Friday, July 29, 2011
The Curse of Silence
I am embarrassed to admit this, but there have been times in my life when I have remained silent when I should have been speaking my mind and defending the defenseless. It is one of the curses of being a lady, this compulsion to keep the peace and make sure that no one’s feelings get hurt even at the risk of your own silent dismay. However, the older I get the more that this entire concept seems nonsensical to me. Still, there are moments when I am torn between silence and speaking. And as I try to discuss this with my husband, he looks at me as though I am a speaking a foreign language. It appears that men just do not have this same dilemma. If they have something to say, it generally just comes flying out of their mouths and they deal with the repercussions at a later time.
I was fairly shy as a young lady, yet I yearned desperately to speak up when I knew that what I was hearing with my ears did not resonate with my heart and mind. I would have intricate debates only in my brain, but was saddened that I could not lend language to these great thoughts. As a matter of fact, this is probably one of the greatest regrets of my life: Remaining mute when assertive dialogue was warranted.
This is something that woman all around the world struggle with and it speaks to the way that girls are just raised differently than boys. I would like to think that the tide has turned through the years, but I still know women who keep their most assertive selves silent. I see it in their eyes at coffee houses, in their body language at family reunions, and in the way that sink a bit deeper in their chair at a cocktail party as their gaze drops downward. It is a shame and it needs to stop. Through the support of other women, and men for that matter, who cheer her own with cries of, “You have a right to be heard” we can bring all of our sisters out of their silence and into a world a civil assertiveness and even debate.
When I finally was able to speak out I was in my 20s and it was as though a verbal and emotional tiger had been let out of a cage. When at last I summoned the nerve to speak out in support of gay rights, in favor reproductive rights or against domestic, I was like a verbal Tasmanian devil…a whirling dervish of rapid fire thoughts spewing from my mouth and wild hand gestures. Lady-like? I think not. Still, I was on the right pathway.
Through the years I learned to slowly gather my thoughts, speak in a language that my audience would understand and communicate with utter conviction. Women often have a way of asserting themselves with a question mark at the end. As in, “Gee, I think the death penalty is just wrong…?” or “Gosh, in some cases abortion is just warranted…?”. It is a skill that many of us cultivate through the years and once it is mastered, we can handle most anyone in a conversation regarding controversial topics.
As the challenges of our world become more immense, as those on the far right begin utilizing absurd scare tactics, and as the political issues hit closer to home, we all need to find our voice and speak out on these issues. This is where the power of sisterhood becomes integral as we boost the confidence of each other and come together with a common, cohesive message. It is just the lady-like thing to do.