Women Need Safe Spaces Of Their Own To Be Able To Speak Freely
I haven’t connected with a lot of my old friends in these past few years. And by the connection, I don’t mean formal and generic chitchat about the lockdown, or how their kids have been and how nice their new haircut looks. By connection I mean having a real heart to heart chat, speaking one’s mind freely, without the fear of being judged. The thing is, despite having friends, cousins, likeminded acquaintances, I still feel this hesitation when it comes to speaking up on certain issues. I have a hunch that I’ll be judged for what I have to say, on certain issues. As a result of which, I have shut out a part of me, or rather my opinions, in conversations with my friends. I only say what I feel they can digest. Am I the only one feeling this way? Don’t we all crave a safe space where we can speak without any inhibition?
- How many women feel comfortable speaking their mind amidst a group?
- Even when you are among like-minded people or friends you trust completely, do you let go of all the filters on your thoughts?
- Are women prone to holding on to stereotypical conditioning, just like men, which makes us judge other women if their thoughts are radically different from ours?
- How many of us are willing to be more accommodating in our conversations, just so that we can have a safe space for unfiltered conversations?
Let us think of what it is like to speak with our group of friends, whether face to face, or on a group call during the lockdown. How freely can you speak to them about your personal issues? Marital discord, an abortion, a spat with your in-laws because of which you may be living separately, pay cut at work, a bad investment, your political views, sex outside of marriage, periods, menopause? How many of us talk freely about these issues, even with people whom we fully trust or connect with? And I am not just referring to circles that have both men and women in them. Even in spaces exclusive to women; like your BFF WhatsApp group or the one with all your female batchmates from school or college, do you feel comfortable enough to speak your mind on any and every issue?
I am not implying that women are unsympathetic towards each other. That they are outraged by any controversial view that their friend holds. Most of the times, these barriers in communication are self-fabricated. For instance, I have assumed that my friends will judge me if I share my views with them on abortion or distribution of household duties, or sexting, etc. This could, in a way, mean that I have misjudged my friends. But then don’t we know how judgemental we can be? This self-induced censorship in conversations is based on experience and observations, isn’t it?
Even in spaces exclusive to women; like your BFF WhatsApp group or the one with all your female batchmates from school or college, do you feel comfortable enough to speak your mind on any and every issue?
Working women, stay at home moms, those living in urban spaces or rural, we all are yet to fully liberate ourselves of our patriarchal conditioning. Each one of us still nurtures a fraction of those conservative values that we were brought up believing. So while we may think we are modern feminist women, that fraction of conservative upbringing raises its head now and then. The way we compliment each other, for looking beautiful after weight loss, or point out greying hair, wild eyebrows, our choices in food, clothes, the way we keep our home. We go back to functioning by the orthodox coding ingrained in our brains since childhood because frankly, it is much easier and comforting. And as a result, we end up alienating each other. We lose that sense of belonging that a woman wants to feel with her sisterhood. We lose a chance to create a safe space for every woman to speak her mind, including ourselves.
And mind you, I am not excluding myself from the burden of accountability here. Every time, I may have harshly criticised a friend, or roll my eyes at her for having stereotypical views, I ended up putting up a wall between us. Because this demand for freedom of expression works both ways. I cannot expect my friends to digest my ‘radical’ views and then not speak what they think, can I. We often forget that shaming or criticism of a view doesn’t lead to a change in mindset, but just a more politically correct discourse.
So if you desire to create a space where your sisters can speak without inhibition, start by keeping judgement at bay. Challenge a view you don’t approve of in a way that doesn’t demean another person. Encourage diversity in conversations and above all never be afraid of confronting a view or an issue that makes you uncomfortable.
Image credit: Indian Express
The views expressed are the author’s own.