I never learnt to swim

This is the text of an email received by Woman’s Place UK ahead of A Woman’s Place is on the Podium #WPUKFairPlay.

With the writer’s permission we are sharing it with you. It has been edited to preserve her anonymity.

I’d like to share some thoughts with you, so you understand how deeply I appreciate what you’re doing and also just because I previously felt so abandoned by the feminism I’d encountered.

I live on a boat. I never learnt to swim. Tried to as an adult so I don’t drown when I fall off my boat, but I was unteachable by then.

My younger sister can swim. This is because some 30 years ago, a group of mums hired out a sports centre so that mothers and daughters/nieces/girls could learn and go swimming safely and without any BS from their blokes. I was, and still am, jealous of not learning how to swim then.

I missed out on that because, as what-would-now-be-called a ‘gender non-conforming girl’, in a conservative religious community here, with general non-conforming behaviour (what my parents would call ‘trouble’, what I now realise is Asperger’s) I was instead married off as a teenager.

If I was born later, and to different parents, I’d have long ago been packed off to the Tavistock Clinic. I’m grateful I wasn’t because I am happy to be me and a woman. There are so many parallels even across time and dogmas. I’m not surprised I didn’t want to become a woman then; am not surprised so many young girls don’t want to become women now.

Never, ever did I think I would be grateful for what happened, but it’s true. It seems a better fate than some of what I see here now.

I did escape the marriage, and abandoned religion, but not religious women.

I learnt that the word for what I’ve instinctively always known was feminism. That liberal, happy-clappy feminism supposedly I was told, but that feminism wouldn’t listen to me because my existence contradicts their dogma.

I’m inconvenient. I make their intersectional-hierarchical nonsense implode, so they’d rather attack, just like they attack what you are doing.

I understand that you are putting yourselves in danger, and I am grateful. I am grateful because you are doing it for all women and I had lost hope that was a thing.

My sister now lives in a country that does not permit women to swim. She knows how to swim, but can’t, because she’s a woman. I don’t want that for my nieces. I wish I could teach them how to swim when they visit, but I can’t. Because I was a girl once and there was no safe space then.

It isn’t only about girls being able to compete in, say, swimming, but also sometimes, just being able to learn.

Thank you for fighting for all girls and women. Some of us who are usually quiet and who prefer to be invisible sometimes are also very grateful.



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