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Being silenced/feeling voiceless

(368 Posts)
JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 12:05:37

Can we talk about this?

There were some amazing threads on here a few years ago, about rape and about 'small' sexual assaults, and I remember so many posters saying they'd suddenly found a way to talk about something that had shaped them as people. It seemed really powerful to me. But I was wondering if we're actually going backwards in terms of feeling able to speak up.

I was in a meeting yesterday, and noticing how some women (including me) do that classic 'I don't know if I'm saying this very well' kind of minimising of their own points. I was really struck that someone said 'I need to learn the language to say this' - as if she was being inarticulate, rather than as if people weren't bothering to listen to what she was saying (which was closer to the case).

I keep on feeling this way, especially about all the debates raging around gender identity issues - I just don't have the language to say what I want to say. I can't help feeling as if all of us who disagree are just miscommunicating. Does anyone else feel that? I don't feel as if I have the language to talk about what makes me feel hurt and upset by words like 'cis' - I think it's a real feeling, and I think it is related to sexual violence, but I don't feel very able to put it into words, especially outside MN.

Does anyone else feel like this?

Thistledew Fri 26-Jun-15 12:43:26

Is the problem not so much "I am not explaining myself" but rather "I am not being listened to"?

It is a symptom of the disregard for women's voices and experiences, rather than an outcome of their failure to articulate them.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 12:47:23

Yes, I think that is the problem, but I can't see how we get around that. And until people are listening, I don't think women can easily work out where we stand on issues - because we need that conversation to be happening (or at least, that is how the older threads I mentioned seemed to work).

SenecaFalls Fri 26-Jun-15 15:16:07

A related point is that women have been so socialized to minimize and apologize for their opinions that when they don't, they are perceived as being strident and close-minded. This was obvious to me in the recent anti-FWR threads on MN recently. I think many of the posters on FWR probably make a concerted effort not to do that when stating or arguing a point, and because we as women are so socialized to use language to make people feel more comfortable, when we don't, many other women perceive us as inhospitable.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 15:17:28

Yes, I have read a lot by Deborah Cameron (in particular) on that subject.

I have also noticed I need to watch it a bit in RL, because I am so used to discussing feminism in fairly hospitable contexts.

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 15:23:37

People generally don't want to hear/think about bad news, so it is common to shoot the messenger who speaks up about uncomfortable truths. We have to cajole, flirt, diffuse, charm, bend-over-flipping backwards and tie ourselves in knots to actually get an audience for a subject like that - but still very few will actually listen.

Some people benefit from inequality, most people are in denial about it.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 15:49:03

YY, but it's also our own bad news, isn't it?

There must be lots of women who are feeling silenced or unable to express these things, I think?

NathalieM Fri 26-Jun-15 16:38:26

As UnderThePaw said, I don't think people feel comfortable confronting certain ugly things about human nature, so if they don't want to listen it's mainly reactionary as opposed to something deeply rooted in ignorance or hatred.

Even if we feel silenced or uncomfortable, we must confront people with uncomfortable truths, as opposed to feeling as if we can't speak the truth when needs be.

BriarRainbowshimmer Fri 26-Jun-15 17:13:24

YY to this thread.

I don't feel as if I have the language to talk about what makes me feel hurt and upset by words like 'cis' - I think it's a real feeling, and I think it is related to sexual violence, but I don't feel very able to put it into words, especially outside MN.

I'm interested in hearing what you think, if you feel comfortable trying to put it into words here.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 17:24:30

Oh, I'm really glad you said that, briar, I was feeling as if it was just me. thanks

Some of it I can put into words. I've read other people making the point that sexual violence is targeted on 'the group of people with vaginas' and it seemed to me that is something you can't get around.

But there's also stuff I find harder to express - I feel obscurely hurt and silenced when people call us cis, and it is partly because it seems to me that women often aren't happy with our gender identities, but it's not only that.

I was reading something a while back, where someone was saying that women living in a patriarchy can never really form their own sexualities - they're always shaped by that experience of living within a patriarchy. And I think that is part of it, that I feel as if, even if I am what people mean when they say 'cis', I don't feel as if that's something I had a lot of power in shaping for myself, and I'm not even sure if it's what I would be if I didn't live in a patriarchy.

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 17:25:48

Sorry, nathalie, I missed your post.

But, when you say Even if we feel silenced or uncomfortable, we must confront people with uncomfortable truths, as opposed to feeling as if we can't speak the truth when needs be. ... my problem is, I don't think I have the words for those 'uncomfortable truths'.

It makes me feel more guilty, that I don't have the words to say these things. And maybe other people do, and feel that people like me are just not bothering to speak up? I don't know.

Jessica2point0 Fri 26-Jun-15 17:35:37

jeanne, I really dislike the word 'cis' because I don't really understand what it means, and I don't like to be labelled with a word I just don't get. I don't know what a "gender identity" is, I don't know if I've even got one, so other people telling me that I do and telling me what it is upsets me - they have no idea what is going on in my head. It's intrusive and feels controlling.

Jessica2point0 Fri 26-Jun-15 17:41:03

It's a bit like the attempt to hijack the word "woman" to the point where I was bending over backwards trying to understand if I could define myself as a woman. I really react quite viscerally to being told that I'm not allowed to use the previously accepted biological definition of the word, and that in order to be a woman I needed to "feel like a woman". How the hell I'm supposed to work out if I "feel like a woman" when I no longer understand the word "woman"!

JeanneDeMontbaston Fri 26-Jun-15 17:52:21

jessica - yes, I feel like that. I don't think I follow what it means to have a gender identity.

I totally respect that other people clearly do identify something that is a gender identity. It's just I can't locate what they're locating, somewhere inside. Dunno.

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 18:01:50

Sorry I missed that bit about 'cis'. I despise that word - because there is no way on earth I am gender conforming - eg I have rejected clothes that make me feel restricted, exposed or uncomfortable - it is unlikely anyone would describe me as 'feminine'. On the other hand I am still definitely a woman, periods, childbirth, breastfeeding and all. I was also raised a girl complete with falling on the wrong side of societal sex-based prejudice, bullying, double-standards etc from birth.
It is a terrible shame if it is true what you imply op, that women are feeling less able to disclose their experiences of oppression for fear of not being politically correct about transsexualism.

ChunkyPickle Fri 26-Jun-15 19:18:48

My problem is that it feels like a glib dismissal, totally ignoring what I say I am in favour of what someone else says I am.

By their definition I'm not CIS, but I'm not trans either - I suppose it's the other edge of the sword of me not understanding anyone saying they have a strong gender identity - they can't understand that I don't have one.

I'm still a woman though - because to me woman is a sex not a gender.

ChunkyPickle Fri 26-Jun-15 19:21:41

riffing more on that theme - perhaps, feminine (ie. cis) women should be the ones who use the unmodified label 'women', and I should be some 'gender-neutral' woman.

For some reason, I feel better about that than classifying the world into 'trans' and 'not trans'

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 19:37:04

yy Chunky. I think it would be better to have descriptions like'feminine-gendered male', 'feminine-gendered female', 'gender-neutral female', 'gender-neutral male', 'gender-neutral male', 'masculine-gendered female' or 'masculine-gendered male'- rather than the rigid and actually sexist enforcement of gender that insists you are are either 'trans' or 'cis'..

YonicScrewdriver Fri 26-Jun-15 19:46:28

I agree re cis. But then I see gender identity as like any other descriptor. So I could be sporty, or I could be lazy, or I could be somewhere in between. I could be graceful, I could be clumsy, I could be somewhere in between.

So I could strongly identify my gender with my biological sex (cis), the opposite (trans) or somewhere in between (no handy word yet but I bet that lots of people are in this group)

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 19:46:34

Because even calling 'feminine' women 'cis' implies that the 'feminine gender' is actually inextricably connected with the female sex. But I can personally vouch for the fact that 'gender-neutral' or even 'masculine-gendered' women are just as female as feminine women, and in my heartfelt opinion, no-one has the right to take that reality away from us.

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 19:54:32

"I could strongly identify my gender with my biological sex (cis), the opposite (trans) or somewhere in between"

In this you suggest that gender is somehow bound to biological sex.

The way I see it is that 'feminine' (gender) and 'female' (physical biology) are two different things just like 'masculine' and 'male' are two different things.
It would be helpful if they weren't used interchangeably - eg "she has very feminine breasts" but instead she has female breasts.

YonicScrewdriver Fri 26-Jun-15 20:00:17

Paw, not really. That's why I avoided using masculine and feminine. I believe that some people have a strong feeling that their gender matches their biology, some a strong feeling that it doesn't, and some no particular feeling about gender (which doesn't mean they can't observe their own biology)

InnocentWhenYouDream Fri 26-Jun-15 20:02:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UnderThePaw Fri 26-Jun-15 20:27:24

Yonic I don't know what it means to have "gender matching biology" unless you buy into the idea that there is a non-artificial, even biological root to gender(?)

But this flies in the face of logic..
Because if gender is part of biology, then everyone would be clearly gendered according to their sex. But the reality of the situation is that gender has very little to do with biology, since many people are uncomfortable about, or even completely reject their gender role.
Gender is just behavioural stereotyping- I don't see what that has to do with biological sex.

YonicScrewdriver Fri 26-Jun-15 20:33:17

Yeah, I kinda agree with you except I know that there are people who do have that strong feeling so I take on trust their description of it, just as I would take on trust a description of religious faith, IYSWIM.

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