When I was 8 years old, Pope John Paul the second died. I remember sitting in a classroom, learning about whom he was, what he did and the impact he had on people’s lives (all whilst Josh Groban played in the background of course). Hearing how he changed lives inspired me. Even at the tender age of eight, there were so many people I wanted to help, so many things in this world that I wanted to change. It was at that point, in Miss Macardle’s year three class, that I decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
It was only when my father returned home that evening my dreams were crushed. That was the first time I couldn’t do something because I was female instead of male.
At eight, I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t be the Pope. Up until this point in time my parents had always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I remember being very confused and upset, crying in my room for numerous nights thinking, “But what if I wanted to change the world too.” Granted, I know now that I do not have to be the head of the Catholic Church to change the world, but that first instance of “you can’t because you’re a girl,” changed my life.
It was not a matter of being denied an education or the right to vote or the right to own property. But for a young, white, middle class girl, my life had been turned upside down. This was the first time in my life I realised that the world was not how it seemed.
To be told one day that I could be anything I wanted, to being told I can be anything I want, ‘excluding jobs only for males’ within 24 hours was something I had never even considered. What I wasn’t aware of then, was that the meaning of ‘I can be anything I want to be’ would change once again.
I was 14 when I learnt that a woman only earns 77% of what her male counterpart earns. The meaning of “I can be anything I want to be,” had now changed to, “I can be anything I want to be as long as I only receive 77% of what a man earns, and I can’t do jobs only for males.”
If an eight year old cannot understand the problem with a female doing a job that has been traditionally done by a male, then how can a 38 year old understand it? The Pope and the Catholic Church is just merely an example of the many things I have been told in my life I cannot do because I am a female. Yes, I live in one of the most developed and forward thinking nations in the world, yet as a woman I am oppressed. As a woman, if I was to become a CEO of a company, there is a high chance that I would not be paid as much as my male counterpart. As a 14 year old I could not understand why, and I still don’t understand without the use of words such as misogynistic and asshole.
While there is still so far to go (23% to be exact) even in developed nations, I can’t help but look back and see how far we have come. From not even being declared citizens, to a female running our country (not for a full term but nonetheless you go girl), equality between males and females has come a long way due to some very strong women.
I may not be able to be the Pope, but maybe one day I’ll be earning the same wage as the guy in the office beside me.
“Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”
Happy International Women’s Day.