For too long, society has been silencing women. There has been a fierce pull to mute a woman’s voice until it purrs into submission. It can be done violently, playfully, shushing, quelling her into psychological torture by upstanding, affable, misogynists.
And yet, she still speaks. She tells her story. She stands her ground. She fights for herself, even when everyone tells her to be silent. Despite the consequences, the isolation, the fear, the punishment, a woman still speaks.
Not listening to women is worldwide and as old as time. Women have been sounding the alarm on sexism, on harassment, on abuse, on rape for centuries. Women who speak about sexual violence are almost never believed or respected as valuable human beings with valid human voices. Women are forced to endure the exhausting, emotional, and psychological traumatic circus of a courtroom that protects its abusers and nurtures rapists. There is no nurturing for victims of sexual violence in or out of the courtroom. Only gaslighting, criticism, and malicious dissection of their character, their choices, their voices, their bodies and their lives.
The most effective and insidious method of silencing women is through subtle methods, where the woman feels shame about herself as a person rather than identifying it as linked to discrimination against her. When you silence a woman you turn the focus of an argument away from an exchange of ideas and toward a view that women are sexual objects. In incidents of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and violence, a woman’s voice is discounted, diminished, ostracized, erased, and downplayed.
In the classic battle of “he said, she said”, the “she said” often turns into “she lied” or “she regrets”. A man thrives in this current capitalistic, well-oiled rape culture that gives him an endless pass, while the woman is silenced. A young white man with a promising future will be pitied, while she will be dehumanized. Dehumanized when she is harassed, assaulted, or raped, and dehumanized when she speaks up about any of it.
But with the fall of Harvey Weinstein and the domino effect that has had, and the power that women are finding as a collective, with #MeToo, there is an opportunity to change the course of the systemic sexism that permeates our culture. One woman’s voice can spark a chorus of women’s voices to implement a cultural shift. #MeToo is a positive, powerful, pair of words that gives women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault an opportunity to share their stories and feel less alone. It is an empathetic and empowering declaration.
For the first time perhaps in all of history, women are finding their voice and their power. We are realizing what we all knew deep down inside: we have nothing to be ashamed of, we are not at fault, and we are more than sexual objects for the pleasure of men. These crimes against women are no longer our shameful dirty secret, they are our battle cry. After centuries of being silenced, we are saying #TimesUp. And men are terrified.
An empowered, intelligent woman speaking with clarity and passion is a mediocre,white patriarchal man’s deepest fear realized. The right to speak is a form of wealth that is being redistributed. No wonder powerful men are furious.