Why do women stay silent?
I've wondered about this for awhile. I still struggle against it. Yesterday I had the perfect opportunity to speak up and didn't, then later wrestled with why I'd stayed silent. I know at times it's fear ~ of what others will think, of not knowing the right words, or of looking stupid. Sometimes it may be because of what we were taught about being ladylike.
*It's not ladylike to dominate the conversation.
*It's not ladylike to interrupt.
*It's not ladylike to share your opinions unless someone asks.
I don't know that I actually heard these things being said as much as I felt the expectations. I knew instinctively that it was more okay for the boys in class to share their opinion than the girls. I knew that I would be considered brazen in Sunday School to question the teacher and the lesson.
I knew that being sweet was a girl's superpower and standing up for others didn't always look sweet.
Awhile ago I read Cheryl Sandburg's book, Lean In, where she observed women in meetings sitting in chairs around the room instead of sitting at the table. Meanwhile, the men took all the seats around the table. She addressed the gravity of this and how we need to learn to lean-in and lead for there to be changes in the future.
I identified immensely with her example. I had unknowingly done that many times. I think it was partly my lack of self-confidence to have anything significant to say, but it was also an underlying belief that those people sitting at the table were more important than me and anything they said would be more important than my words.
This is such a grave problem because if we as women don't step up and become leaders of today, our daughters, nieces and friends will not know it's okay to do that tomorrow.
I recently read an article about Iceland women who all rallied together one day and walked off their jobs, whether in the work force or at home. It completely shut Iceland down. Businesses couldn't operate, schools couldn't function, and transportation couldn't run. Because of that one day and the significance it showed of life without women, they garnered pay increases and were the first democratic country to bring in a female president.
They not only spoke up, they walked out on their own security. They took a huge risk. I'm sure it was intimidating and terrifying to participate in something that might not have been encouraged by their bosses and families.
But with their actions they spoke, and the country heard.
And while I may want to berate myself for not speaking up when the opportunity was there, I realize how much more aware I am of my silence. I'm learning to recognize when I'm quiet and question the reasons so I can get to the root of my fears. I have learned to speak much more than I used to and this skill will only grow with more awareness.
Let's encourage each other to stop being silent. Let's join together and speak up!