“I am speaking”
“I am speaking.” -Kamala Harris (or any woman who has ever tried to speak and was constantly interrupted by a man)
Whether you follow the presidential elections or the pre-election debates in the US – I refuse to – you would have known how this week’s VP debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence went down after seeing “I am speaking” trending on social media.
Those three words struck a chord with women around the world – women who are looked down on in the boardroom, overlooked for promotion, ogled at by seniors, peers, subordinates alike even in the most professional and corporate settings.
Let’s face it, it may be the 21st century, decades after we’ve been give the right to vote, but how in some ways we live in a world where some minds are still stuck in the Stone Age and some ceilings are reinforced glass. We still strive to get ahead in the office, justify our life choices, plan a day’s outfit with military precision, as unlike men, we are still judged on our looks. In some hairdressers apparently we even need to show a written consent from the husband when going for a short haircut!
If you think getting ahead in the corporate world makes life easier, let’s consider some of the day-to-day micro-aggressions women face daily.
This is of course not limited to the corporate world. Almost every day, everywhere, it’s common to see a man explaining the simplest concept to a woman.
The most obnoxious mansplaining crimes took place at the height of the pandemic when on social media, men who had left high school without a degree were taking on women who were world class scientists about the causes and preventions of the virus.
You’d have witnessed this in person or heard of it happening to a woman you know. The setting is often a meeting room, with a project team brainstorming ideas. The only woman, or one of the two women amongst six male colleagues, suggests an idea. She is not heard, or worse ignored.
A few minutes later, a male colleague repackages her suggestion, wording slightly different but the concept exactly the same. Lo and behold, testosterone fuelled excitement ensues. What a brilliant idea! What a genius!
If we think being potentially the future second most powerful person in the US gives one vice presidential privilege, “I am speaking” is the loudest signal that it isn’t.
There’s always that one guy, whether in a relationship, a friendship circle or at the office, who sees nothing wrong with interrupting a woman in a debate. Most women struggle to speak up and be heard – or after numerous interruptions, merely give up, silence for a while or forever.
Kamala spoke for every woman who’ve ever been mansplained to, unheard, ignored or silenced when she said those three words, and maybe, thanks to her, we can find the courage next time we are silenced, to speak up and declare, “I am speaking.”
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