Day 100 – Without a Voice

It does not feel like 100 days have passed but if I look at what’s been achieved in that time it begins to sink in.

We have raised €700 that has been spent on paint, canvases and a daylight lightbulb which allows me to work well into the wee hours, I have the bones of 8 paintings done while the other 17 canvases hang around my walls baring the pencil-sketched faces I now live with and our small but significant efforts have been recognised by people such as Carol Morely, director of Dreams of a Life.

Since beginning Blink. I’ve been asking myself night after night: Why women? There are just as many if not more John Does out there so why is it that I focused solely on the women. I’m female – that’s one feeble excuse. I’m a feminist – but yet this isn’t a feminist issue. And as I questioned myself tirelessly trying to invent an answer if one did not inherently exist I thought perhaps I should not voice my concern and hope no one else noticed either.

Then, as I spent a dismal night painting and watching a documentary which I can no longer remember the details of I had an epiphany. It was a historical film set around the protesting against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s and one of  the leading members of the movement had been asked how he got involved.

He replied: Well, you know, it’s like all things. I met a girl.

Suddenly, as if the haze of vanilla scented candles and distant sounds of cars scuttling through puddles ceased to exist, there it was – the reason why Blink. had to be about women. The faces that paper my walls as I write are the embodiment of the nameless woman but they are not the only ones.

On Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential figures throughout history only 3 women grace the well prepared list. 2 were queens and therefore, had a better chance than most.  But how many women in history have stood behind men, in the shadows and held them strong as they etched their names into the history books. They are the ones who are remembered, written about and exalted. Meanwhile, we will never know the names of the women who bore them upright, women throughout time who may have had more to say than their male counterparts but were simply never given the opportunity to explore their own vision as cognitive, unique, important human beings. How many potentially brilliant minds have been lost between the lines of historical texts. For centuries, half the population were considered sub-standard. They simply weren’t worth the time. In a way, I like to think the women of Blink. both stand for themselves but also represent the countless generations of voiceless women.

We have come so far and yet it’s disheartening how much is left to do. As of 2014, political representation for women is still far less than perfect in the US, UK and indeed, Ireland.

The simple logistical fact is that as long as 50% of the entire population is underrepresented in the country’s decision making – the wrong decisions are going to be made. As long as women don’t think that their voice matters, they will never fight to be heard. This isn’t some ‘feminazi propaganda’ as many would have you believe, it’s simple psychology.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union website has the largest grid for outlining female distribution among the world’s governments. Again we are faced with the harsh reality that the countries we condemn for being seemingly misogynistic or anti-feminist could teach us something.

Rwanda are world leaders in female political representation holding 51% of the seats across the lower and upper house. In third is the much maligned Cuba with 48.9%. Who else puts the “progressive” US, UK and Ireland to shame. Here’s to mention but a few: South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Uganda, Serbia, Guyana, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Singapore, China and Iraq. The UK rank 65th with 23% of seats held by women and the US 84th with 19%. In the meantime more countries pop up ahead of Ireland like Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ireland places 92nd with only 15.6% female representation.*

Hearing such statistics makes you want to bow your head and avert your eyes and ask how we ever fooled ourselves so much. The only female voices we hear are Nicky Minaj, Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian. Yes, feminism is about choice and if you choose to utilise your sexuality to achieve your ambitions who am I to judge? But this doesn’t mean we should not question and consider the motives behind these choices.

If we are so autonomous, so empowered why are so many of us still striving for the same goal of the sexual ideal? While young men are pressured to become economically successful women are just as influenced to strive for cosmetic success. If we say we are just as capable as men then why are we the backing dancers to a male government? Surely when a large percentage of us are making similar if not the same decisions we can’t call ourselves independent thinkers.

If I’m sounding judgmental that is certainly not my intention. I’m just genuinely confused because I succumb to the same pressures the vast majority of young women do. I’m still trying to find the perfect way to remove hair from their follicles, I have been of the mind that if you can’t wear a bikini there’s not much point going to the beach, I still search for the ideal foundation that is heavy duty but doesn’t sit in the natural pores of my face and I religiously subject my hair to chemicals whose names I could not dream of pronouncing.

Again, I cannot express enough how this is not the common man’s fault, they are as conditioned as we are.

But I’m just a young woman, balancing precariously somewhere between apathy and fury all the while trying to convince myself I’m not insane for feeling this way. You just have to ask when is this going to end? The Women’s Movement never declared themselves finished and yet we all presume Feminism is a thing that happened not something that is still happening and perhaps more than ever needs to revitalised.

It has been living on the respirator for far too long.

When Will it be Enough

*Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union 

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