My life has always been filled with a lot of empowering and inspiring women. My mother, for one, is an incredibly intelligent, diligent and hard-working business woman. Someone who can never be beaten down in an argument, and knows the value of hard work and perseverance. She is one of four sisters. My aunts all equally awe-inspiring, each working in demanding careers and striving in their field. Not to mention their roles as mothers, daughters, nieces, wives, friends and incredible and supportive aunts. The women of my family are strong, passionate and have enduring senses of humour (some would say that McDonald women are characterised by their ability to find a good laugh in even the bleakest of scenarios). I like to think that I one day might have a fraction of the strength and devotion that my aunts and mother apply to all they do. My spectacularly empowering female role models don’t end there. My two grandmothers, great-aunt, aunt on my father’s side, and three female cousins, have all moulded my life in indescribable ways. Each of them has taught me something unique about what it means to be a woman in the world.
In recent years, my circle of feminine influence has only grown. A shout-out here to my Squad. The tight-knit circle of girlfriends that I feel so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by. There’s something Clementine Ford said in her astounding book, Fight Like a Girl, that really summed up the importance of this support network:
“Listen when I tell you this, because it might be the most important thing in this whole book: the best thing you can do for your self-esteem, your sanity, your sense of accomplishment, your happiness and your inner strength is to find yourself a solid girl gang.”
The empowered, strong, hilarious and devoted friends I have surrounded myself with have certainly been my lifeline. The diligence and sincerity with which they listen to my banal life problems, build me up when I’m down and offer me unwavering support in all that I do is simply baffling, and I count myself incredibly lucky to have landed myself with a collection of such wonderful female friends.
So, these powerful and magnificent female role-models that I have so luckily been surrounded by the entirety of my up-bringing have certainly provided me with a solid foundation for my feminism.
Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl was one of those books that felt like it was written for me. Within the pages I found a deep resonance with Clementine’s voice, some of her assertions and thoughts connecting with me so deeply I felt there was no way that she hadn’t looked into my life and plucked inspiration from my own experiences. There are circumstances and events that I have experienced through my existence that I have never had the capacity to truly explain. Things that affect me in a way I can’t quite understand. The one that comes to the forefront of my mind is the idea of making myself smaller.
I have always felt too big to be allowed. Too tall, too wide, too loud – too everything. There are times when I would marvel at the petite and beautiful friends I have. The ones who seemed to exude femininity and grace. I would look at my chunky, awkward body and wonder how I could possibly be a woman when I looked so far removed from the dainty princesses around me. This is a feeling that I thought began and ended with me, an experience I assumed I was completely alone in.
“As a girl, all I ever wanted was to have some control over my life and the space I was told I was entitled to occupy. Being big and loud and awkward did not earn you a place at the table … I have spent more than two decades worrying about whether or not my body is small enough to excuse my womanhood.”
Ford’s Fight Like a Girl has reinforced all the things I have felt but been too afraid to share. The experiences I felt I was alone in, or believed were not worthy of being expressed I now realise are shared by so many other women. I don’t deny my privilege. I have a wonderful, caring family who love and support me in all I do. I have had a fantastic education, a roof over my head, people who care about me and have ensured I have never wanted for anything. I have so many things to be grateful for, and am so fortunate to have. But my privilege does not shield me from the truth of the world, being that we live in a patriarchal society where women are second-class citizens. We live in a world where women are abused, beaten, raped and killed for no other reason than being born a woman. Where, more often than not, our accomplishments are measured next to those of men. Our experiences are ignored, our views diminished, our bodies treated as possessions, our lives overshadowed by men so entrenched in an archaic hierarchy that they can’t see how flawed our society has become.
The thing that astounded me most on my reading of Fight Like a Girl is the absolutely ridiculous amount of hate that Clementine Ford receives for standing up for the rights of women. Some of the vile, horrendous things men have said to her made me shake with rage. I desperately wanted to reach through the pages of the book and hug her, thank her for all the tireless work she does for the cause. Despite the fact that she has made her peace with this abuse, takes it with humour and uses it to support the cause she cares about so deeply, it cannot be easy to be bombarded with this bullshit every day of your life. And so, for that Clementine, I thank you so deeply. Thank you for putting up with the nonsensical hatred of people who don’t know you, or understand you, and attempt to suppress you. Whose lives are so entrenched in this toxic way of thinking that they believe it their right to hate you for doing nothing more than standing up for the basic human rights of women everywhere. Thank you for being strong and fierce, and for inspiring me and women everywhere to raise voices, raise courage and raise the flag.