Natalie Herranz, Grade 12, Bossley Park High School -
Excellence Award in the 'Horizon of Dreams 2018' competition
The first time I heard the term ‘femme-Nazi’, I shrivelled back into my own consciousness, guilty of complete ignorance regarding a concept about which I thought I had a comprehensive understanding. I figured it was an insult; the contempt in the boy’s voice during his declaration automatically drew our discussion of contemporary feminism to a sudden close. The look of disdain he shot the outspoken women of the class as he retreated back into his eternal state of condescending smirks and inflammatory retorts explained it all to me. He wished for us to be ‘wallpaper women’.
I wonder why he thinks feminism is unnecessary in the 21st century. Perhaps it’s easy to overlook that you are 40% more likely to be a CEO of an Australian business if you are named John or Peter rather than born a woman. I can only assume he forgets that the average Australian woman must work an extra 66 days a year to earn the same pay as her male counterpart. I don’t know if he turns a blind eye to the irony of encouraging women to take control of their own future, all the while accusing them of micro-managing the events which unfold around them. I wish I had no eyes to watch this injustice, but I must watch. I watch, so I can learn the mistakes of my predecessors. So I can fix the faults in their actions so new flaws can be found within me.
Sometimes, I see the way my father looks at my mother. The way my grandfather looks at my grandmother. The way my nephew looks at the walls. There is this sense of intrigue. If only they could rip a layer off, gain a good look at what’s inside, and smooth the layer back over without scarring it. If only it was so easy to add another layer to the fresh stains on the exterior. It’s a good thing the walls don’t talk back. They like the wallpaper to be pristine, perfectly smooth, and clean so they can run their hands along the flat surface; an action without thought. You can patch the fraying corners up with a new design of splendorous florals and apologies. The wallpaper can’t complain. Its really only there to look pretty.
But I am not just here to look pretty. I am a performer. A writer. A preacher. A human being who requires respect. I heard once that “This world is made for wallpaper women. What good is wallpaper that speaks?” But I am not the archaic wallpaper of the house that is imperceptibly burning to the ground. I am the person who lit the fire.