Shrill voices shatter glass ceiling

ellenopinionsRaise your hand if you’ve ever been called a bitch. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called bossy. Women, you can put your hands down. I say “women” because I have never once heard these adjectives used to describe a man. Not only that — these words seem to slip off of tongues even more prevalently in reference to opinionated females with ambition and leadership qualities.

We like to believe women have reached a good place in society. We like to pay attention to the fact that women can vote, make decisions about their own bodies (usually), become doctors, lawyers and government officials and receive an education. We also like to avoid the truths about sexism that continue to exist in society, which have become even more evident due to the results of the 2016 presidential election. Of course, women are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to those who will likely be negatively affected by a Trump presidency — but we are a portion of that iceberg.

During this election, Hillary Clinton has been referred to as “shrill” and “nasty,” among many other words. On Election Day, one of my male peers told me, “Hillary is a bitch.” While it doesn’t surprise me that he would say this, given his character, I was immediately offended. Technically, I wasn’t on the receiving end of this insult since I’m not Hillary Clinton. But, the more I think about it, the more I feel directly attacked. This is not a criticism based on fact or even observation (after all, how does one concretely characterize someone as a bitch?). Rather, it’s a broadly used insult that is applied out of fear — fear that someone other than a white male can be powerful and successful.

Now, you might think this has nothing to do with campus issues — that it’s strictly societal. But, women make up a majority of college campuses. And, I think college women deal with sexist criticism more often than we’d like to recognize. I can’t count on two hands how many times I’ve heard someone tell a woman she needs to smile more. I’ve never heard anyone say that to a male. As women, it’s not uncommon for us to be looked down upon by men as if our brains are the square roots of theirs. College campuses are not immune to this. While most college men are generally more progressive than men of older generations, there is still a condescending nature that can be detected in some of them. And this isn’t restricted to males. There are also many women who assist in perpetuating the patriarchy.

An important example of this is seen in the way outspoken men and women are perceived differently. When men speak louder than others and interrupt in order to make a point, they’re “persistent” and “powerful” and “strong.” When women raise their voices or show passion for a topic, they are considered “crazy” or “shrill” or “bossy” or “bitchy.” Certainly not everyone says or thinks this, but there are more than a handful of people who do.

Considering this has been happening in nearly every facet of women’s lives since the beginning of human existence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that half of the U.S. population would vote in favor of a sexist, intolerant white man. But, I had wanted to believe we were better than that. I had wanted to believe we were closer to equality — closer to being heard and respected. Clearly we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

If there’s anything positive that can come out of this crisis, it’s that we have refueled our motivation to fight for our rights and the rights of our future daughters, nieces and granddaughters. Whether that means speaking up more in class or calling out those who use derogatory language, it’s important that we show our fearlessness. Now is not the time to be complacent. Now is the time to strive for our goals more forcefully than ever. Now is the time to stand up for what we believe in — to be as persistent and powerful and strong as we can be. Now is the time to fight until we’re heard — until our voices are “shrill” enough to shatter that glass ceiling. And based on the strength, intellect and articulation that Concordia’s female population embodies, I’m confident that we can do just that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *