The other day, I asked someone (a male) if it bothered him that I'm outspoken about certain issues. I was nervous for a moment, but then he said, "No, it shows you care." I was happy with this response and felt strangely proud of him for saying that. It wasn't until a few days later, after the election took place, that I realized how stupid it was that I was proud of someone for supporting a vocal, outspoken woman -- something everyone should be doing anyway.
Immediately, I asked myself why I felt the need to ask him that question. Why did I need validation from a male that the volume of my voice was okay? I decided that the answer had to be fear. I had been fearful that my vocal, opinionated nature was being perceived as "annoying," and sadly, I had begun to believe that most men wouldn't be interested in an outspoken woman. When I came to this realization, I felt sick -- because, to a certain degree, it's true. Although there are great men out there who cheer on and respect opinionated women, there are plenty of others out there who feel threatened by women who speak their minds. But what really churned my stomach was the fact that I had even stopped to think about what men were thinking.
Like I said earlier, I didn't come to this realization until after the results of the election came in. At first I was dwelling in a thick state of denial, but in the following days, a slew of other emotions overwhelmed me. Initially, I felt sad -- sad because of the fact that half of the country voted in favor of patriarchy and electing a sexual predator (along with the fact that I still may never see a female president during my lifetime). But as soon as I began to shed those heavy feelings of sadness, anger surfaced. A lot of it. Of course, I was (and continue to be) angry with society, but I was even more angry with myself. For as long as I can remember, I've thought of myself as a die-hard feminist who wasn't afraid to express her opinion. In fact, I consider it to be a huge part of my identity. Yet some part of me was still concerned with how I was being viewed by men.
But that stops today. I refuse to lower my voice and change my sense of justice. I refuse to let men dictate how I hold myself, how I speak, and how loud my voice gets. Because if we allow that to get in the way, we will never achieve true equality, and we most definitely will never have a female president.
It's time to stop calling outspoken women "bitches" for standing up to patriarchy. It's time to stop referring to effective female leaders, those who give instruction and get things done, as "bossy," and we can't keep referring to those who raise their voices with confidence and authority as "shrill." It's time to notice when a woman is more qualified for a job than a man, and it's time to do something about that. It's time to shut your mouth when it's not your turn, to be respectful, to listen.
That respectfulness is important no matter what human characteristics you possess. It's something I can work on, too. After all, it's people like Michelle Obama who speak calmly and articulately (regardless of how frustrated or angry they may feel) who gain the most respect. And it's true, we need to choose our battles. Some just aren't worth the energy or the time. But when they are -- when we have the opportunity to shut down a sexist comment, to stand up for ourselves and other women, to create positive change -- that's when we'll see real progress.
I'm still hopeful for the future of women in this country. As I walk through my school's campus, I see so many powerful, strong, resilient females who will go on to do great things. I see future doctors, teachers, lawyers and writers. I see people who will influence society. And who knows? Perhaps one of them will be president one day. But that largely depends on us -- how we reflect on the events, social and political, that push us three steps back and how we choose to act on it. It depends on whether or not we're willing to use our voices, even if it means being negatively perceived by those still enjoying patriarchal society -- whether we're willing to rise to the occasion.