She stands in front of me, head tilted to the side. She is the best reflection of me. She is my twin in features and…as much as it hard to admit…my twin in character and values and… is by far the best refection of what and who I am.
The physical similarities are scary at times. There have been many times I have looked at her and can see me many years ago if that makes sense. I have a picture I took of her last year, just a casual snap, she was sitting on the sofa in a tracksuit and trainers. The sun was coming through the window and was hitting her hair differently. I took a picture because she looked so calm. When I looked at the picture after it gave me shives of how much she looked like me, but the difference is, whilst the background in her picture was family pictures on the wall, a cat by her feet and crafts on the table in front of her, it reminded me that my backdrop if the same picture were taken of me at the same age would have been very different.
But I also must remind myself that she is not me. She is not me at 11. She is not Blondy.
But this morning she stands before me, looking and acting very much like me.
“I don’t understand” she says again.
I have just asked her if she wants to come to the vigil tomorrow. The #RECLAIMTHESESTREETS protest. I have thought hard all evening if I want to take her. I know for sure she won’t WANT to come. Its cold. And windy. But I ask her anyway.
“What don’t you understand” I ask back.
My daughter is on the ASD spectrum. Sometimes she struggles to understand something until it is put another way or broken down. But I know that this is not the case this time. Because this question is o the lips of a million women right now
“Tell me Mummy, because I don’t understand why men want to harm us”?
And we look, she and I, or is it I and she…or not worded this way at all. My 11-year-old daughter and I lock eyes. And just as it is a medical fact that she was once inside of my womb, whist I was inside of my mother’s womb, and I was therefore inside of my mother’s womb whilst she was inside my grandmothers womb….I have never felt that connection as strong as I do right here right now to my women, the women before me…. the eyes that I am looking at her with right now hold the traits of all the women within our bloodline and as far as I know, as far back as I have been told, we all suffered at the hands of men. So when she looks into my eyes and askes that question, its like she is asking generation after generation of women who brought us to this point.
“Lots of reasons, but mainly because they don’t often get held accountable”.
She looks at me, her eyes flitting between me and the TV that is behind me, with the news on that is showing the coverage of Sarah Everard.
“Did a man kill her” she says, gesturing to the TV.
I don’t look at the TV, only at my daughter and reply.
“Yes, most likely”
“You don’t let me walk home because you say someone could hurt me. Why do you say someone, why don’t you just say a man”?
I go to speak but she talks over me.
“Why do you tell me how to keep safe, you tell me to look behind me, you gave me that alarm thing…why don’t the police or what ever just make the men stop”.
“Actually (She is angry now, and I want her to be angry) Actually, I don’t want to go to the protest thing and ask for our streets back or what ever you said. I should be able to just be safe. I don’t do anything to men so why would they want to hurt me”.
I open my mouth, but it is clear who is going to have the final word on this.
“I’m going to tell people that men are hurting us for no reason. I am going to school and I am going to tell. Because its not fair that I can’t do things I like because men want to hurt girls”
She goes to walk away, turns, looks at me with fire in her eyes and says “They would never hurt girls, so the other men are doing it are doing it because they want to” she says this whilst keeping eye contact with me but pointing to a large picture on my wall. The picture is of her and her two older brothers. The “They” she refers to is them. The two men she looks to for her comfort and support in many ways. So that confusion she is feeling right now…that men hurt girls and women…she has just realised that it’s a choice. And that has cut her differently.
And she stormed out the room, stormed up the stairs and slammed her door.
And I stood. In the same spot….and whispered, “Thank you”. Because that is what I want to see. Fire in the belly of my 11-year-old. The fire that was knocked out of my internally, externally, when I was her same age.
I want her to rage.
Shout at me
Be frustrated with the injustice of her own oppression that she wants to scream it from the roof.
I want her to be vocal and make sure people know her stance on VAWG.
I want her to speak the truth that her grandmother, great grandmother and god knows how far back never got to speak .
I want her to look into the eyes of others and say, “This is not good enough”.
I have just left the spot, where I had stood, to write this.
A moment has just taken place, trust me on that. My daughter is the same age when life took its very dark twist for me, when I was already in a dark dark place.
If, at her age, I had just said what she did I would have been laughed at and abused with a little more pain that day. To shut up “my smart mouth”
But know this.
Each and every day as a girl I thought what she thought. And I know that all my fellow survivors did also. I know that each day of our abuse we thought “this is not ok, that men harm us, and nothing happens”.
My sons and daughter know that its not ok for men to harm women. They know that this is a fight for us all.
My daughter is not me at 11. She is not a victim.
She is a warrior.
So, get out of her fucking way because she is here to be part of the change.