The other night I found myself in the peculiar situation most women have found themselves in at least at one point in their life: I was the only woman in a room of men arguing over women’s issues.
Who the people were and what was said do not necessarily matter in the context of my individual experience. The issue at hand is the presumption that someone can argue for an idea, cause or theory when not listening to the voice(s) of those who are affected by those issues. Aggravatingly enough, the issue is exacerbated when those affected are actually present.
Over the course of the night, I heard such pleasant remarks ranging from “the majority of girls like rough sex” to “most girls lie about the whole rape thing. They just do it because they regret the sex the next day.”
No woman reading this could say she is shocked at this vulgar exploitation. I have no doubt most of my female readers have assuredly heard far worse in the course of their dangerous existence inhabiting a female body in a male-dominated, patriarchal world.
My experience is a part of the daily struggle women face in the realm of conversation. There are many aspects of this struggle, but I want to highlight three issues women face in conversations:
- Women are left out of conversations regarding our bodies, even when we are there to discuss them
Imagine, having a panel on women’s health and then not having any women on the panel, duh!”- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in 2012
Imagine, indeed. In 2012, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on mandated birth control coverage. Two panels were held, and many expressed outrage at the first panel being composed entirely of men. The committee argued that because their hearing was about the effect of the birth control mandate on religious freedom, the presence of women on the panel was unnecessary.
Democrats were allowed one speaker at the panel, choosing Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, whom Republicans blocked from speaking. Democrats were angered by this, and the two women on the panel walked out of the hearing.
This is just one example of women being left out of conversations pertinent to our reproductive health, our bodies and our rights. Additionally, the suppression of having Fluke speak at the hearing showcases how female voices are not listened to, even when present.
This brings me to the next point:
- Men overwhelm the conversation; feminism dictates men should not control the conversation
Lately, in mainstream feminism, there has been a trend of prominent male celebrities (and Average Joes alike) championing feminist causes. A simple Google search of “male feminist tweets celebrities” brings up article after article comprised of aggregated Tweets and quotes from men, supporting various liberal feminist messages:
Now, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with men speaking up for women’s rights. In fact, mainstream feminism values male voices in feminist spheres. The trouble lies in male voices being valued so strongly that they drown out women’s voices.
As an editor and a writer, I believe that the subject of the story should be the one telling the story. It’s pretty simple.
And when it comes to women’s lives and rights, the future belongs in the hands of women. For generations, women’s lives and futures were entirely in the hands of men. For a large part of recorded history, we were somebody’s property. Even when we were given the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920, it was because the men in power decided we should be allowed.
Pause for a moment and consider that. When we were finally considered true citizens of this nation, it was because the men––the bosses, the owners––decided that we could. Yes, our foremothers fought and suffered for that change, but that history, that ownership, is one reason why women need to be leading the fight for women’s equality.
– Joanna Schroeder
This succinct excerpt from an article at the dailydot really sums up for me why the prioritization of male voices regarding feminism in mainstream society is so troublesome. Schroeder does a fine job relaying the importance of male voices within male spheres. Essentially, men should use their voices to engage other men, but most especially to amplify the voices of women already speaking up.
I could go even further with this argument, analyzing the radical feminist view that while men can speak out for feminist causes, they cannot truly be feminists, however that is semi-irrelevant to the topic (but a good read!)
Women have been speaking up for years about our oppression, both discreetly and visibly, which leads into the third and final point:
- When women do speak up, our voices are belittled and met with contempt. This often places us in scary situations
Men do not listen to us.
OK, that is a generalized, “buzzword” sentence, however when speaking about men as a class (and not on an individualized level), it is relatively true. This story from stopstreetharassment.org shows why it is dangerous for women to speak up. Women’s voices and narratives about our experiences are heavily scrutinized and destroyed within the mainstream – this is most often true when stories regarding domestic abuse and sexual violence are told.
“Why is she just now coming out with this?” “Where’s the proof?” “She’s just a golddigger.” “It’s a convenient time for her to be coming out with a story like this, when she can cash in on it.” “She was coerced into saying this from the [liberal/conservative] media.” “She is not reputable.”
Any news story about domestic violence, sexual assault, or any other gendered crime elicits responses such as these. Just look at the public backlash in the cases of Angelina Jolie’s allegations of child abuse against Brad Pitt, Amber Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse against Johnny Depp, Dylan Farrow’s allegations of sexual abuse against Woody Allen, and just recently all of the women who came forward about Donald Trump’s sexual harassment. I could fill the pages of a book with cases of women who have accused men of sexual violence and been met with contempt, and still never be done writing.
We can argue about the validity of these claims all day, but when it comes down to it the issue lies in the fact that women are not even given a fair chance to be listened to. Our stories are not even given equal weight nor do they have the opportunity to be evaluated – immediately we are shot down as liars, opportunists, or women who simply “regret the sex the next day.”