A woman standing looking through a wired fence

How do we respond?

This is a question that runs through my mind continuously. 

What’s enough? To an experience that carries the weight of affecting a lifetime–how do we respond?

What is the appropriate way to combat the judgment, the dismissals and the denials with a truth that reveals how raw and real these topics are? How can we speak up without being labeled as over-reactive and aggressive?

I want to be heard. I want to be respected. Yet, I hold my tongue. I fear that saying anything is saying too much, and yet, saying nothing is never enough. So tell, me, women, how do we respond when “They,” capital T, don’t believe us. Time and time again, we are shown that speaking up never suffices. Writing never gets the point across. It seems like there is too much, and there is not enough.

I fear that saying anything is saying too much, and yet, saying nothing is never enough.

So how, how do we respond?

I turn on my phone, and I am slammed with data. This person was body-shaming. This man mommy-shaming. This woman too severe against her own sex. This man wronged another woman. This government official was believed. This woman was not. This woman spoke up and now all we know her for it—what happened to her, not what she did before, after or during.

Household names poorly represent our ideals. Women with tiny bodies, skimpy clothing and ever-changing hair become the ideal. Men who lie but get elected anyways become the example.

There is hate in the air. It sits on my skin like a residue I can’t wash off. So I stay inside, and I scrub until I’m raw. Yet, the memories cannot be erased and only sink below the surface.

Again, I’m left to sit along and ask myself—Where do I go from here? How do I respond? How do I stand up for myself, for the women around me, for my future daughters? How do I do what is right in the face of something so fundamentally wrong?

I wonder to myself, “When did morality and ethics become a choice?” and scribble on a piece of paper an answer that will never come. 

I know strong women. I am one. I’ve become one. It wasn’t necessarily a choice. Yes, I am strong, but it is as a consequence of the malicious intent of others. Why can’t we become strong on our own account, inspired by the woman sitting next to me instead of as a result of the man who wronged me?

What’s my response to being silenced? It cannot be silence. What’s my response to the film of negativity that sits on everything we touch? How can I make a change? How can I be different? How can I redeem myself?

What’s my response to being silenced? It cannot be silence. 

What’s enough?

We ask questions, but I demand answers. My silence is calculated, and it is not representative of weakness. My silence has been the space in which I prepare to speak so that I am heard and so that I can make way for others to be heard.

When I speak, “They” will listen because I want to speak with the voices of thousands through the lips of one. This is unitive. This is a reclamation of respect in the name of my gender. This makes way for the standard (which was so crudely established) to crumble, rather than remain the expectations of how women should be treated.

I want to speak with the voices of thousands through the lips of one.

I don’t have answers, but I have ears that have learned to listen with. I have a heart that beats for the pain of all those who know what pain truly is. I have a voice that I’m ready to use.

Have you ever been silenced? How can we speak up for ourselves and other women?

Image by Ali Mitton, Darling Issue No. 21 

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2 comments

  1. “I fear that saying anything is saying too much, and yet, saying nothing is never enough.“
    Bravo! This piece is a reminder to me that I must use my voice! We must all speak up for ourselves and more importantly for those who can not.

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