Re-posting. Originally published in February, 2010.
I have been called a lot of things in my life. Off the top of my head they are: sassy, agressive, obnoxious, loud mouthed, too-smart-for-your-own-good, fiesty, tough and bitch. As I was growing up and trying to find my place in this mad world, being called these things was somewhat devastating. As girls, we are taught and encouraged to NOT be any of these things. That embracing the qualities of femininity is the right thing to do. Soft, quiet, emotional, to be seen and not heard. As a young woman it was all very confusing. I learned very quickly that I could get away with things just for being female, but it really wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.
I remember being in high school and having firm beliefs about certain things. Sadly, most of the time I didn't speak up because I didn't know how to articulate things perfectly and back then I thought everything needed to be perfect, so I shut up. Well, maybe not that I shut up, mostly just channeled my high-strung energy in the wrong direction. But, where I'm going with this is that I can remember always being “shushed”. I felt more important if I sat back and was just pretty. Like a Christmas ornament. But when I finally learned to embrace all of those things, to not be ashamed for wanting to speak up, the flood gates opened and I could. Not. Be. Shut. Up.
I get my outspokenness from my mother. However, she looks at it as sticking her foot in her mouth. I believe in her generation, her view of feminism was what was seen on TV or heard about from adults conversations. Bra burning, man hating, hairy arm pitted ladies. Being outspoken was not something that was attractive. Even now, I see her hesitate when she wants to speak her mind. My mom was married at 17 and the mother of 2 by age 20. She is one of the strongest, most powerful women I know. But still, I believe she looks at speaking your mind as a masculine trait, one that is not seen as “right” in others eyes.
I recently watched a moving speech from one of my heros, Eve Ensler. She states:
…the verb that's been enforced on girls, is the verb “to please”. Girls are trained to please. I want to change the verb. I want us all to change the verb. I want the verb to be educate. Or activate. Or engage, or confront, or defy. Or create. If we teach girls to change the verb, we will actually enforce the girl inside us, and the girl inside them.
If I am lucky enough to have you read my blog, even if it's just this post, I want to tell you this: If you have a daughter, or a niece, a sister, mother, aunt, any girl or woman in your life, it is imperative that we teach them to speak up. Teach them to be proud of what they believe in, teach them the power of education, the power that they hold, just by being female. Being female is no better than being male, but it's not our JOB to please everyone. Some things may come out of your mouth that are less than perfect, but don't run and hide under the covers. Vulnerability, honesty, love, compassion, empathy…all of those are beautiful and strong. Yes, strong.
So don't “shush” girls, and if you see one being “shushed”, say something. And if you are a girl or woman reading this, trust me when I tell you again it's not your JOB to please everyone. It's a part of life to piss people off, have people disagree with you and yes, sometimes, someone may not like you (gasp!). It's okay. Speak your mind. It's well worth the effort.
Photo courtesy of natashalcd