Whatever You Do, Don’t Be an Outspoken Woman

by Taryn Mansfield

It’s taken me many years to come to the realization that for much of the time that I’ve spent feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere, or as though there is something seriously flawed with my personality, that maybe it’s not just me. Opinionated and outspoken women are seldom, if ever, popular.

I’ve never wanted to be popular, though. I hate being the centre of attention. I get anxious when I start to speak and notice even a single pair of eyes dart towards me. In social settings I find it difficult to make small talk. In truth, I loathe small talk. I don’t like crowds. I don’t do well getting to know people in groups. It’s exhausting and I’m usually counting the minutes until I can retreat back into my isolated bubble of introversion.

All of these things considered, I’ve always found it weird that I’ve been told by numerous people over the years that they find me intimidating. I figured it’s because my introversion makes me seem aloof at times, but I’ve never thought of shy or quiet people as intimidating.

A guy once told me that I was brazen because I spoke my mind in a situation where I was obviously not expected to. At the time I didn’t even know what the word brazen meant, but I could tell that it wasn’t a compliment so I brushed it aside, too embarrassed to ask him to clarify what he meant and risk sounding ignorant.

When I do speak, I’m frequently misinterpreted. Passion is viewed as harshness or anger. Strong opinions are viewed as me being inflexible, stubborn, unaccommodating. Taking initiative is seen as being controlling.

I’ve started to question whether there is something seriously faulty in my way of being in this world. And maybe there is. But whatever faults I have, they are seemingly exacerbated by the presence of one inescapable, biologically unchosen feature that I possess:

A vagina.

This is not to say that these frustrations are solely placed upon me, or experienced only by people who also happen to have been born with vaginas. I have no doubt that all people who identify as female have many of the same (and many other unique) struggles in trying to just be in society. The issue here, though, is femaleness.

I hear men dominating platforms of communication, assertively directing others without being questioned. But I see women behaving in similar ways accused of being “bossy” and unkind.

I have been told to smile more times than I’ve been asked how I feel. I’ve been told to keep quiet more times than I’ve been asked what I think. I’ve been given more feedback about my appearance than about my views on controversial topics. From the time I became aware (on some level) of what is prioritized in society in order to be valued or respected as a woman, I have probably spent more time loathing my reflection than reflecting on how I can make the world a little better in the short time that I have here. Probably the most frustrating realization is that I wasted so much time trying to navigate the things I hated about society before I even realized they could be questioned and challenged.

Perhaps I am flawed. Perhaps sometimes I’m too honest, too harsh, too brazen. But surely society is more flawed if being outspoken is hated more than being oppressive. If submissive silence is valued more than thinking for oneself. If the presence of a few men still dominates many social justice movements despite them being outnumbered by the women who are fighting just as hard, if not harder. If men and “manliness”, “maleness” are taken to be the gold standard, and all who can be labeled as “other” are there to jump in line and play an assigned role in the androcentric extravaganza that is the patriarchal world.

I know many, many, intelligent, driven, passionate, caring, kind, dedicated, fierce, beautiful, badass women. Many of them get overshadowed by dudes who do less but are given more space. If you know women like them, acknowledge them. Let them speak. Let them take up spaces that have previously been given to men as a default. Listen to them. They are changing the world.

P.S. Just kidding, ladies. Be an outspoken woman. Be “unladylike”. Get shit done. Speak when you have something important to say, and make sure they hear you.

Hugs and high fives.

T.

Check out Taryn’s blog to read more of what she’s written.

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