This piece is for every woman who suffers at the hands of a white supremacist, cissexist and ableist heteropatriarchy, and for every woman who has suffered at the hands of colonialism and continues to suffer at the hands of Western imperialism.
This piece is for marginalised women. For women of colour. For trans women. Queer women. Gender non-conforming women. For women of religious minorities. Disabled women. Women who have suffered trauma or illness. Migrant women, who know the pain of leaving homes and the strength it takes to build new ones. Indigenous women. Displaced women. Women who have seen poverty and violence. Women abroad facing exploitation by our own corporations. Women seeking asylum, waiting indefinitely in barbaric conditions imposed by our own governments. Working class women. Homeless women. Single women. Polyamorous women. Married women. Women who are waiting for the right to marry. Women forced to marry against their will. Widowed women. Women in refuges. Women with children. Women who can’t have children, and women who choose not to. Women who work. Women who are unable to land jobs due to discrimination. Women underpaid in the jobs they do hold. Women who feel alone. Women who are any and all combinations of the above.
Women who the system was not built to benefit, and women whose offspring the system was not built to benefit.
Women who the system fails, continually, each and every day.
Today is International Women’s Day – a time of reflection, of acknowledgement and of celebration – a time to reaffirm the worth and value of all women, and continue to stand defiant in the face of kyriarchy.
I write this as a queer, Muslim woman of colour – someone who knows hopelessness well.
This is a time of hope.
This is a time of unity, solidarity and strength.
In a system built to trample upon and exploit our existence, to suppress and deny our humanity, self-love is a revolutionary act. Where one’s devaluation is enforced by a hegemony, ties between the personal and political are inextricable. The repression of self-actualisation is fundamental to systematic oppression. Knowing your own worth is essential to resistance, and recognising your own beauty a meaningful act of defiance.
And so today, remind yourself of the struggles you have faced. The battles you have fought and won to be here.
Remind yourself of the things you have achieved. The relationships you have built and sustained. The times of despair and desperation through which you have emerged, stronger than ever.
Remind yourself that you are complex, enigmatic and intelligent. Remind yourself of the ferocity and compassion you are filled with, in equal parts, that has enabled you to continue.
Remind yourself of the women and allies around you. Of friends, partners and family.
Remind yourself of every quality, every trait, every value and feature anyone has ever loved about you.
Remind yourself to love those aspects too.
Respect and admire yourself. Demand the same respect from others, and give it in return. This day is ours, but remember that we should not have to limit our prominence and validity to a single day on the calendar; this message should not be exclusive to twenty-four hours a year.
International discourse around intersectional feminism is growing, but we are far from an equal world.
Keep fighting, and look after yourself in the process.
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Somayra Ismailjee is an Australian-born, South Asian Muslim writer living in Perth. She hopes to pursue an intersection of creative and academic work with an interest in issues of racism, misogyny, classism, queerphobia, Islamophobia and the arts. Her work has appeared in independent left-wing news site New Matilda, Australian human rights blog Right Now, arts and culture magazine Pilerats, among others. Find her on Twitter @somayra_
More by Somayra Ismailjee
Western Apologies (mediadiversified.org)