Shh they told her. Don’t speak, they hushed. You’re speaking nonsense. You’re being dramatic. You’re being emotional. All her life she had been made to feel that what she had to say wasn’t important because she was a woman. If she raised her voice she was rebuked for her un-ladylikeness. If she was passionate and opinionated then her hormones and emotions were held responsible. Whatever she did she would not be taken seriously.
If she dressed in a feminine nature then she would be disrespected by the male gaze and the focus would be her appearance. If she dressed modestly, then people would mock her and dismiss her for not fitting beauty standards, so again her appearance would be the focus. If she dressed in a masculine manner then she would be laughed at and still not taken seriously. Her appearance is always the subject of debate before she even opens her mouth.
Her male counterpart had no such trials. If he is a white male, it doesn’t matter what he looks like. He is heard and he is listened to. She has always been told what to wear or what not to wear. She could be fired from work for not wearing high heels. For not adhering to the dress code. Too much skin. Not enough skin. She must look pleasing to her male colleagues. She is discriminated against and harassed for her body. She just wants her voice to be heard.
Men tell her what to do with her body and what not to do with it. Men, who know nothing of what it is to be a woman. Women don’t pretend to know what it is to be a man. She doesn’t tell him what he should do or what he should wear. She only wants and expects the same.
She fights for her right to cover if she wants and she fights for the rights of other women to not be told what to wear. She fights for the voice of all women to be heard.
She always has to try harder than he does, just for the opportunity to be heard and when she speaks, she knows they will judge her by everything but her words.
She wondered why they were surprised when she spoke about politics and education. They shock on their faces followed by patronising remarks if she spoke about sports. The visible discomfort when she voiced something they didn’t understand. Threatened and intimidated by her voice, by her opinion and by her mind so they try to put her down and silence her.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
“Women’s voices not being heard is the root of many of the problems of the world.”
– Padma Lakshmi