Yesterday, at my local deli, I waited patiently while the young man who took orders passed out the food to those awaiting their orders. I was the only one at the counter, so knew I would be waited on as soon as he finished passing out the previous orders. Just as he finished and was ready to take new orders, a man approached the counter and he was immediately served. I was shocked, even though this has happened countless times before, but I was shocked because I had been standing right in front of this employee for the past 5-10 minutes. I had been standing right in front of him with no one else near the counter.
Should I say something, or just let it go? I did choose to speak up, though it didn't change much. The employee mumbled a few words that were slightly resembling an apology, but not much else changed.
While some might call this a "small" incident that could happen to anyone. It was this incident on top of many just like this occurring time and time again. A man walks in and he is acknowledged immediately, while a woman is ignored...unless of course she's young and beautiful...which explains how women are seen and valued in one dimensional terms.
Though not much changed when I spoke out, I'm glad I did. I would have felt worse, just walking away allowing that incident to chip away at my self-confidence and inner power. Years ago, I would probably have chosen not to say anything and just let it go. Just shove it under the rug, as they say. But, unfortunately, staying quiet and not standing up for oneself has it's own unhealthy consequences. It slowly chips away at one's own self-worth and self-belief.
I can still vividly recall my mother-in-law realizing at the end of her life that she "Didn't have a say so." She had gotten married in her mid to late twenties straight from living at home. She married an officer in the Air Force who made all the major decisions for her and her family. She was meant to be the dutiful wife who supported her husband, though at times that contradicted her own interests and preferences. It wasn't until her mid eighties that she realized she had swallowed her own needs and desires; silencing her own voice.
I see this similar self-silencing from young women today. I see it in women who keep quiet when internally they know a boyfriend isn't treating them right. I see it in women who watch men get promoted at work, leaving them behind. I see it in women who trust men in authority when others have warned them about these men. I see it in very young girls who still believe boys are smarter than girls or better at things than girls are; though deep inside they are bursting to lead and excel.
What can be done about it?
One way to help women speak up more, is for women to practice listening to one another. Recently, at a women's meeting, a woman spoke of problems she had at work where many of the men were being listened to at meetings whereas her ideas were ignored. Another woman in the meeting said that she never had the problem though 90% of her co-workers were men. The second woman discounted the first woman's experience, making her possibly feel inadequate. Perhaps if she gave her guidance from her own experience that would have been helpful, but she had none to give. Do you see how women can silence other women, thus keeping women from sharing their experiences?
We must listen to and validate the experiences, needs, and strengths of women and girls.
Each of us can help one another and especially young women and girls. We need to help them practice speaking up for their truth, their experiences, and their needs. We have been conditioned to do otherwise! I remember a well-meaning uncle of mine saying that my husband was the "brains" and I was the "personality." Why can't I be the brains, too, I thought?
I now have two young granddaughters I want to help empower. I want to help them know their voices, needs, wants, and desires matter in this world. They have witnessed first hand how a strong woman running for President could lose, and what it took for many to try and silence her. I do not want my granddaughters to be silenced, but to know their worth and to stand up for it!