Anecdotes & Accomplishments: Travelling as a Woman

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By Lilly Donnelly Third year French and Italian

Lilly Donnelly celebrates International Women’s Day by showing us how even in places unfamiliar and uncomfortable for us, women will look out and protect one another.

International Women’s Day, celebrating feminism and woman’s rights since its initial 1909 debut in New York, is a yearly celebration of societal progression and its suppression of sexual inequality. Established as an annual celebration the next year by the Socialist Woman’s Conference and embraced on a more global scale by the United Nations since 1975, the 8th of March commemorates women’s accomplishments, achievements and equilibrium achieved by and for them today. Nineteen years into the millennium, the female voice is louder than ever with the amplification of conversations on harassment, exploitation and misappropriation. Nonetheless, solidarity - albeit strong - is not yet universal, and this is particularly pertinent as woman travelling abroad.

Language and culture shape mentalities differently the world over. In many countries, in comparison to the UK, men may be more outspoken or forward with their advances without questioning its reception. Proclamations of beauty or attraction may be considered more culturally ‘normal’ in other places, intended with a compliment rather than a derogatory tone. Bar etiquette (and relatively normal social interaction) aside, cat calling, prolonged staring or even outright beckoning is something most of us will experience at home or away. But when abroad, often away from comfort zone and dialectal understanding, this kind of behaviour can feel much more daunting and dangerous. It is perhaps some cultural differences that make it impossible for the same line to be drawn in permanent ink, and to make all steps in the right direction move at the same pace. International Women’s Day may be a global celebration, but that is not to say that it is universally recognised – just like its cultural counterparts.

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This international women's day.. I am thankful to all the strong role models in my life be it my mum, my partner's mum and all the beautiful women I grew up with. . I also want to highlight that while we have come a long way, there is still so much to be done. Equality is still a problem. Domestic violence is still a problem. And while I'm just one person, I will always endeavour to keep an eye and ear out for signs of anyone regardless of gender who may need help on the domestic violence/bullying front. . Cheers to all the strong ass men out there too, specially mine.. for building me up when I was knocked down. You're an absolute God send and you give me great hope for the future. Thank you. 🤘🤙#internationalwomensday #womensday #woman #iamwomanhearmeroar

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Friends have recounted stories of only feeling safe walking down a street with their boyfriend by their side on holiday, others grabbing wandering hands below waistlines and thrusting them in the air to shame wrongful trespassing. But since March 8th is about festivities of female independence, this article is going to put the positives in the spotlight.

In a foreign country, both men and women become more vulnerable. Standing on the banks of the Rhone, surrounded by countless people drinking in late summer sun, I waited alone for my friends to join me. In fifteen minutes, four men passed by making noises, gestures and comments on their way. One (seeming at least twice my age) leaned in far enough to ask for a kiss, reducing his bargain to ‘just one on the cheek… please’. A French girl saw my vulnerability and invited me to sit with her and her friends so that I was no longer a target for preying passers-by, quickly changing my reaction from disgust and discomfort to one of reassurance.

On another journey home with a female friend, walking quickly turned to running away from two men trying to take advantage of two foreign girls into the safety of another pair of girls who could more fluently fend them away. Where there was harassment and mistreatment, there was support and defence that transcended any touristic boundary. Women across the globe are standing closer together, ringing ever more true as the world becomes more travelled. Language aside, cultural differences forgotten, a woman will see another as her comrade and counterpart.

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Epigram/ Millie Shoebridge

The bad should not exist. Its only silver lining is that through it we can somehow appreciate the good. This article is not to say that we need to stop educating and changing mentalities, nor is it to condone the existence of masculinist mistreatment in the face of sisterhood-like solidarity. But as we continue to shame and change, and society itself continues to reject the normalisation of female harassment, one day on the 8th of March could celebrate the eradication of sexual slurs on the streets and the ability to walk down one – at home or abroad – without fear.

Oh, and my birthday, of course.

Featured Image: Epigram


What are your experiances of travelling as a women?

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