“It is important that we’re finding out what matters to young people. Because if something matters, that’s what gives them the energy and the determination and commitment to succeed” - Prof. Peter Shergold AC, Western Sydney University Chancellor
17 year old student Maddie Mott, from Holy Spirit College Bellambi, has taken out first prize in the Year 11/12 Category of 2016 What Matters writing competition, with her powerful and stirring poem, 'We Matter', that addresses the significant issue of women and gender in today’s society.
The inspiration for the annual writing competition, run by the Whitlam Institute, Western Sydney University, comes from Gough Whitlam’s commitment to young people and their involvement in the shaping of Australia’s future.
All Year 11 Advanced English and Year 10 Extension English students from Holy Spirit entered the competition, from which four Holy Spirit students were shortlisted. Patrick Lazarus from Yr 10 and Emiliana Saffioti, Georgia Lee and Maddie Mott from Yr 11 were selected from a field of 3870 entries.
Earlier in the year, Maddie was part of the audience on ABC’s Q and A, where she had one of her questions selected. As a consequence, she had the opportunity to meet Q and A panelist Mia Freedman, editor of Mamamia, Australia’s largest online news and opinion site for women. Maddie came away from the show with not only having had her ‘voice’ heard on National television, but also managing to organise to complete her Year 11 Work Experience at Mamamia!
Read Maddie's winning poem below.
I say I am a feminist and you laugh and ask why
I would want to be
And you laugh at the word
as if it is a joke that I don't understand
as if fighting for the equality of my sex is a concept a tad out of your grasp
And I sit in class
and ignore your sneers and your jokes
and as I raise my hand and say
you all groan
"here she goes again" "yeah we already know"
But you don't know
You don't know what it means to be discriminated against purely due to your sex And whilst you laugh at this movement
you laugh at the millions of girls who will be sold into sex slavery this year alone. You laugh at those who you love most
You laugh at the one in three women who will experience sexual assault
You laugh at the three million girls who will fall victim to genital mutilation this year alone
You laugh at the seven year old girl who sits on the floor waiting to have breasts ironed and bandaged in order to stop her from being
desired by men
becoming a child bride before she reaches the age of 10
And I am tired of your laughter.
I am tired of you feeling threatened by an issue you do not understand. I am tired of having to defend my choice of standing up for the rights of my gender. I am tired of your utter lack of respect for those who are persecuted, abused, raped and held back because they are women. I am tired of being taught and warned about the consequences of walking by myself, of wearing 'provocative clothing'.
I was warned
It's not their fault for acting on their primal instincts
I was asking for it
After all you could see my bra strap through my singlet.
I am tired of being a
and no, I am not your baby girl
I am merely a 16 year old trying to cross the street
I do not care that you think my arse looks good in these jeans
And now it is my turn
It is my turn to laugh at your stupidity
And it is my turn
to ask the questions
Why do you teach your daughters about their safety
But don't teach your sons about consent
And I want to know
how long it will take
before we live in a world where 62 million girls
are not denied an education simply because they are girls.
How long will it take
for you to not make jokes
about the suffrage of my entire gender
Because if the only time you bring up male victims of domestic abuse and rape
is to justify
the rape and abuse of women
don't pretend you actually care about
And so next time you ask
why I am a feminist
Know that just because I believe women matter
Does not mean everybody else believes so