There are a lot of aspects of research that I struggle with, mainly because of my research interests. I’m interested in sexual violence in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC, I want to know if the horrific history and legacy of Belgian colonial rule have had an impact in domestic sexual relations and if so, how, and why, I want to know where development funding is going and what kind of impact it’s having, I want to know if development funding could be better directed (most always it can be, but how and under what kind of program), I want to know women and men’s experiences of sexual assault either through conflict or not. But I struggle with this because I’m not part of the culture. While my research isn’t aiming to tell anyone to change anything (apart from maybe development agendas) and is instead aiming to understand what is happening and why, I worry that this could be misconstrued, that I will be perceived as doing what so many people have done before and just contribute to the continued violence of colonialism. So I’m stuck in this bubble, struggling with myself on whether this kind of research would be a good contribution to knowledge, or whether it’s ideological and would be better done by someone else.
There are days when gender issues infuriate me and when people/problems just seem absolutely ridiculous. There are things/opinions that I actually cannot believe I have to voice or express. There are so many things that you would think would be common sense by now.
I can’t believe that I have to say I believe in gender equality.
I can’t believe that I have to say that I believe men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and receive equal respect.
I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that girls and boys should be able to go to school.
I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that every person should have access to family planning education, counselling, and support (through contraception, abortion, help with fertility, STD/HIV testing, treatment, prenatal and postnatal care, etc.).
I can’t believe that I have to say that I think men and women have the right to live free from fear of being assaulted (physically, sexually, emotionally), free from fear of rape, free from fear of being drugged, etc.
I can’t believe that I have to say that I think that all genders and people within genders, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, identity, religion, age, political beliefs, size, physical/mental ability or disability etc. are equal and should be treated equally.
Worst of all, I can’t believe that people think I’m radical for believing these things. Is it so radical to believe that all people (without conditions, no ifs, ands, or buts) are equal.
Period. All people are equal.
Lately I’ve seen some things online which have bothered me, but I have been guilty of them in the past as well.
I find that people are often apologetic when posting opinions online – particularly opinions supporting gender equality. Why should I apologize if my words offend you when your unapologetic actions offend me on a daily basis?
We have nothing to apologize about – there is nothing wrong or shameful about being opinionated and sharing that opinion. There is no need or reason to apologize when asking for equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities. If those actions should happen to offend someone, let it happen. If they are so easily offended that the notion of treating both men and women with a high level of respect and dignity offends them, then perhaps it may also educate them.
You should never apologize for believing that humanity can be better.