Close your eyes and imagine that for 24 hours, there were no men in the world. As a woman, what would you do and how would your life change on that day?
This question is a popular one posed to women across the world by Twitter user ‘feminist next door’ (@emrazz) a few years ago. Every year on December 24, to mark the anniversary of the first time she asked the question, she reopens the query to allow women to speak up about this hypothetical world.
The exercise is intended to examine the ways disparate gendered experiences affect the lives of women and is not meant to be construed as a claim that men are not necessary or are the only perpetrators of violence.
It is meant to speak to the lived realities of women every day, many of whom feel unsafe doing simple activities like walking alone, dancing at a bar/club or wearing a revealing outfit.
Here are a few responses from women around the world:
Spend way less time wondering if something I retweet will send trolls and abuse to the person I’m retweeting. Be more likely to speak up publicly without the calculus of, “is this worth the abuse I’m likely to receive.” Use my power without a second thought.
— Stephanie Heeg (@40wattbulb) December 24, 2020
Park in a garage, take the stairwell, and unlock my car without checking the backseat first. Wear a bikini and sunbathe in my front yard. Walk alone at night with headphones on. Start more conversations on Twitter.
— Morgan Quinn (she/her) (@morganmquinn) December 24, 2020
As one who works evening & nights, I’d go to & leave work w/o being hypervigilant.
I’d take nighttime rideshares w/o mentally planning exit strategies.
I’d wear what I want w/o consideration for unwanted attention.
I’d make friends more freely.
I’d say what I really think.
— Gayatri Joshi, MD 🩺🦠🌡🧬💉 (@GayatriJoshiMD) December 25, 2020
Walk around. Day or night. Without anxiety. Enjoy my hobbies without being put down or mainsplained to. Cook, clean, parent without critique. Prioritize my self care over a grown adult man’s care.
— Mel Lissa (@elcrosbo) December 24, 2020
I would not feel so small. My sisters would be just my sisters, not feel humiliated for referring to my sisters. I would see more smiles from my sisters. We would not have to prove ourselves. I would walk, at night, alone. Unafraid. I would feel tall. And I would feel heard. X
— JoMo 💙 (@jomo14729) December 25, 2020
Enjoy finishing a story/sentence without being interrupted, mansplained, or sexually harassed.
— B (@stepmillbetty) December 24, 2020
I would do my hair makeup and dress the eff up. I’m talking the whole nine yards, like the type of “all out” you’d do for your wedding day. Then I’d go out for dinner and walk home alone. 🥰😍 I’d get to be so pretty without fear of what would happen if I turned someone down.
— C. Trew (@TrewCourtney) December 24, 2020
Smile at people without worrying they may find it flirtatious. Buy a car without being told I should come back with my husband. Make a living wage because my job would be treated with way more respect. Feel safe for the first time ever.
— Can’t Cari a tune (@Cari_is_Merry) December 25, 2020
I’d go dancing.
I’d watch the stars, without checking the street.
I’d sleep on the beach – walk there without my keys in my hand.
I’d earn more, for 24 hours.
I wouldn’t have a part of my brain dedicated to monitoring how an interaction is going.
I’d use my whole, entire voice.
— ✍🏻🌈 (@Writagal) December 25, 2020
These desires don’t exist within a vacuum. It speaks to societal perceptions around women’s bodies and who has access to them. It also forms groundwork in gender-based violence (GBV), which has been seriously plaguing South Africa for decades.
GBV impacts almost every aspect of life and disproportionately affects women and girls. It is systemic and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures, and traditions in South Africa.
This has gotten even worse during lockdown. Amnesty International recently released a report that found that GBV has increased in at least five southern African countries, including South Africa, during lockdown.