The following article discusses topics of a sensitive nature which may be disturbing and/or controversial to some readers. Hence, reader discretion is advised. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the authors and do not reflect Sunway University and Sunway College’s values.
Content warning: Mentions of violence such as rape, abuse, murder and assault.
“If I die one day knowing that women are still never at peace, then what a tragic death that is.”
I was sitting in a restaurant when I heard that sentence slip out of the mouth of the woman sitting at the table next to mine. I still think about it at least once a day. Maybe three or four times if I go on Twitter that day and read about yet another story of a woman getting beaten, raped, murdered, assaulted.
It was the 17th of September this year. I never shook off the bad habit of going on my phone the minute I wake up, so that was what I did that morning. Iran was already trending on Twitter, the then-unfamiliar name of Mahsa Amini was plastered everywhere on the Internet, the picture of her looking to one side into the distance as she touches one side of her hijab. Bile rose up my throat when I read about what happened. Did she know the material she was touching in that photo of hers was going to cost her her life? That the men who placed their hands on her would not see the human in her, but just a sliver of hair that failed to be covered by the material?
There was so much anger in me. There still is at the second I am writing this, because I know how long this war on women has been going on for and I have no idea when it will end. This year alone, I have lost count of how many times I felt like throwing up reading and watching what was online, let alone what I saw and heard in real life.
I speak on behalf of all the women out there when I say that I never want to live with the dread that any one of us will be next. I never want to wake up and think of how lucky I am to still be able to have another day, unlike so many others who have fallen into the hands of misogyny. I never want to worry about the women close to me, about my loved ones.
After Mahsa Amini’s tragic death, the people of Iran came out together to protest, to fight against not only the brutal regime that has been ruling and controlling them with no mercy, but also fighting against the war on women.
I do what I can here: signing petitions, keeping up to date and spending time paying attention to footage that Iranians have managed to upload, despite their media ban. I felt a sense of relief when I saw so many men standing up for the cause as well. So many of them walk hand in hand with the women, fighting for them and with them. But I could not ignore the fact that there are still many of them out there who would do everything they can in their power and privilege to bring women down. There are still lives of women and children being sacrificed despite the protests.
Tell me, what does it take for women to be seen as human?
They say women are born with pain built inside them. I think we are also born with anger. So much anger. Because we know from the moment that we were born, this was a cruel place for us. The war was already upon us even when we were in our mother’s womb. We could not fight it with sheer power. No, this is not your regular war with bullets and bombs. We try to fight it with our anger as much as we can. Even if that very same anger could still get us killed as much as just doing nothing, letting patriarchy reach its hands out to grab us by the skin, tearing it apart, removing the human from us.
With my anger, I feel a sense of responsibility to look out for other women. I’m sure others feel the same way. I make do with what privilege I have; the privilege of my strong and able body. Although it may not be much, especially considering the fact that I am still a woman and very much vulnerable, it gives me a certain amount of power, knowing I can do my best to protect the women I know and steer them away from danger because I see and hear everything. Because I am aware of how messed up this world is. I try as much as I can.
I cover the bodies of my friends and loved ones from the leers of men. I look men in the eyes when I walk past those who slide too close to us. I commute everyday to campus. I have already lost track of how many times I’ve had to put my phone down to take note of men acting suspiciously around women. Why do I still do all that, still be on the lookout for something as small as “men being men”? Because at the end of the day, it begins from those small behaviors, the acts of dehumanizing and disrespecting women, to a point where women are merely nothing, that their deaths do not count.
The truth is, I am tired. Tired of constantly living with the dread, living with the knowledge that women will never be at peace. Tired of reading, watching, listening to stories of women against the violence of men. Tired of seeing women make space for men to the point where they are pushed off the edge. There is only so much I can do, so much my little privileges can help me.
Every time we think the worst has come, has arrived and made its mark on the women of the world, the patriarchy’s sharp tip of scythe grazing over innocent skins of women, enough to draw blood and to scar, it returns; the scythe digging deeper and deeper and deeper. The problem is, we never know who is next. Which woman, which one of our mothers, our sisters, our wives, our friends, our daughters will have their names displayed on headlines with the words murdered, raped or dead? The evils of patriarchy do not care who the next woman is, it strikes when it wants to, when it feels like it. So what could we possibly do?
I sometimes walk from the train station to my apartment, several times when it is dark. My heart beats when I pass by the group of taxi drivers huddling together, waiting for passengers. Sweat rolls down my back when I walk through the street with closed restaurants to my left and right, the cooks cleaning and sweeping the porches. As terrified as I was, there was still so much anger. I was angry at the fact that I even had to feel scared to walk to my own home. But still, I walked as an act of rebellion, even though I know very well how much it can cost me.
Everyday I try to comprehend why it is so difficult for women to be viewed as those worthy of respect, at the very least. I just end up getting upset because the equation does not seem to fit at all. After all, I believe it really is not our equation to solve because patriarchy is the one at fault here. Those who are part of the patriarchy are the problem. If anything, it is their responsibility to fix it. But right now, it seems like we are inching bit by bit towards a solution, while women continue to suffer more and more. The screams of one woman are now unrecognizable amidst the screams of the rest.
When will this end? When will we all have to stop worrying about losing our sisters to this violence? When does the blood stop shedding?
Earlier today, at the time of writing this, I began my morning once again with reading a headline of a young woman’s death. Immense heat traveled up through my stomach, my throat, my face. I heaved a heavy sigh and did the only thing I could: hoped that the man behind her death got what he truly deserved and prayed to whatever power is out there to end this war.
Because after all, there is only so much I can do as another woman attempting to fight this war on women.
Written by: Natasha