The Silence of Women
In today’s culture, talking is strongly connected to the notion of freedom, equality, intelligence, and honesty. As women, not all of us communicate our thoughts as society says we should.
Oftentimes it appears as if the world is not designed to consider the voice of women. We are kept in places of submission, voices not taken seriously, viewpoint rarely accepted, and stepped over by patriarchy in the workplace, classroom, and social environments. Black women are more likely than any other racial/gender group to go unnoticed or unheard.
When research is conducted on gender bias, the focus is usually on White women. And when people discuss racial issues, it tends to focus on Black men. So Black women live in a narrow space between these two groups and eventually become invisible.
I’ve pondered this topic of silence for some time, because of my past experiences and conversations with other women. Unfortunately, I have identified moments that I’ve chosen silence or have shrunk my words in an apathetic situation.
I wanted to determine the source of my silence and begin converting it into action. I thought about the way I was raised, as well as my experiences in relationships, academia, or in the workplace. The seeds of my silence had been planted by the women who raised me, my friends, and even myself.
Somehow, I had been programmed to play it small. Some of us were taught from an early age to not ask for help or speak out about pain or trauma. We learn how to move through life and carry weight on our shoulders.
In graduate school, my previous marriage, in the workplace – there were times when it was easier to just be quiet about something than to “stir the pot.” I thought about why I did it. Was it the fear of not being understood and supported? Stepping on toes? Losing my job? I would say yes to all these questions.
Audre Lorde said this:
“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you sicken and die of them, still in silence? While we wait in silence for that luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”
The reality is that we don’t need to find our voice, because we already have one. It’s about feeling empowered to use it and know that people understand and respect what we have to say. Our voices can save ourselves and each other.