Since writing about my experiences of sexism at a recent networking group, I’ve received an abundance of support and advice.
Several people have dropped into conversation, “I read your blog post about feminism…” and I squint my face up until they deliver the next line.
It’s been a fractious road since hitting ‘publish’. For a brief 12-hour period I took the blog post down, so worried was I at the offence I had caused and what I might lose as a result. In support, a dear friend told me, “You were born to be heard not be one of the herd” which is my new mantra! And the story was live once more.
I’ve also been told, “this story will make you”, “I’m so proud of you”, “thank you” and “well done”.
There is a bias as to who gave me advice and who gave me support. It’s not 50/50, but the majority of the support came from women.
On being heard
I spoke up. And some people really didn’t like it. But on speaking up I’ve had a myriad of additional conversations about this subject. And I’m glad. Here’s just one:
Last week a friend shared her experiences of a highly institutionalised, male-dominated environment. She spoke up about a repeated occurrence of appalling, sexist behaviour and was quickly and dismissively told to shut up.
“If you know what’s good for you” was the sentiment of all discussions.
In the detail, this story is infuriating and hurtful but it’s not mine to share so I will not. But I will share a part of our discussion about the after effects.
My friend spoke of how this incident prevented her from speaking up for a really long time. How easy it was to become one of the many, like me, who roll our eyes and tut but do very little else. It also prevented her from speaking up in other areas of her life.
I realise now it’s because we’re scared of what we might lose.
When you make the repercussions of speaking up damaging to a woman’s ability to succeed…then what happens?
Will she speak up in class?
Will she speak up in meetings?
Will she speak up to her friends, her lover, her husband?
If we had nothing to lose, would it be easier to speak up?
Speaking up about unfair behaviour carries risk and sometimes we’re silenced by others’ ability to take away something we value – education, opportunity, friends, respect…
I’ve lost since speaking up but only a little and I’m glad it’s gone. I’ve gained much, including a new understanding of myself, my values and who I value. It’s an interesting road.
If we want more people to speak up – about anything – we need to mitigate the risk. Ensure people don’t lose it all when they raise an opinion, speak their truth, highlight an injustice.
What do you think? What would you say if you had nothing to lose?