Note: This is a post I originally wrote on International Women’s Day 2016 in March, updated and modified for submission as part of my application to an upcoming writing workshop.
It’s International Women’s Day. Here’s to all the amazing and inspiring women in my life. And of course, to the wonderful men who have supported and enabled the success and liberation of women over the years. I am privileged to have them in my family and circle of friends. From my dad and brother, to the male bosses who hold doors and dates who share ideas and appreciate my intelligence while offering to carry heavy grocery bags for me, and close platonic male friends who are almost like brothers to me.
As a woman in this day and age and this part of the world, I have much to be thankful for. We have so much liberty. The liberty to run after our dreams. To succeed, and to define our own success. To vote and to speak up. To command a boardroom while going ga-ga over the latest kitchen gadgets and recipes. To run marathons, climb mountains, drive fast cars, paint our nails and lips bright red.
To own properties and stride our stuff on red carpets. To have polite men serve us coffee in VIP lounges. To be different from men and still be regarded with equal respect.
To wield influence in our own spheres, and still acknowledge the leadership and strengths of the worthy men in our lives, knowing that it will only bring out the best in them.
Oh what an exciting time to be a woman! As long as we support one another and are not held back by our own fears, or the words and judgement of the less progressive, both men and women.
I write all this as a woman who have led a reasonably comfortable middle-class life, in a reasonably privileged and peaceful part of a developing South East Asian country, where gender inequalities exist as tolerable undercurrents rather than blatant injustice. And perhaps, most of all, I write all this as a hopeless optimist who can’t help but see the glass as half full. Or maybe I am just too stubborn and carefree to be bothered by ridiculous policing attempts, or perhaps I have been sheltered from them.
Whatever the reasons may be for my optimism and upbeat attitude with regards to my place as a woman, complacency is certainly not one of them.
I now want to explore the other side of the coin – take a closer peek at the lives of people who may not have been as sheltered or privileged, and to walk in their shoes to find out what it really feels like to be discriminated against purely based on their gender.
To find out for myself – what the oft-mentioned systematic oppression of Malaysian women is all about, and finally, hopefully, to have empowering and uplifting conversations about what every individual woman can do to change her own life for the better.