A letter to the women who didn't ask to live by the rules

Clem Ford.

Clem Ford. Photo: Supplied

This is a letter to the chicks. It's a letter to the bitches and the broads, the sluts and the whores. It's to the troublemakers and the dissidents, the women who are told they're too loud, too proud, too big, too small, not enough of nothing at all. This is a letter to our mothers and our daughters, whose womanhood has been told it ought to reduce itself, to mute itself, to not wave but drown in a current that refuses to let us cast sail and find shores that will let us be free. It's a letter to all our friends and all our sisters, whose anger is recast as histrionics and caterwauling, a widespread madness that must be quelled for our own goods and our own happiness.

This is a letter to the women we don't know but whose lives we do, because we live them too.

This is a letter to history, and everything of it that has been lost. History, you have been like a present passed around in a party game, layers and layers of you torn away and discarded because only a tiny part of you was ever considered to be of value. This is a letter to the women who were swept away in those layers, their stories crumpled up and thrown in the bin, rendered irrelevant to the bigger prize because of the assumption they were merely packaging. This is a letter to the people forced to relive that over and over, recycled into platforms for other people to scale and conquer, to plant a flag and declare ownership over while praising themselves for getting their on their own two feet.

This secret history has been torn asunder over and over, women ripped apart and forgotten about, necessarily sacrificed to deliver a shining jewel polished by the concept of power.

Fool's Gold.

This is a letter to all the women born into this world only to be told that they don't belong.

Dear women. I wish that I had written the rules.

If I had written the rules, the full expanse of human history wouldn't stretch out behind us as a laundry list of White Men's Great Achievements. The trumpets wouldn't sing for the men who marched on to greater things, but for the legions of faceless, forgotten warriors who were assigned the thankless task of scrubbing out the bloodstains they left behind.

If I had written the rules, the progress of civilisation wouldn't be measured by the success of man's colonialism but by women's resistance to it. History books would be filled with the names of the women who fought back, those brave soldiers who rejected Man's arrogant quest to assume the status of God and remake the world in his own image.

If I had written the rules, there would be no God, no eternal father, no holy trinity designed to wrestle spiritual power away from the women who mock those aspirational conquerors with their ability to bear life from within.

If I had written the rules, women wouldn't be the first casualties of any conflict. We wouldn't be violated and abused as a means of sending a message, remembered only as a footnote in later renditions of Great Military Campaigners of Old and their Spoils of War. Our bodies wouldn't form a battleground for men to destroy because they think that stealing our power will make them stronger.

If I had written the rules, women would never have been traded as property, forced into marriages with men chosen by other men for the purpose of bearing new men to take over from the old and then thrown away if we failed to fulfil the obligations of a contract we had no part in writing. We would have been given leave to choose our own destinies, to forge our own paths and to believe from the first moment of our existence that our lives and our bodies belonged to us and us alone.

If I had written the rules, we wouldn't hear now about how women are so empowered, that we are so liberated, that we've been freed from the supposedly mythical 'patriarchy', that anything beyond this is a dangerous tilt at supremacy, while having to endure the indignity of also being told that merit dictates who wins and that if we aren't winning it's probably because we're not trying hard enough.

If I had written the rules, we wouldn't hear how the real problem is that women don't respect themselves enough, that we're asking for trouble, that our right to be treated as autonomous human beings with dignity and ownership of our bodies rises and falls with the length of our hemlines and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

We wouldn't be told when we complain about this violence that we are 'making it up', that we're demonising men, that feminism has gone too far, that a compliment is just that, and can't a man even talk to a woman on the street anymore without being vilified, I mean, COME ON, how on earth will the human race possibly survive if men can't even talk to women on the street anymore? We wouldn't be told all that and then told in the same breath that we lack common sense, that we all have to protect ourselves, that there are Bad People out there and if you leave you wallet sitting on the window sill of an unlocked car then you can't be surprised when someone steals it, it's just human nature, when when when WHEN will women learn?

If I had written the rules, the word 'shrill' would be banned from human vocabulary.

Instead, we would listen to everyone who is silenced, the chicks, the crips, the queers, the freaks, the people not born with white skin in white houses with white picket fences patrolled as fiercely as the borders that keep out people who didn't 'earn' their way into a life of arbitrary privilege.

If I had written the rules, the world would come to life with the volume of voices that we never get to hear, and the music of them all would ring in our ears for days.

This is a letter to the women who didn't ask to live by the rules, but suffer because of them regardless.

Dear women. I see you, even if history doesn't. I see you, even when the present won't.

The future, we write together.

Clementine Ford performed the following piece for People of Letters at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival 2015. The subject was "A Letter To The Thing I Wish I'd Written."