So! The common phrases used to downplay women’s voices and challenges.
These phrases are not new to us. We hear them every day, in all places: at the Office, on Social Media, in our homes, in the market, at school.
Some of these phrases include, but not limited to, Bitter, Nagging, Drama, Angry, Emotional, Hormones, Lonely, Sex-starved, Prostitute, commonly called Ashawo.
Let’s discuss how these phrases that downplay women’s voices and challenges affect us and how to handle them, because we may never get the perpetrators to stop mouthing them off at us.
Why You’re Not heard.
Before I delve into the crux of the matter, I need to first let you know that it is a proven fact that men find women’s voices disturbing, annoying and just ‘harder to listen to’. Many also go further to say that women’s voices are also harder to distinguish. So having more than one woman speaking in the same conversation is even more disturbing, confusing and stressful to men’s ears. Lol.
In general, women speak at a higher pitch, about an octave higher the men, and because lower pitch voices give a louder impression, women’s voices being higher pitch, do not go as far. Unfortunately, trying to give the voice more power can sound shrill, just as Hillary Clinton was accused during her 2016 presidential campaign.
It is also a proven fact that women are regularly interrupted, talked over or misperceived when they speak; because this high pitch voice does not cut across as dominant or authoritative enough. It doesn’t matter the level; let me shock you, even female Supreme Court judges are found to be more frequently interrupted by junior male lawyers than the male judges. So much that even our heroine, Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister underwent voice coach on lowering her pitch just for her to sound more authoritative.
So last year, a popular podcast network, Mamamia, announced their launch of a podcast that will be transcribed into high frequency sound waves that only women can hear; all for the purpose of raising awareness about erasure of women’s voices. Simply awesome, don’t you think?
Why On Earth Are They Not Listening!?
So getting into the real deal of our episode this week, you can now see that you’re not dealing with just words, you’re dealing with attitude too. Your voice has to even be appreciated before your opinions can be heard.
You must understand that the men have held power for so many years, power and influence. They’re used to testosterone and baritone voices commanding respect, submission and influence in the homes, offices, conference rooms, government, sporting fields. So what is this high pitch voiced, sexy looking pretty arse doing trying to command his respect, or attention on serious critical money-making matters? Who are you again? These words that downplay
So let’s look at the different words Used to Downplay women’s Voices and Challenges.
This is likely the most popular word used to downplay women’s voices and challenges.
Notice that when you as a woman, complain about non-trivial matter, be it personal or society matter, that you feel takes choice and control away from you, you’re quick to be tagged “Bitter”. Isn’t “Bitter Feminist” such a cliché now? Also notice that this tag is rarely assigned to men who may voice on complementary matters too, even if such a man were a feminist.
If you came on social media to advise women to pursue personal and career growth rather than pursue husband, you’d be tagged Bitter and Lonely, Pretentious Sex-starved feminist who probably begs her gateman for sex. And that of course, any young girl that makes the mistake of listening to you would end up just like you: lonely and bitter with no man in her life.
But they would hail the man who gave the same advice to women on his timeline. Of course, he represents Testosterone; Dominance.
So it’s usually not about the content of your words – it’s that you are saying. Like, Why should you? How dare you woman!”
You’re deceitful. You dish this advice online, but go offline and beg a man to marry you to “crown” your achievements. A native tribe in Nigeria would say “Feminist Oshii”.
2. Nagging. Dramatic.
The Second words: Nagging. Dramatic. Can you imagine how many times you have ended up frustrated because you tried to raise issue for open discussions with your partner, and he dismisses it as nagging or dramatic?
He goes: “You’ve come again with your drama, let me be please.”
Or your boss tells you, “Oh, don’t be dramatic. It can’t get that bad.”
But the next thing you feel like punching him in the face because a male colleague brings up exactly the same complaint and the response is: “Sure, it’s a good step to take”. Like what the fuck? You just offered that suggestion a few minutes ago!
likeSweetheart, he’s just not listening to pretty ass, high pitched voice. It sounds to him like you’re nagging. This word is another popular one used to drown women’s voices and challenges.
And then anger. Oh yes, this one is sitting pretty, right next to Bitter. Every female advocate is angry. Chimamanda’s speech in the viral video about being called angry is Evergreen. Also, if you have read Michelle Obama’s becoming, you would relate to the experience of being labelled angry black woman and blacklisted all over the Internet; all because of her facial expressions and tone of voice while she campaigned for her husband’s presidential ambition.
Let’s even forget that most times when we’re being called angry, we actually are not. Let’s consider that maybe we truly are. Maybe we really are angry. I ask, just like Chimamanda asked: “Is it a crime for a woman to be angry?”
Society projects anger as a bad emotion for a woman because she needs to harness every opportunity to be nice and likable and easy-going, thereby shutting off her rights to free expression.
So your male colleague gets to the office and things are amiss. So he barks at everyone to compose and get to work. He’s considered taking charge. But you do the same as a woman, you are considered [Mad, Angry Bitch]. Yeah.
It’s quite debatable “Angry and Bitter” which is more frequently used to drown women’s voices and challenges.
4. Smart Ass
And then, there’s Smart Ass. Of course, because you’re a pretty ass, if you’re always eager to give intelligent submissions, you are a Smart Ass. Sounds like a compliment? Let’s see.
“We all know you’re smart ass but not on this one please”.
This is what your boss tells you. And this is a patronizing way of saying “This matter is really critical. Please let the men handle it”. Yeah.
And then there is ‘Ashawo’. Ashawo – the most sensitive of them all. It means Prostitute. This is the general Shut-the-fuck-up word. It completely collapses women’s voices and challenges, nearly leaving the woman no chance for a comeback.
Ashawo: the easiest title for a woman to earn. Heck, do we even have to earn it? I mean, you have to work to earn something right? The Ashawo title, however, is handed to you freely on a platter of gold.
Just argue with the bus conductor in Lagos. Or brush off the hands of the male trader at Onitsha Main Market from your body, and tell him “Oga no dey touch me nah”.
“Ha see this one. Ashawo. Wetin she dey talk sef? Them no dey touch you?
So that is just how it is.
A Facebook friend of mine had once voiced on her Facebook timeline: a confusing scenario she had with two guys seeking to date her and she needed help to tell one off without hurting him.
She was quickly called Ashawo. “You will not face your studies?” Another commenter said: “Ashawo, tell us, you’re not enjoying it. These ladies and their yen yen talk. If you give them attention, na war. If you don’t, they cry all night”.
Haba nah? I didn’t even know this lady personally but really? Why the maliciousness? She wasn’t even speaking so it’s not about the pitch of her voice this time around. She was writing. Oh, well!
How to Bitch Up against these Word Attacks.
So then babe, in your journey to Bitch up, remember you’re out to change your locks? Not to change the person with the keys. In case you’re lost on this, get my free “How To Bitch Up Guide” just by submitting your email in the form in the menu or at the bottom of this page.
So to Bitch up you must first of all, consciously practise voicing your thoughts, ideas, opinions, challenges. As long as it makes sense to you, don’t be put down by the possibility that they wouldn’t care what you have to say. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you that your opinion is not good enough. At any time you’re holding back from voicing, repeat to yourself:
“My voice is valid”
“I will not be silenced”
“If they don’t care, I do”.
Develop a Thick Skin.
Next, you have to develop a thick skin. Realize that the label that they may give you does not define you. It’s only a projection of their shortsightedness and bias towards your gender. You don’t represent testosterone and baritone voice. Yeah.
And next, learn to be firm; be firm in your speech, be firm in your tone. Quit using prefacing phrases like ‘Can I ask?’ or ‘Excuse me’ or ‘I may be wrong but’, or ‘I’m not most sure, but I think’. Let your boss and colleagues – senior and junior, know that you’re convinced, that they’re not asking for permission or patronization.
Also, keep the same tone of voice from beginning to the end of your submission and end it decisively, not in a turned-up intonation as if it’s a question, unless it’s actually a question.
If you want the meeting to hold tomorrow, say “The meeting will hold tomorrow”.
Don’t say “The meeting will hold tomorrow…?”
And don’t say “I was thinking, let the meeting hold tomorrow”. No.
And also, if you’re interrupted when you are not done, when you’ve not made your point, please say “I am not finished yet”. Be firm and say it, and then continue once the attention is back to you. Stop biting your tongue to swallow your words in shame. Please just stop it.
Also note that your fellow woman may also join the ‘Shut-you-up gang’ and use these labels on you. Don’t be surprised at all. She might actually be projecting her fears on you because, of course, she’s used to women getting criticised; or she’s desperate to feed the ego of the men and feel among, you know, get accepted into the cult. So ‘put her down and you’re accepted’. You are just the scape goat.
So, my dear, don’t let your voice and challenges be watered down and never, ever shrink your voice – Happy Bitching.