May 12, 2016

Maddie Russell

Dear Daughter,

For as long as I can remember, I have been told how lucky we are to be women in this country. We have achieved equality, we can say, think, feel, do, act and be anything we want. I have been told how we have won the fight.

This is offensive, incorrect, belittling and most importantly damaging.

Yes we have come far, but Australia is yet to face its largest hurdle – to change society’s views of women. The little voice in the back of everyone’s mind that forces heavy judgement on women who choose career over family, or the default stance that women who are groped on the streets shouldn’t wear revealing outfits and even the sly jokes other people make about my own appearance or sexuality. Expectations of us are over-sexualised, stigmatised and boxed into a framework so tight that anything out of the norm such as body hair, interest in sports or ‘non-feminine-isms’ is criticised as though we are an offence to women everywhere. Plastic surgery and eating disorders, women’s magazines, these phrases are played everywhere so much that they become meaningless.

I am sorry for the way things are, and am saddened to think how much I don’t want you to be a girl. How disappointing it is that dread falls in my stomach at the daydream of you being a blushing baby girl, how I want you to be a boy and avoid all the messy, sticky drama that I have to. But if you come to be, I will promise many things to you and let this be the most important one.

I promise for as long as you live, I will try with all my might to never let you feel inferior to anyone because of your gender.

Deep down, no matter how hard anyone denies it, there is a universal understanding of ‘the way things are’. There is a yucky, sweaty feeling that I mean less because I wear a bra and a skirt. A man in an office building waling his fists around is the king of the world and his secretary assistant Nancy is only good for making coffee. There is a cookie cutter idea in everyone’s heads that this is the way the world is and nothing is ever going to change. Of course I am grateful for the achievements in this country, we are as lucky as the next minority to achieve simple rights.

But I still live in a place where I’m not allowed to wear short skirts because men have all the power and can tell me that it’s my risk. I live in a place where I’m a bad mother if my partner stays home with the children and I go to work. I live in a place where I am not a woman if I don’t shave my legs and put on makeup.

I still live in a place where the way men see women somehow defines what women should be.

I promise that you will make the definitions of your own life, that the only person you will have to ever impress is yourself. You must promise me that where ever and whenever you can, correct the mistakes of others. Do not accept jokes that blondes are sluts, do not remain quiet when your aunty criticises your choice to wear clothes that are ‘unflattering to your womanly body’. Don’t be placid, never be put down or silenced. Fight, always, if not for yourself but for others and others to come.

Promise me to be yourself, not the butt of a joke or just another statistic.

And I promise not to bring you into the world until society is better, not until we truly are lucky to be women in this country.

 – Maddie Russell

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