Even things that are meant to empower, might cause harm.
A while back, my friend had shared this article on how a former Google exec noticed that women use the word “just” significantly more often than men. She called this a “subtle message of subordination, of deference” and encouraged women reading the article to change the way they talk to show confidence and assertiveness. Empowering.
Similar to how female candidates running for office are commented more on their appearances than their campaign, articles like this one focus more on teaching women how to talk rather than what to talk about.
“Women say ‘sorry’ too much.”
“Women need to speak up more.”
“Women overuse ‘like’ and ‘just’.”
When I read these type of articles, I initially think them empowering. But I start becoming self-conscious – am I projecting weakness when I interact with my peers?
Frustration replaces anxiety: do my ideas and opinions become invalid so easily? This is not how I enjoy interacting with others, why do I have to assert myself like an alpha-male to earn respect?
Why can’t people focus on what I say instead of how I’m saying it?
“With men, we listen for what they’re saying, their point, their assertions. Which is what all of us want others to do when we speak. With women, we tend to listen to how they’re talking, the words they use, what they emphasize, whether they smile.”
– Robin Lakoff, Linguistics Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley
I want the right way of talked be my way of talking. If I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, I rather be damned being myself.