International Women's - / Feminist Battle - Day
If I say something today -
who is listening to me?
Who am I addressing with this? It is not easy for me to raise my voice today, I must admit. Nevertheless, I want to do it. Because to let my voice be heard, is not easy for me only today, but to that later.
Some have decided to rename this day. In Germany, they start to call this day ‘Feminist Battle Day’. I think that's a good thing in principle. Patriarchal oppression unfortunately is not just about one gender, skin color, appearance, and health. But 'Battle'? Somehow that word has always bothered me, especially in relation to feminism. I'm tired of fighting. Because it somehow seems so pointless, and out of all proportion to the effect. Are we at war, then? Even though that may be true, that idea and approach don't sit well with me. I am a fighter, by all means! I have been fighting all my life, since childhood, especially against patriarchal violence and oppression. But my weapons are not weapons of war. My 'weapon', if you want to say so, is self-assertion.
The way I like to understand this day, today is about listening.
About listening to those who are on the dark side of patriarchy. So who has something to say today? Outwardly, I conform to some extent to the norm, am white, and in some ways could benefit from taking advantage of patriarchalism. And perhaps I have done so at times.
Nevertheless, I believe I have something to say today and deserve to be heard. Because
I have been silent for a long time.
Out of shame, because I thought there was something wrong with me. Out of the feeling, this truth seems to sully me somehow. And out of fear that this truth could only be a truth for me, and that others would not confirm it as true. At least that's what I experienced when I told my mother that her new husband had touched me at night. For three years she watched me being sexually abused by my stepfather.
The only thing that happened when I spoke up was that I drew my mother's merciless, jealous-to-the-bone surveillance and control on me. To make sure I didn't jump off the riff in the process of keeping her husband happy - but without outgrowing her. Yes, that is sick. But I didn't understand that as a child.
Was that a war? Maybe, the way you see it in the movies when the sound is off. And I've kind of been the battlefield.
Who do I tell that to? To those who are listening.
Why am I saying this?
Because I want to break a taboo. Despite everything, little is said about it. Few women stand up and say publicly 'Yes, it happened to me. I was abused as a child,' mostly out of shame. There is still a stigma. I hereby wanna end a silence that seemed to have protected me for a long time. From what? From the displeasure of those who do not want to hear it. But at some point, I understood one thing: Listening and, above all, justice is not found in the circles of perpetrators. Who are they? You can see that in their reaction. The people who feel attacked are the ones who should be concerned. But they do not listen. They don’t wanna be disturbed.
That's why I stopped trying to tell them. I stopped trying to get them to understand, to regret, to make amends. They don't exist anyway. Why it would be worth listening to is to initiate change. That's the ‘justice’ that matters to me. That other people stop watching violence happen. That people stop justifying, relativizing perpetrator behavior and thereby turning victims into culprits. That people dare to look, to intervene. That people with power use it for good and not to enrich themselves even more.
By raising my voice and speaking out, I am taking back my power.
I take back my power over my life by taking it away from people who want to harm me with it. I am no longer waiting for insight and repentance, or change. I am not waiting for an apology or compensation. I'm not waiting for anything or anyone. But that doesn't mean I'm silent. I want to be heard. But by the right people. The ones who dare to empathize and create something new together. Because today I’m in the position to do so. I’m not a child anymore. And I grow from what happened to me.
People often react to my experiences with horror and disgust. A reaction that is actually intended for the perpetrator. Or with shame and discomfort. A reaction that rather sympathizes with the victim. Who dares to just empathize? A reaction that one has as a self-determined adult. That is not judging. That turns action into motion. I have nothing to do with the culprit, I don’t want pity. I just wish for people who can feel with me, now.
Yes, it takes courage.
It takes courage to speak here today. And it takes courage to empathize and to take action. I speak today to be heard. From those who want to hear. To those who want to empathize. With those who want to understand. With those who want to accompany. To comfort, to support. And maybe also with some who want to use their privileged position of power to change something. If so: Ask, and listen. Ask what you can do, ask what would be helpful. And don't act quickly bypassing real needs to appease your guilty conscience and with it the unpleasant voices of protest.
If I say something today - who listens?