“This International Women’s Day I am grateful that I have lived to be 23 without dying in childbirth, being raped, forced into marriage or prostitution or denied an education. It’s not a ridiculous thing to say – it’s a tragedy of our times that not every woman around the world can say the same.”
Last Friday I posted this status on Facebook. It was completely sincere, and I was humbled by how much response I got from people, including those who shared it for their own friends. I am grateful that I live here in Australia and am taking full advantage of all the freedoms afforded to me, those fought for by all the strong women who came before. But at the same time I think we shouldn’t have to be “thankful” that women have the same freedoms as men – we should assume that all women have those freedoms, and shouldn’t have to fight for them, and if they are not being respected, then that is a call to action.
I recorded this interview with Karen Willis, the Executive Officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, to play on 2SER for the special programming for IWD. Even though “victim-blaming” is getting talked about a lot in the public sphere recently, conversations I have on a daily basis, even with my family (“You’re too pretty to walk by yourself at night!” says my grandmother), show that women are still blamed for becoming the objects and victims of male aggression.
On Friday morning I read this article about a proposal to introduce “pink carriages” for women and children using trains at night. It seemed to be partially Karen’s idea but since the interview had already happened, I didn’t get to ask her anything about it. My first reaction to the pink carriage idea was positive – “I would totally use them!” I thought. More secure carriages to travel in at night? Yes, please. However, while it is no doubt being proposed with the best of intentions, the pink carriage plan is a cop-out. Once again, it enforces the idea that women need to do more things to protect themselves, or be protected, from violence. In the same way that enforcing a curfew on women to protect them from serial rapists is illogical – the women are not doing the raping – segregating women on trains to protect them doesn’t put any onus on the (presumably from the looks of it) men to stop harassing them. Because I just know that if a woman is assaulted elsewhere on the train, people will ask why she wasn’t in the pink carriage.
So even though we’ve all had a gutful, it’s a conversation that we need to keep having, and having, and having, until it’s not considered reckless for a young woman to go where she pleases, no matter the time of day or night.