One more year, and no more free

Lina AbiRafeh
5 min readJul 4, 2023

Another year, and seemingly less independence. So of course I wanted to write a blog about freedom — and what that means for us, as women, when we’re not even close to being free. As I sat down to write, it turned into a blog about my own freedom. I’m not feeling very “free” these days…

I’m writing a book. Not an academic book like the stuff I’ve written in the past. Nope. This time I’m writing a personal book. A memoir. I’m putting myself back in the story. And I’m writing what I hope will be the best story of my life — quite literally. The thing is, doing this kind of navel-gazing, soul-searching, gut-wrenching writing means I’ve dropped just about everything else in my life, including blogs and social media and the regular “upkeep” we have to do to remain relevant in this strange new age. This also includes dropping things like personal hygiene and basic domestic upkeep. And when was the last time I did the dishes? Forget it. Predictably, I feel guilty as f#ck for letting it all go.

Meanwhile, I’m a one-woman show, trying to keep a budding “business” alive while also trying to keep myself (and my dog) alive. And then this book. Why am I telling you all this, you’re wondering? It’s about guilt. Doing too much. Leaning in so damn far that you lose your balance and topple over. And it’s about fear. What if I’m not doing “enough”? What if I’m not relevant? Forgotten? What if that one tweet I fail to post means I’ll totally blow it, professionally, and never actually succeed? Forget success actually, I’m just aiming for stability. And sanity. Most days, this feels like asking for too much. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this process, it’s that I can’t do it alone. I need help.

Lemme tell you, that was the hardest line to write. We don’t say it often enough. And we don’t feel good when we do say it. Now that I’ve said it, I might as well get specific. I need help with social media. I need help with brand-building. I need help with my book (any beta-readers out there?!). I need help with my website. I probably even need help with my dating profile. I need cargo-ships full of help.

And here I am, writing a memoir. If I don’t “build my platform” (or whatever other thing I’m supposed to do at the same time), then who will read the memoir when it’s done? We juggle so much, it’s impossible to keep it all in the air. I should learn to type with my toes as well.

Oh yes and, I’m navigating a breakup. A strange new world where I have to rewire myself to single life. Again. For that project, here are the balls I’m juggling: bitterness, resentment, anger, sadness, inability to trust others — or myself. That’s a lot of crap. I’m wondering if I should let some of them fall?

Instead of writing a blog about one thing, here I am howling into the void. I look at all the things I’d want to write about. Nothing gets me out of my own head more than the abysmal state of global women’s rights. In the last month or so, our rights and equality efforts have taken some catastrophic hits. I managed to read the recent study assessing the U.N.’s capacity to deliver for gender equality. It wasn’t optimistic. In the face of global pushback and resistance, the U.N. needs to take on a stronger stance. Will it? I’m not sure. Odds are stacked high.

The U.N.’s Gender Social Norms Index was recently released, showing zero progress over the last decade. That’s right. Nothing. Gender biases are deeply embedded, and we seem pretty happy with them. The report reveals that almost 90% of people have “at least one” bias. Both men and women. Let’s get granular here. 69% of the world’s population believe that men make better political leaders than women. 27% believe that it is essential for democracy that women have the same rights as men — that means 73% don’t. And a quarter of the population think it’s OK for a man to beat his wife. Excuse me — what year are we in again?!

But wait, there’s more. Every year since 2017, the Feminist United Nations Campaign issues an annual report card grading the U.N. Secretary-General on his progress toward a more feminist U.N. I say “his” because, unsurprisingly, it’s always been a dude. Does he… articulate and implement a feminist agenda? Ensure feminist accountability for Sustainable Development Goals? Fully fund gender equality efforts? Cultivate feminist leadership? And so on. This year, Secretary-General António Guterres earned a B-. Meaning, there’s a lot of room for improvement. B- is pretty mediocre, actually. Maybe it’s time for a female Secretary-General — one who is a feminist, otherwise what’s the point?!

Meanwhile, the gender gap keeps getting bigger. The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum is often a depressing read, and this year even more so. At the current rate, it will take 131 years to reach full parity. Anyone planning to stick around for this?

146 countries were measured, revealing that the gap is 68.4% closed. Last year, it was 68.1% closed. We improved by… 0.3%. This is the part where I insert a lot of expletives. I urge you to select your favorite profanities and join my cursing chorus.

In case you’re wondering, Iceland is #1. Afghanistan is the worst. Looking at this by region, we need 67 years to close the gap in Europe, 95 years in North America, 152 years in the Middle East and North Africa. By sector, we need 169 years to close the gap in economic participation and 162 years to close the gap in politics. Again, WTF year is it?! How are we still so far behind?!

Not to mention what’s happening right here in the U.S. It’s an insane time. And we’re in bad news up to our tonsils. Oh and, independence day, which of course makes me wonder what “freedom” actually means, since we’re not fully free in our bodies and our lives. No, not anywhere. I don’t have time to blog, and yet I could blog this crap for years. Like, 131 years, perhaps?!

So, what does this blog offer you in terms of good news? Right now, not much. That’s why I’m going to escape into the writing of my book. But I’ll be back soon… stay tuned.

The author, her pile of papers, and the pupriarch-supervisor.

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Lina AbiRafeh

Global women's rights activist, author, speaker, aid worker with 3 decades of global experience - and lots to say! More on my website: www.LinaAbiRafeh.com