but our personal favourite is #9. It is a rehash of an old post but it doesn’t matter – it’s too good not to have multiple lives.

Now, the idea of teaching men not to rape is not new. It seems, however, that when this post went viral last week some men didn’t take kindly to the suggestion that they have any kind of responsibility for preventing rape. Like other women who have tried to turn the tables on the issue of street harassment (in London and New York), Texpatriate and those that several of those the retweeted this post about rape prevention received aggressive reactions from some men. Clearly the ridiculousness of the normalised discourse of putting all the onus on women to stop men from raping them, was completely lost on these men.

We were reminded of this article from a few years ago entitled, How to teach kids not to rape:

We need to teach our sons about rape. We need to expect much, not little, from them and from the men they will become. We need tell them what rape is and that it should not happen to anyone. This is the only loving way to parent.

The author’s words are as necessary now as they were four years ago, as they were forty – or 400 – years before that. Come on, world – we can do better.