Too many times have I been the victim of silence and too many times have I witnessed women suffer the same. Specifically, it is still too common that men are constantly silencing women and pushing them into staying subservient. We all know that before and since the Women’s Suffrage Movement, we have constantly been pressured into being quiet and only speaking when spoken to.
Little girls learn this all too well at a young age. They get taught to sit still and use their indoor voice. On the flip side, boys will be boys… right?
WRONG. Sorry – but society needs a wake up call… we aren’t in the 1900’s anymore!
Now, you might be asking yourself: how many different ways are women silenced?
If you’ve ever spoken up, called someone out or stood up for yourself and have been called a b*tch, you’ve experienced the pressure of staying silent.
If you’ve experienced the aftermath of mansplaining – you’ve dealt with male pressure to stay silent.
If your comments, suggestions, ideas and knowledge have been dismissed unjustly, you’ve seen first hand how the force of silence works.
Far too often do we see this pressure of silence depicted in media. Yet, not enough attention is being called to it. For instance, back in the 1991 when Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, many men (and women) called her a liar with attempts of silencing her and her story. Similarly, back in 2018 when Christine Blasey Ford shared her testimony about Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault, Blasey Ford faced the pressure of silence through the form of death threats.
We see this pressure outside of political coverage as well. In 2018, actress and activist Amber Heard spoke about her ex-husband, Johnny Depp’s domestic abuse toward her. In her op-ed in the Washington Post, Heard recalls facing threats as well as losing acting roles due to speaking out about domestic violence. She noted that when she left her house, the media would portray her negatively. This is just another instance where society exerts pressure to silence women in support of a man and his career.
While it is typical the pressure of silence is pitted on women by men, there are occasions when women attack women. A perfect example of women shaming other women into staying silent is that of Jameela Jamil. For those of you who don’t know, Jamil is an actress, feminist and activist who often speaks out against body-shaming, racism, sexism, homophobia… you name it.
Jamil runs an Instagram account called “I Weigh”, which is a movement that promotes body positivity and loving ourselves (flaws and all). Jamil is extremely vocal online about calling out haters and anti-feminists, which often results in hateful backlash in the comments section. In multiple interviews, Jamil recalls the hate comments she receives in response to her activism. The pattern here is that women call her out for being a “feminazi” and that somehow, her desire for activism stems from her being flawed in some way… yet again, another classic example of pushing women into staying silent.
Before you even ask – yes – this issue does have real-world, real-life, real-people implications.
In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 42% of women in the workforce face or have faced gender discrimination. To top it off, the Equal Rights Organisation has an entire list of potential violations of sex discrimination. This is serious stuff, you guys. The societal belief that women are somehow inferior to men actually affects our careers, jobs and work life.
Believe it or not, it doesn’t get much better. According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, “women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet they earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.” The same article goes on to state that men’s violence against women and women’s access to justice are also prevailing issues women face worldwide. While this seems like it couldn’t get any worse than this, I guarantee you, it does.
I believe that there is a social connection between this pressure for women’s words to be erased and our voices muted with the constant discrimination faced in the workplace. I’m asking you to please consider the weight of your words next time you dismiss a woman’s opinion. Instead, listen to what she has to say and understand that women are smart and educated too. To our male counterparts, think before you mansplain what we already know. Please don’t assume just because we identify as female that we are somehow incompetent. If you’re ever a bystander to when a man calls a woman a b*tch for speaking her mind, stand up and support your sister. Let her know that she is heard and has the right to be heard.