I find it funny how words mean such different things to different people. I think about the constant assault upon women’s bodies and minds and wonder if perhaps the word courage is misused. Now don’t get me wrong, courage isn’t gender-specific but I sure don’t think we use it enough to describe women. Perhaps the woman fighting cancer, or the army officer but have you considered how often women are bombarded by insidious threats?
That includes threats to their physical safety, their mental well-being, their jobs, their financial stability. It only takes one misstep for her to lose everything. Of course I can hear you scoffing that, “men are just as vulnerable to bad luck, what are you getting at?” Or perhaps you’re of the school of thought that men struggle with more “real problems”.
Don’t bolster your argument by telling me, “but women oppress and suppress women.” Fine, I have no argument against that, but it doesn’t negate the system of inequality.
The systemic erasure of women’s voices, their stories and realities is alarming. It is a constant and tidal wave. Women are to disappear, disengage, sit down, shut up. Take it. Be grateful, aren’t you happy? Whether it is the disparaging remarks as young girls walk home from school, or not being taken seriously in your Wednesday morning executive meeting.
Now you’re thinking about all the middle management positions we hold, and the fact that women hold more university degrees, or are more likely to hold positions of influence in the corporate arena. Yes, those women are fighting the odds, but I propose that you know more courageous women than you realize.
Now take a minute and review something for me:
Have you ever overheard a woman being harassed on the street?
Do you view the public forum of your culture as a safe space for women to express their opinions?
How many women do you know personally (or by 6 degrees of separation) that have struggled with some form of sexual trauma?
How many women do you know personally (or by 6 degrees of separation) have undergone an abortive procedure for any reason?
Count how many women have taken on the responsibility of raising their children in single-parent homes?
Do you know a woman who has survived, or is in an abusive relationship? Which would include parent, partner, spouse etc.?
What about a woman who is afraid to lose her job if she doesn’t make her boss comfortable with her opinions? Or she’s hesitant to oppose/undermine him in anyway.
The reality is, many of these things are subtle. Yes, there is a power imbalance, and it sucks but it’s not obvious. How do I know? Well, in simplest terms there is too much distance between these issues and our youth. We resist these conversations. They are painful, and disfiguring to decorum.
So today, you don’t feel so courageous.
Neither me. Keep pushing through your “feelings.” Our survival will rely on showing up on days when we’re scared beyond words. Every day that you show up, you reckon with the patriarchy (yes I said it).
Are you outnumbered?
That’s likely to be an issue as you begin to grasp after success. Please don’t quit asking questions, and undermining the status quo. Your voice is loud, you may just need to wait for everyone else to stop talking. I know you want to be heard now! But our environments are noisy and distracted with issues and causes. May I suggest that we need to be much more strategic, systematic and synchronized in our approach.
We have to organize our priorities, and be consistent in protecting each other.
Yes women, I’m talking to you.