Freelance Journalist, Editor, Copywriter and Author – Dubai

On Silencing The Strong Woman (Spoiler: It Never Works)

On a couple of occasions, I’ve had to remove abusive men from my Facebook account. In both instances, the guys in question had taken offence to feminist observations that I had posted; instead of adding to the arguments that I had made with sound, well-thought out observations of their own, they attacked and made assumptions about what I meant – assumptions with zero facts to back them up with.

In both cases, I was accused of being a man-hater – something that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t hate men. I want women to be treated equally to men. There’s a massive difference.

It got me thinking about how people try to silence out things that they don’t want to hear. Most recently, people have taken offence to the #blacklivesmatter hashtag – ALL LIVES MATTER, they exclaim, as if anyone was trying to claim otherwise. Their arguments are beyond the point, though. As a white person, I cannot claim to know what it’s like to be black. So why do so many white people take offence to black people talking about their negative experiences? How can white people claim that black people don’t have a right to feel the way they do? Why are people so quick to silence these voices?

I believe this is also the case with feminism – people want to silent feminists. Privileged people don’t like their privilege being threatened, it seems. In this case *some* men don’t want this status quo to be challenged, because quite frankly it means that their power will may be taken away from them. Additionally, it may force them to consider how their actions may sometimes be sexist. Some people find it hard to take criticism – to face up to the fact that even they have a part to play.

I get that it’s uncomfortable. I’ve felt the same way sometimes when reading about black people’s experiences of racism. For example, I never realised before that as a member of a privileged sector of society (i.e. as a white person), I cannot claim I’ve experienced racism. Discrimination and prejudice, yes, but racism – no. It didn’t make sense to me initially, but then I read around the topic and I saw why this was the case.

Hiding from things that make us uncomfortable doesn’t get us anywhere.

Recently, I’ve been guilty of thinking twice about posting potentially controversial blog posts or social media updates. I think to myself: can I be bothered with the potential fall out? Over the last twelve months in particular I’ve, on the whole, steered clear of sharing my experiences and being too critical. I’ve let my experiences on Facebook get the better of me.

But you cannot silence the strong woman forever, I realise. And things will only change if we continue to have dialogue about our experiences in the world and how we feel things can be made better. If I allow myself to be silenced, I’m encouraging other women to be silent, when I should be encouraging them to speak out.

No more.

As a strong woman, I refuse to let people silence me, and I implore all other strong women to do the same. If you have experiences, share them. If you go through something positive/negative/life-changing, share it. We need to be willing to both share and listen in order to make any progress forward. Sticking our fingers in our ears and blanking out things that make us uncomfortable won’t help. Staying silent about any discrimination you may face won’t help.

I vow to no longer be silenced. If I have something to say, I will now say it without thinking twice about the potential fallout. Because I realise that the very individuals who attack are the ones who want us to stay silent, the ones who don’t want us to challenge their privilege.

Quite frankly, I no longer want to make life easy for them.

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