I Am Woman Part 1 || Part 2 by Hanna Imogen Jones
Many moons ago I made an unsolicited offer to the wonderful woman @Vidyut that I write a guest blog post about feminism. Since making that offer, my mind has, many times, been whirling with thoughts of “What to write?”, “Where do I start?” The offer I made has never been far from my thoughts, and it has always remained in my heart. It was just a question of arriving at how I would approach this task, and what elements of feminism I would focus on. This is, after all, a massive topic for discussion.
As a little bit of background for you, I have always been a feminist. For me, that term has always represented the quest for equality with men. Well, you don’t have to be a feminist to see that there is a severe gender power imbalance in the world – and that this has existed for aeons.
One of my earliest memories of expressing an opinion towards this – or anything else, for that matter - is of being a little girl of around three years old. I was present at a family gathering, and one of the female grown-ups (I can’t remember who) turned their attention towards me in the midst of the discussion and said something to the tune of “Well, Hannah, when you grow up, you’d better make sure you marry a rich husband, then, hadn’t you?” Little Hannah stopped, turned to the lady in question and replied, most seriously “Well, no. Why can’t I just make my own money and be rich?”
I remember stunned silence from the gathering of adults around me – and a big wide grin from my Mother, who knew her daughter by now. Don’t ask me where my response came from. I have no idea. I have no idea if I even possessed any concept of money. I certainly had no awareness of the gender imbalance within society. I suppose it just seemed like the obvious, logical response.
My path towards feminism / equality continued. I think this was something natural within my life. I had never felt inferior to boys. I had never felt superior either. I have simply always felt like an equal, with everyone on this planet, for that matter.
When I was eight or nine and in Junior school, I was the only girl that used to play cricket with the boys every playtime. I was great! I was the best wicket keeper in the school – and could catch the ball from anywhere. My reactions were fast, and once the ball was in my hands it was swiftly delivered to the wicket stumps or the correct recipient, usually resulting in the poor batsman ending up out of the game. The boys used to clamour over who would have me on their team. When the captain of each side stood up to pick their teams, I was often the first person to be picked!
The funny thing, when I look back, is that it didn’t seem strange that I was the only girl playing. I was simply another player on the field. It also didn’t appear to seem strange to the boys - that I was there amongst them. I remember nothing but respect from them, and actually if anything, they held me in great esteem for my skills and abilities. I was considered a valuable contributor. I was celebrated as an individual and as an essential component of the team. How wonderful! Perhaps the wonderful attitude of the boys reflected the fact that they too, by this stage in their development, had not yet ‘learned’ that men in society were considered ‘superior’ to women in so many ways. Perhaps nobody had yet told them that I shouldn’t be there as an equal amongst them – and as such, they treated me as an equal.
When I was seventeen, just before going away to university to read for a literature degree, my father presented me with a book that was to change my life! The book in question was ‘The Female Eunuch’ by the world-renowned feminist Germaine Greer. The reason my father had bought me this book was because Germaine Greer was at the time a tutor in the literature department of the university. I think he wanted me to read a book by the famous tutor, so that I could impress her. It didn’t exactly work out like that, as she never taught me and I only once came into contact with her, when one day we shared a lift. I remember that her energy at the time was so powerful and so intimidating, that I just squashed myself into the lift wall and didn’t dare to utter a word to her for the brief journey. She was not giving out ‘invitation to speak’ vibes, so I didn’t. This, looking back, might have been a good thing.
At age eighteen, I went on holiday to Spain. One day as I relaxed by the pool, an ‘entertainment representative’ from the hotel announced that a game of water polo was about to begin. Great! He said that anyone who wanted to play should get into the pool now, and so, with an internal whoop of excitement I immediately leaped up from my sun bed and plunged head first into the pool in readiness to play! I had been bored doing nothing but lounging around, so the prospect of some fun and sport was a perfect invitation. When I surfaced from my dive and looked around, I was amazed to find that I was the only woman who had gotten into the pool. “Oh well” I thought. It hadn’t been the first time. The teams were allocated and the game began.
The only thing I now remember from the game is this. The ball was thrown to my side of the swimming pool. It went over my head and a few metres beyond me. This was my chance! In the close vicinity of the ball, there was just myself and a man on the opposing team. We both started swimming like crazy to be the first to reach the ball. I got there before him. I took the ball in my hand, and raised my hand above the water to throw it to my team. Before I knew what was happening, the man had his hand on my head and was pushing me below the water, hard and with force. I lost the ball. But he continued to push me beneath the water. This was no joke. It was no light play in a holiday resort swimming pool. The man was almost twice the size of me. He was angry. I felt his anger and his aggression. I felt his rage and indignation. He continued pushing me below the water, now with one hand on my head and the other on my shoulder. I couldn’t breathe and fought to come up for air. By the time I came up spluttering, he had roughly pushed me aside with one last shove and was swimming away. Let that be a lesson to you. I got the point. No longer wishing to partake in the unpleasantness, I got out of the pool to recover and contemplate the incident.
Perhaps ten years or so ago I might have been playing cricket with that boy, in fun, in grace and in equality of spirit. Perhaps today, those boys whom had celebrated and championed my sporting prowess, would also be pushing me under the water, attempting to drown me because I had dared to compete with them as an equal. What had given this man so much anger, hatred and resentment towards me? What indeed, happens to some men to make them behave in such a way? Was he really so threatened by me? A forty-year old big strong man, threatened to outrage by an eighteen year old girl reaching the ball before him? Now that I think about it as I write this, I feel quite sorry for that person. He must have had so many insecurities in his life. Why did he possess this level of anger, of inferiority? Of having to prove his strength by force alone? I hope that he has now reached a place of peace. I hope that his violence has not extended to other women and possibly men in his life. I would guess that this may not have been the case. I hope that the others he has assaulted in his life have been able to assimilate his actions to the proper cause, and also find some empathy. It must be awful, to exist as such an angry, limited and challenged being on this planet.
Moving on. One day when I was around twenty, I had just finished playing a netball match. I cannot remember whether or not we won. After the game, a friend and I decided to relax and discuss the game together at the pub. We showered and dressed and went for a glass of water. No alcohol straight after the game – we were far too health conscious for that. We drank our water, finished our discussion and left the pub to walk the 200 metres or so to the taxi rank to go home. We began walking along the narrow pavement and saw that coming toward us, making their way to the pub we had just left, were two men. We all intuitively moved into single file in order to pass each other. I was in front of my friend. As we reached the two men and the one in front was just about to pass by me, I caught a funny glint in his eye. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my crotch in a sudden move. Grabbed it hard, and held his hand there. I smacked his hand away, spluttering out something like “What do you think you’re doing?” One look at his face told me to challenge him no further. It was late and both men were huge. They reeked of arrogance and there was ready aggression in their eyes. They continued past us on the path, laughing to each other as if nothing had happened. I stood there in stunned silence with my friend. This is such a cliché – but I felt dirty. I couldn’t wait to go home to shower again, which I did. Even in the shower, of course, I couldn’t wash away the violation that had occurred. What was I wearing? You may well ask. Jeans and a great big navy blue woollen jumper that almost reached my knees. It may as well have been a potato sack, it was so large and shapeless. Flat shoes. No make-up. The only flesh on show was my head, neck and hands. Had I asked for it? You tell me! Would the incident have been more acceptable if I was clad in a miniskirt and boob tube? You tell me!
Part 1 || Part 2