This blog post is written based on a memory, a memory of disgust which struck a realisation inside me that I wanted change. My memory dates back to 2017, I was still in school just starting 6th form, in this stage of my life I really found myself, who I was and what I believed in. In my home town it was common knowledge by men and boys, they were at the forefront and women were not, we were in fact, planted on this earth to serve the men in our lives, and that’s it, nothing more, nothing less. This was my experience of growing up in a rural Northern Irish town and I hated it. I couldn’t stand to live my life this way, but this is where I lived, so I had to deal with it. But my newly found confidence would not let me live this way, so at every opportunity I could I spoke up to these arrogant boys, to show them women are not born to serve men. We are born to have our own freedom and our own lives, to accomplish whatever we want.
Living in a little town, miles from the city, filled with generations and generations of the same family names is a cog in the wheel that stops this country from moving forward, in my opinion. Moving on from old ideas, old hierarchy’s and old thoughts and opinions, women remain in a time capsule where they are unable to live as an equal in society. All of these thoughts and issues are infuriating. It is infuriating that in 2022 women still live their lives as second-class citizens, especially in these rural towns, compelled to remain trapped in a 1940’s mindset. All these thoughts originate from an experience, a personal experience having grown up with these ideals, fighting the stereotype which perceived me living in this rural town with age-old attitudes. I have no doubt women from urban areas have also been victim to such patriarchal attitudes, but I would like to speak from my own personal experience in a rural town.
The United Nations noted women and girls have a long way to go before we can enjoy fundamental rights, freedom and dignity in an equal society, with this being most apparent in rural areas. Although, reading work by Jo Little on Gender and Rurality, it was drawn to my attention that it is not exactly the rural area or rurality itself that caused female inequality, it is the assumptions that exist in the rural area that ensure conservative attitudes to the roles of men and women remain. It was also detailed in a report by NIRWN in 2018 that ‘women in NI today are still economically, culturally and politically unequal. Women continue to struggle with dominant patriarchal values and structures in every sphere of private and public life’ with these issues being amplified for women in rural communities.
A core memory and statement which will stick with me from my teenage years in this culture is ‘Women belong in the kitchen making sandwiches’ ‘what else are women good for apart from cleaning and making grub’ I can still hear these statements being spoken in my mind, and still, I feel the same anger now as I did back then.
These were only a few of the many phrases aimed at us girls on a day-to-day basis, but something which I found incredibly disheartening was the majority of the girls remained silent when such misogynistic abuse was being cast by our male per-group. I was not one of those girls, I hated the fact that this behaviour was allowed by so many. I was the one to speak up and was commended after the fact, but I was never given assistance during these confrontations from my female peer group. I always found this so frustrating but none the less someone had to speak up for us. Without being challenged there will never be any changes to these mindsets, leaving rural women and girl’s victims to a life lived under patriarchy where many women are unequal, their purpose being to serve their husbands.
This is where the importance of women speaking out and raising their voices is so vital. There is no room in the 21st century for women to be treated as second class citizens. The dedication of International Women’s Day to rural women and girls is such a good step in showing women and girls in these areas that equality needs to exist, and they should be treated equally to men. Women’s rights are in peril everywhere but change is possible. Looking back at our own country, Northern Ireland, we can recognise that some progress has been made, we have so many more women in leadership and power positions, which is one of many steps required to change the stereotype. A key element to removing these old ideals for our future generations, to remove the patriarchal mindset for our future boys and girls, is not only changing the mindset of men but changing the mindset of women too, encouraging women to speak out and stand up for their rights and what they believe in.
By: Alana McConnell
Bold Women Blogging is a public submission blog. Posts do not necessarily represent the views of WRDA but rather operates as a platform for open discussion to encourage women’s participation in social and political issues. To find out more visit this page.