how we silence other women

There is no doubt in my mind that women can be each other's worst enemy.

So many times I've watched in shock and awe as women relentlessly cut each other down.

It's why I stayed away from intimate women circles for so long. For much of my life I believed women were catty, dramatic, and backstabbey {Just made up this word. Kinda like it.}

It's only been in the past few years that I've learned that that's not how women naturally are at all... but it's how our society views women. {In case you haven't noticed, our patriarchal society really doesn't like women}.

And when you're told from birth that this is how you are supposed to be, you can't help believe it and even participate in it.

We've got to break the pattern.

It's time for women to rise up and claim our space in the world. And that means we must honor each other's voices in the process.

So I want to break down five ways in which women silence each other in hopes that we can begin to address them in our own lives and participate in the necessary collective healing.

Because if women don't come together, support one another, and lift each other up, we undermine the very goals we seek to achieve.

1. Interrupting

Let's start with something relatively simple. There are sad statistics and studies out there about the frequency of which men interrupt women, which tells me that we've been taught at a very young age that it's acceptable and even normal to be interrupted. So, of course, we are going to interrupt each other - we believe we deserve it.

Giving other women your unconditional attention and allowing them to speak is a powerful way of saying, "I honor you. And while I may not agree, I give you the respect and time you deserve."

In this way, we start to treat each other like we care about women's expression and voices. We give space for women's voices to be heard, especially in places like the boardroom where women are already less likely to speak up.

Plus, listening is a great habit to cultivate in general. So... #winwin.

Start noticing how often you want to interrupt, and see if you can practice taking a deep breath instead. Let her speak the way you would like to be heard. This is how change starts.

2. Focusing On Looks

There is nothing more demeaning to me than a man focusing on my looks and not my contribution and intelligence. So why is it acceptable for women to do the same thing?

From birth, our society taught women that our most important contribution to the world is our looks. It's no wonder we grow up to obsess over our bodies and our physical appearances. Just the other day my friend texted me, shocked, because she finally realized the expression, "get dolled up" means trying to look like a doll.

Women are spending hours {and billions of dollars a year} attempting to look like what society deems as perfect. Can you imagine what we could be doing with that time and money?! 

This patriarchal obsession over looks keeps women distracted from what is important, what excites us, and our potential. It keeps us playing small. If we want to break this cycle, we must practice looking beyond women's appearances as a judgment of their character.

Please, let's stop telling other women they are "cute" and start digging deeper into the types of praises that actually have the potential to elevate us. Notice your propensity to judge a woman by her looks and practice instead focusing on her merits. Or if you don't know her enough, practice sending her love and compassion for getting up in the morning. For many of us, that alone is a huge achievement.

3. Gaslighting

This is an especially important concept to understand as we explore cross-racial relationships and empowerment.

Gaslighting is defined as a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity.

White women are especially guilty of doing this to WOC {women of color} by telling them through actions, beliefs and even flat out comments that what they are experiencing isn't real, that racism isn't a thing, and that they have the same access to resources that white women do.

Margaret Johnson writes, "None of us have the right to re-write anyone's experience or narrative simply because it's uncomfortable, or challenges how we live. None of us has the right to tell an oppressed person that they need to get over it, see it from a new perspective, to not get offended. When people speak up about their abuse/pain/discomfort/fears that should be validated. There should be gratitude for the willingness to be brave and share. Shaming someone because they aren't like you isn't fair. It isn't kind. It isn't good."

When we gaslight another woman, even unintentionally, it has the potential to impact her confidence in herself and her senses, confidence that is essential for her continuing to speak up.

More importantly, it alienates you from all women who are different from you, making it clear that you are not truly supportive of intersectional women's rights.

Just because it's not your reality, doesn't mean it can't be someone else's. Let's be careful to not invalidate someone's experience of life... because that experience is a part of their story and critical to their rising up.

SIDE NOTE: According to Robin Stern, Ph.D., author of The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life, here are nine signs you may be gaslighted:
1. You are constantly second-guessing yourself
2. You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
3. You often feel confused and even crazy at work.
4. You're always apologizing to your mother, father, boyfriend, boss.
5. You frequently make excuses for your partner's behavior to friends and family.
6. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
7. You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
8. You feel as though you can't do anything right.
9. You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend/ wife/employee/ friend; daughter.

4. Taking Things Personally

When we make things be about us, we remove the attention and focus from the other person/problem and place it squarely on us. And sometimes, it's really inappropriate it make the situation be about you.

Here's a silly example: This is like when you're feeling hurt because your partner said something mean to you... and then he/she gets offended that you're hurt and totally makes it be about him/her and his/her feelings. It's like... no, you hurt me, the energy has to be on THAT.

Your partner took your hurt personally and rather than supporting you process your feelings, apologizing and owning her/his mistake, he/she pulls the attention onto him/her, which only makes you feel worse.

Let's look at another, much more serious, example.

Racism is still very much a thing in this country and beyond. In fact, it's built into the very fabric of the US government. The first law in the world that differentiated a white person from a "negro" {as written in the law} was written in 1684 in the colony of Virginia, written to create a divide within the working force and prevent another rebellion that could potentially overturn the elite class.

The law worked... and every other law thereafter steadily removed the access to resources and power from black men that was previously given to both black men and white men alike.

If you want to learn more about this, please read/watch The Birth Of A White Nation. It's imperative.

Most of us are complicit in supporting our racist system even if we don't consider ourselves racist because of the privilege we carry and use. The resources white women have access to is simply not the same as the resources WOC have. Period.

So whenever the conversation of racism comes up and white women defend themselves as, "not me! I'm not racist" or when someone says to us that 53% of white women voted for Trump and our immediate response is, "but not me..." we are making it be about us. We are taking the system of racism personally instead of acknowledging how we are benefiting from white supremacy and giving space to the person who is actually affected.

There are so many other ways in which we make the conversation or situation be about us instead of honoring the feelings and space of another. And every time we take something personally, we are robbing the power of conversation, of understanding, of respect. We are telling the other person that she isn't worthy of the spotlight. We are perpetuating the very system that is keeping us silent.

5. Not Doing Our Own Work

There are two main reasons for why we are likely to criticize or judge another woman’s appearance or contribution. One, we are taught that that’s the acceptable way to relate to one another {see interrupting}. And two, we are espousing onto them what we do to ourselves... it's the only thing we know.

When we relate to ourselves by hating and berating ourselves every time we do something different or bold, how can we expect to relate to another woman any differently?

The container of which we hold love for ourselves determines our capacity to hold space for other women's individuality.

If our container is small... we are likely to see other bold women as a threat to our safety rather than encourage her to own her spotlight.

If we want to change how women relate to one another, if we are to empower women's voices rather than silence them, we have to learn how to play with our own power, and learn how to express our own voice. We gotta expand our container. This inner work is critical to the success of women.

Notice where you want to judge. Notice where you want to gaslight or take things personally. Notice where you want to demean another woman for not fitting into society's standards and ask yourself, "why do I feel the need to perpetuate separation in this moment?"

Because that's exactly what you are doing. You are separating yourself from another person. And when we do that, when we make the other person an "other," we don't feel the very real emotions and experiences that are here. 

AND it is only by coming together that we are going to change our space in the world.

The French Revolution was started by women. Yet the minute they established a new government.. they enacted laws preventing women in gathering in large numbers again.

In the USA, they still have laws in some states preventing large number of women from living under the same roof. Uh WHATTT.

Clearly the system under which we operate in doesn't trust women and our power.

And when the system doesn't trust us, it becomes very hard to trust ourselves and each other. This is a great way to maintain women's smallness, wouldn't you say?

The first place to start the collective healing is by cultivating sisterhood and trust in one another. Making sure we are not doing any of the above things is a good first step.

TL:DR;

If we want to feel more emboldened in our words, more confident in ourselves and our voice, we must give that same level of respect that we seek, to other women. In this way, we create a circle of mutual respect and understanding, we support each other in being bold in our words and our actions... and we create the type of power that can radically alter how women are seen in the world.

Together, we rise.

To your worth,