The Courage to Speak As A Woman
How much of a woman’s life experience is unspoken?
How much is just below the surface?
How many of your thoughts and feelings have gone unexpressed because you’ve felt speaking up would cause drama, trouble, or friction at home with family, or issues with friends, or challenges with colleagues?
Despite all the gains women have made over the past 120 years, we still have to fight to be heard and respected in all areas of life.
We must not be silent about the erosion of women’s rights, here in the US and around the world. Now is the time for courage, red in tooth and claw.
The patterns and practices of dismissing and silencing women’s speech are ancient and part of our civilization's roots. The silencing of women reaches back three thousand years to Homer’s Odyssey, where Penelope is told by her pre-adolescent son to stop talking, leave public speech to men, and go back to her room.
In mythology and literature, Penelope was silenced by her son; Io was turned into a cow so she could not speak only moo; Echo was cursed to speak no words of her own only repeat the words of others'; Philomela’s tongue was cut out so she could not accuse her rapist; Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy, and then cursed never to be believed; Medusa was raped, turned into a monster with a death stare and then beheaded. These are just a few examples.
The cultural normalization of silencing women’s voices in the public sphere continued throughout ancient Greek and Roman life and was normalized over the following millennia.
Mary Beard, world-renowned scholar and professor of Classics at The University at Cambridge, invites us to consider that there is a long back story to the silencing of women. This history plays into “. . .the fact that women, even when they are not silenced, still have to pay a very high price for being heard. . .”(1)
The founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, women participating in the #metoo movement, Christine Blasey Ford, Cosby’s sixty accusers, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and an untold number of women politicians, cultural leaders, celebrities, and ordinary women like you and me, have received death threats, been subjected to cyberbullying, and online attacks from people trying to silence our voices.
“The silencing of women, through political, social, cultural or legal exclusion, marginalization, diktat or violence has been, and remains, a common feature of patriarchy that is deeply embedded in all societies irrespective of political ideology, time or location. As an ideology or system of ideas and relations, patriarchy is adept at creating and utilizing silence to normalize and maintain gendered inequalities that privilege particular forms of masculinity over others, and over all forms of femininity through structures, practices, culture and law.” (2)
Five thousand years of the systematic patriarchal oppression of women and the denigration of the feminine and its archetypal attributes, coupled with rising authoritarian political movements worldwide, and the Covid -19 pandemic, have created a dangerous imbalance in world cultures and our collective unconscious. We must strive to find a new way forward.
Amnesty International's Secretary-General, Agnès Callamard, announced,
“Events in 2021 and in the early months of 2022 have conspired to crush the rights and dignity of millions of women and girls . . . The world’s crises do not impact equally, let alone fairly. The disproportionate impacts on women’s and girls’ rights are well-documented yet still neglected, when not ignored outright.. . .We must stand up to and stare down this global assault on women’s and girls’ dignity.”
There can be no more explicit call to action than what is happening in the US and the world regarding women’s rights. Now is the time for courage. Now is the time to refuse to be silenced, speak with our voices, and use our life experience, career knowledge, and wisdom to support each other and protect women’s rights.
Now is the time for us all to dig deep and find the courage to speak, and raise our voices for the greater good, despite any consequences.
We cannot go back.