I consider myself a baby feminist and have been on the pursuit of knowledge and empowerment for a few years. Fiercely devouring books on feminism and following women who are fearlessly leading the way, I am only now learning to hear and trust my voice.
It was only recently that it really dawned on me the disservice to myself and society when I don’t use my voice. How can I urge women in Nepal to stand up for gender inequalities and call out injustices when I continue to shy away from any conflict myself. Under no circumstances am I comparing my trivial issues with women doing it really tough in low resource settings, but I have a role to play and I need to practice what I preach! When we don’t call things out we are inadvertently approving them and allowing them to continue without reproach.
So, finding and using your voice can be likened to exercising a muscle. At first it doesn’t quite know what to do and feels awkward but the more you practice the easier it gets. What starts out as a whisper can become a big loud SHOUT! For me, learning to ROAR doesn’t mean I will ever literally SHOUT, show anger or stamp my feet – my ROAR will involve being calmly relentless 😉
Using my voice doesn’t come naturally but I don’t believe this to be a genetic or biological phenomenon. Little girls are taught to sit quietly, don’t make a fuss and to be good little girls. We are taught to be gentle and gracious and to avoid confrontation. While these are all good human traits, on the flip side we are not taught how to handle conflict or to face injustice head on. As an ‘easy-going’ person it is easy for me to dismiss issues and to just ‘shake it off’. Again, this is also a good human trait, BUT we are not taught when, how and why there are circumstances that we need to stand strong and pursue the matter.
This year has been interesting for me professionally, mostly because I am becoming more sensitive to discrimination and am starting to stand strong and use my voice. There are three specific examples from the past few months in my professional life where I have chosen to use my voice and call out an issue. Interestingly, the initial reaction from all three men was silence and to ignore the matter completely. I realised today that this tactic is using a sneaky ploy to play on ‘feminine good-naturedness’.
Because women are taught to be nice and avoid conflict, I believe feminine good-naturedness is used against women subconsciously by many men in power. It is used initially to push an agenda on a woman, knowing she probably won’t want to make a fuss and will just go along with it. Then if she does raise an issue with the matter, conversation will prey on her good-naturedness illustrating how kind, lovely or generous she is to go along with things. Or in my examples, by ignoring my concerns they hope I will just ‘shake if off’ and not take the matter further. When I continued to push forward I was not given an explanation or apology but made to feel like I was being difficult. Nevertheless, I persist, because at this point it is not about the outcome but the principle.
The thing is, I like being a gentle female and have no interest in turning into an aggressive power player. Is it possible to be both firm and gentle, direct and polite, strong and gracious? I believe it is, however tricky this may be. I think the more we practice using our voice the more we learn how to use it in a way that speaks our truth.
Don’t get me wrong, as a baby feminist, when I use my voice it is tight and shaky, my heart races, I’m sweating and I’m also trying to hold back tears… haha (I really hope I get better at it 🙂 )
So, I implore all you lovely ladies to listen and trust your voice and start to use it. Even if it’s a tiny whisper, or even a frowny-face emoji in response to something you disagree with. We ALL must do our part to create societal change xx