This text is written anonymously by a humanitarian aid worker, currently working in low and middle income countries.
I never considered myself a feminist. I grew up incredibly privileged — in a country where women had been fighting for their rights long before I was born. As a result, I was able to work in a male dominated industry and — at least most of the time —gain respect for what I was doing. I was rarely discriminated against, and was generally seen as equal by friends, family, colleagues, bosses. A society where the process had at least started and had gone a long way, even though it is nowhere near finished yet.
In the last years, I started working abroad, in countries with different cultures and customs to my own. Further removed from the ideals that I grew up with. The longer I work here, the more I am understanding just how privileged I am, how oblivious I was to the micro and macro agressions women face. Each situation, each comment that I experience shows this more clearly:
It is the representative of the government telling me during an official work meeting that he will come to where I live to fuck me.
It is the employee laying his hand on mine during a photo session.
It is the man leaving me inappropriate voice mails on my work phone asking questions about my private life.
It is the guy from a company I worked with calling me at night telling me to invite him for a drink.
It is the ministry official grabbing my hand at the end of business meetings and asking me to marry locally.
It is the friend who tells me what is good for women here and why, without having ever asked one of them.
It is the female colleague who tells me she is afraid of men after what she experienced after being married too young.
It is the colleague who tells me that as a woman I am not going to be the one making the final decisions, since women are worth less than men.
A woman’s wishes, feelings, rights, any sense of agency and worth are denied or seen as negotiable in each one of these situations. And every single time I become angrier. I am learning that if I want things to change here — not in the big sense, but in the small day-to-day situations I experience — I need to speak out more. I need to stand up for myself, I need to discuss, question and share my own experiences and ideals. I need to explain and draw lines. And as I am doing this, I am more and more realizing that I actually am that feminist that I never considered myself to be.