Illustration of Florencia with the text #ChoosetoChallenge

In this blog for International Women’s Day, Student Voice Ambassador, Florencia Botta, talks through her own experiences of being a woman in 2021:

How does it feel to be a woman in 2021? Honestly, I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. Womanhood expands through a multitude of experiences intersecting with social class, education, health condition, sexual orientation, nationality, age, among many more. My views are only a tiny dot in a vast tapestry of experiences, and I encourage you to continue reading and listening to more women from diverse backgrounds to have a broader picture.

2020 was challenging for everyone. In my case, it was a year of stasis and chaos. Time took a completely different meaning. It is hard to believe we are reaching the anniversary of the lockdown. During this time, I was forced to self-introspect and revaluate a lot of my values and goals. It wasn’t all caused by the pandemic. There were also myriad elements, including advancing in my PhD and living abroad on a Visa to consider.

What do I do with my life? What is important to me? Why do I believe what I believe? I used to be very sure about what I wanted and what was important in my life. However, I must face reality. Many of my views have been shaped by society and followed without much questioning. Although this is partly inevitable and does not necessarily need to be a bad thing, it is fundamental to self-evaluate to reclaim agency and actively choose which values to keep and discard. I am not by any means implying this is always possible. It is not. However, by questioning things I thought were evident, I also admitted how society has shaped me and how I have unwillingly internalised values, I actively disagree with and dislike. I cannot pretend it was a great revelation. I was partly aware of these things but never knew how to make any change.

My lack of action in this matter was caused by many factors: fear of speaking out, not perceiving my voice as valuable, and the quiet acceptance that things would always be the same. I was sure I was always going to earn less money, have a smaller pension, be listened to less, and preyed upon more. My opinion was always going to be less valuable, and my pain more easily disregarded.

This is not the whole story though. World events like the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased visibility of global social disparity forced me to take account of the disadvantages I have, as well as checking my privilege. I am in a position in which staying silent did not end my life, not in the way it could and does for other women. I must face my silent complicity in a system that actively harms women, including myself.

I realise I must change. I want to live my life following the path I value. I want to challenge the status quo. I am still fearful, and my voice may always be small and never heard. However, this won’t stop me from speaking out, and more importantly, listening and doing my best to amplify the voices of other women who want to do the same.

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