Avoid The Choir Of Oppression
I’m a peace-loving, people-pleasing, pacifist. I flinch when people yell, my stomach turns a bit when people use the BIG curse words, I cover my eyes when people argue on reality TV or news programs, I try to avoid conflict AT ALL COST. So, my natural instinct is to Make Peace, Not War.
And while I recognize part of this is caused by this natural tendency to avoid conflict, I must also recognize that part of it is because I was born into a world where any woman raising her voice was either emotional or a bitch. She was not bold or powerful or taking charge. If a woman yelled, the response was to comment on her menstrual cycle or call her a bitch. PERIOD. Those were the options. No one praised loud, angry women. I have plenty of memories of male teachers and administrators and coaches yelling and they were never ONCE criticized, but women yelling? My memories are few and they were always followed up with snickering and comments about “times of month.”
I am constantly trying to remind myself about that subtle tool of oppression: The oppressor must quiet the voice of the resistance by describing their voice as a character flaw. You are less likely to use your voice if you believe it reflects negatively on your character.
So while I won’t 100% discount my leanings towards Love not War as innate, I must also recognize that calling me SHRILL, or harping on my VOCAL FRY, or saying that I’m a BITCH, or that I’m ANGRY, or that it’s MY TIME OF MONTH…these words are all weapons of oppression meant to silence me. Meant to make me scared to use my voice.
And for woman of color? Holy Shitballs. The “Angry Black Woman” trope is one that is used to oppress them everywhere from the kitchen to the floor of Congress. If you refer to any woman of color expressing her opinion as an Angry Black Woman, then you are discounting everything she says like it no longer has merit because this Angry Black Woman has nothing of value to add. THIS IS A PHRASE USED BY THE OPPRESSOR TO DISCOUNT THE VALUE OF THE WORDS BEING YELLED BY WOMEN OF COLOR.
My point is this: Whether or not you agree with a woman’s method of yelling or getting angry – we must resist the urge to step in the footsteps cleared by the oppressors by using their rhetoric as a response. And the way you know it’s a bad instinct? Is because the level of outrage when a man says something LOUD and ANGRY is minimal compared to when a woman, or especially a woman of color does it. Maybe you personally get upset when anyone gets angry, but SOCIETY does not. The response from our MEDIA and from our GOVERNMENT and from our Facebook friends and family when women dare speak up is massively different than when men do the same. So I ask that you watch your response when calling on civility. Maybe you want EVERYONE to be civil (like I do) because you dream of quiet circles where we all hold hands and braid each other’s hair (like I do) but I simply ask that you NOT add your voice to the “WOMEN MUST BE NICE!” choir that sings every time a woman with a microphone is pissed off.
And while you might not hear, “WOMEN MUST BE NICE!” in the calls of civility, that is the real message that a misogynistic society has subtly programmed into all of our minds: Women should stay quiet. And we must be demure. We must be sweet and nurturing and caring. Let the men do the yelling, ladies. They know better.
Resist the urge to reinforce that message. If you believe your way is better, then use your voice in the way you know best FOR YOU. But our daughters need to grow up seeing women yell, and then – most importantly – they need to see that we don’t tell them to BE CIVIL, OR BE NICE, because wars against oppression were not won only in polite speeches. Even Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Have you heard of the Children’s March? The fight for Civil Rights got so desperate and was getting so little positive response that children were organized to stand off against riot police in a controversial manner but HOLY CRAP if those images did not finally show the world how desperate the force of oppression was. When you’re spraying firehoses at children, your message is no longer subtle.
Use your voice the way you want to, I will probably stay a peace-loving pacifist because that’s just my instinct. But avoiding joining the choir of the opposition in using the language meant to quiet women – especially women of color – for decades.