Being Silenced

I like to think of myself as a humanist. All people are equal in my eyes. Some I like, some I do not like, but in terms of race, religion, creed, sexuality, gender, or culture, I endeavour to respect that essentially everyone is the same and should be treated as such. If I don’t like someone, it will probably have more to do with how they treat me or others and much less to do with any discernible “difference”.

However, I am now going to vent my spleen on an issue that has been grating my goat for a while now. I grew up with two older brothers, one of whom would habitually talk over me, interrupt me, and contradict me from childhood all the way up to my late 20s. My father – until I pulled him up on it – would regularly respond to any opinion I had on any subject with “no” as the first word out of his mouth. I’ve had male partners tell me to shut up because I dared to intelligently argue against them and they couldn’t win said debate. I’ve had male bosses who hire male employees because they’re less likely to sue them for sexual harassment (this is not conjecture, this boss actually said that to me). I’ve had male bosses say to me that they prefer male employees because they don’t have “family problems” (my mother had just died and my female partner was unwell).

I’ve had male partners tell me what to wear, what to say and how to act in social situations. I’ve had male partners correct me in front of other people when I didn’t need to be corrected. I’ve had male partners undermine my intelligence in front of others, or make fun of me if I’ve said something funny (because women aren’t funny, apparently).

I’ve had teenage boys in classroom discussions challenge me on my feminist views of Lady Macbeth (“if she’s so happy being a woman and all that feminist stuff, why does she have to become a man to kill the king?” It’s called context, fuckhead. The play was written 500 years ago) just to get a rise out of me. I’ve had male directors dictate my actions to me, ignore my requests and concerns, and accuse me of bad acting because they’re The Boss, so I should just fall into line like a good girl.

I’ve had male partners rebuke me for crying, claiming that I’m trying to manipulate them with my tears. I’ve had male friends exclaim “that’s a big word for a little girl” if I use words with more than two syllables. I’ve had male police officers dismiss my claims of abuse because “women aren’t violent.” I’ve been told by more men than I can count to keep my mouth shut when opposing this treatment. I’ve been told to “go back to the kitchen”. I’ve been told to know my place.

Like many other women, I got used to it. I got used to it because it’s been happening all my life. My mother once said that she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about me in a man’s world because she knew I could look after myself. I shouldn’t have to “look after myself” in a man’s world. It shouldn’t be a man’s world. It shouldn’t be a woman’s world. It should just be a world, and I am really fucking sick of having to fight for my right to be treated like a human being in this world simply because I’m a woman.

The terrible thing is, most men don’t actually know when they’re undermining women. That’s because they’ve always done it and it’s never been a big deal and they’ve never been pulled up on it and that’s what they’ve subconsciously been taught to do since childhood. Fortunately, most of the men I know would be horrified to discover that they may have undermined a woman in their life. But there are some who get defensive or angry, even when they are gently chastised on their behaviour. There are some who even secretly believe that it’s their right because that’s just the way the world is.

The recent #YesAllWomen campaign (and the #NotAllMen response) is a clear indication on where the world stands. What I’ve described above has happened to every single woman I know, and I daresay it’s happened to every single woman on the planet, whether they’re aware of it or not. No, not all men are misogynist dickwads, but instead of getting all uppity and antagonistic at the women who’ve been subjected to this treatment, why not get angry at the men who are giving all the good guys out there a bad name? Tell them off for being the perpetrators instead of telling us off for being the victims. But that’s it, isn’t it? We live in a world that finds it easier to blame the victim instead of addressing the behaviour of the culprit.

Well, I’m done with it.

Look, I like men. I get on very well with most men. Most of my male friends like me because I’m upfront, honest, funny and open. But even those male friends fall into the trap of patronising me if I’m being a little too upfront, honest, funny and open. And I’m over it. I can take being treated like an arsehat if I’m behaving like an arsehat. If I’m not being an arsehat, however, I’d like very much to be treated like a human being.

My womanhood is not a disability. Neither is it a commodity, an affliction, a hindrance, or a hurdle to overcome. It is my strength, my mantle, my superhero cape, and my pride. I love being a woman. I love everything about being a woman. I reserve the right to defend being a woman until it no longer has to be something to defend.

And to the men out there? Treat me like a human being, whether you like me or not, and you will have my eternal respect. If not, well, be warned. I will not be silenced.

Fuck sexism.