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When Speaking Up Feels Unsafe Part Two

authentic voice May 12, 2021

My Philosophical Mini-Rant

I’m going to start in the same manner as I did last week’s Part One Blog so that you are reminded of my purpose and position.

REITERATION: While I didn’t plan for it, this is clearly my “Ode to the Letter R” post (you’ll see why shortly). 

You know I love words, wordplay, and the whole lot (occupational and personality hazard), so once I saw the pattern emerge, I went out of my way to frame it all that way.  Yeah.  Sorry.  

I know I’m all about ‘speaking up and speaking out’: I believe fundamentally that women will only change the world for themselves by advocating for themselves (and not relying on and waiting for men to do so). 

Further, we MUST imbue our younger women and girls with these traits and beliefs, because it needs to be a seachange that doesn’t just involve a couple of years of bra-burning (sorry - I LIKE my bra, and I CHOOSE to wear it).

This is a hard post to write and, perhaps, read.  The conversation needs to start somewhere.

The Truth

Take me, for instance.  I gave up my career to stay at home with our sons: I compounded the situation by homeschooling them.

Further, I left my career in another city to join my future husband in a different city, because he “made more money” and this was the only place in the country that he could be gainfully employed in his current industry. 

There was never any consideration (on his part) that he might change anything on his end.  And I didn’t push it.

I’ve done all the home-y stuff: cooked, cleaned, organized, scheduled, coordinated, nursed, and otherwise ran the ship while he went to work and maybe pitched in a bit on evenings and weekends. 

At the same time, I was completing a Ph.D., suffering from both a spinal injury that was incredibly painful and severely diminished my mobility AND a genetic disease that put me in the hospital regularly.

Things are different-er now.  We’re still in the same city - tied to his industry.  I’m still homeschooling (but the boys are much older).  I’m running companies and writing. 

But at the end of the day, I’m still the one organizing and coordinating, and problem-solving.

Who’s fault is that?  Mine?  My culture’s?  My gender’s?  I don’t know.


Tough Love

I think a lot about these kinds of things.  It’s partly because I’m living in this time and space, culture and identity, and partly because I work with women just like my friend all the time (though I don’t work with her, in particular).  

One thing I’ve heard many times from my clients - and friends - is how they’ve been directed, by other coaches, to do or say certain things, in certain ways. 

This makes my little coach’s blood boil because I am so against telling people what to do - women have enough of that shit in their lives, they don’t need to pay someone to do it some more.

And before you say, “But that’s what they’re paying for!”, let me ask you:  how does what I’d say in a given situation help you

I’m NOT you: I don’t live your life, I haven’t had your experiences, I don’t have your voice or relationships. 

What I CAN (and do) do is walk alongside you, helping you figure out what YOU want to do and say - and help you develop and practice the skills to do so.


So, returning to my friend: while she’s sharing all of these things with me, sure, I have my thoughts and feelings, perceptions and reactions, including (but not limited to):

  • rage
  • righteous indignation
  • refusal
  • all wrapped up in a rant

But it’s entirely hypocritical for me to feel these things, in many ways.

I understand her fear, too (as much as I can, that is, as an entirely different person): She’s afraid of

  • retribution
  • rejection
  • reprisals
  • rule-breaking

For instance, what if she tells him (as she has tried to in the past), that she wants to share the housework and childcare. 

Every time he has refused to consider it, rebuffed her concerns and stress, and taken revenge on the request by doing even less, and decreasing her allowance.  

This is problematic (to say the least) and I don’t deny it.  But - and here’s the really distressing part - THIS EXACT PATTERN plays out in the workplace and in the larger community EVERY DAY.  

Don’t believe me?  Try this thought experiment:  a group of people in a Boardroom are talking and it’s getting heated.  People are cutting each other off; men are cutting off everyone, women are cutting off women. 

Who gets name-called after the fact?

Or this:  In a department store, there is a customer service concern, and the complainant is a woman, talking to a male clerk.  As the situation gets more tense, and the woman becomes more flustered and frustrated, she finally grabs her item back, and storms out. 

Now reverse it: a male complainant and a female clerk.  He gets louder and louder as it goes on, and the clerk tries to stand her ground.  He’ll a) ask for a Manager, b) call her a derogatory name (potentially to her face), and/or c) she’ll back down and give him what he wants.

She’s left exposed in a way I’ll guarantee the male clerk doesn’t experience.

The ‘she’ in both of these has a meme, even, so that society (especially YOUNG people) can make fun of her: she’s a ‘Karen’ - a loudmouth, complaining, demanding, unreasonable woman.   Don’t believe me?  Look it up.  (Sorry to say my sister’s birth name is Karen: rough luck, sis).  

It’s also the mom at school, the woman at the car dealership, the female administrator, the woman who’s in community politics, and on and on.

If a kid misbehaves, it’s the mom who gets the stink-eye.  When schools say they’ll “call your parents”, they mean your mom. 

And if you’re the kid, you’re hoping it’s your mom because dad goes batshit (he only comes in when big guns are needed), and mom will crack easier - and earlier (despite her show of ‘disappointment’) - then you’ll get away with it...until next time.

I could go on and on, but the fact is EVERY TIME WE SPEAK UP, WE PUT OURSELVES AT RISK.  For the littlest things.  For the biggest things.  It’s no wonder that we duck behind the fence: the bull’s eyes on our foreheads are IG and FLUORESCENT GREEN.  

We risk ostracism, belittlement, physical repercussions, regulation, fiscal restrictions (losing access to family funds, not being promoted, getting fired, others taking credit for our contributions), you name it.  We get trolled, abused, put down, and told to shut up.  

Name ONE MAN who experiences the same thing or fears the same outcome (the only thing I could come up with is a few of my LGBTQ+ friends who are biologically male).  

And ladies, this ISN’T outside the norm of day-to-day life in North American, no matter WHAT the truth we try to sell to ourselves.  Perhaps it’s less frequent.  Perhaps.  Perhaps our laws are more comprehensive and better enforced.  Perhaps.  


By this point, you might be feeling angry, overwhelmed, depressed, militant.  That is my intention.  I WANT you to think about my friend, sure: but I ALSO want you to think about YOU and EVERY FEMALE in your life.

What is it going to take to change this reality?

I think it begins with respect - for each other’s (women’s) perspectives and experiences.  We have to start by respecting each other before we can pursue respect on a larger stage (and, frankly, we’re more powerful together).

We need to reflect upon what role each of us plays in perpetuating these ideas and structures.  

We need to redirect our anger, overwhelm, and fear wherever possible to remodeling a world that refuses to realize that restraining half the population based on gender is abhorrent.  

Our transformations must start from within: each of us needs to consider how much we play into the larger narrative, and where we can make changes and inroads. 

Some of us can lead larger movements, others of us can offer resistance in the little moments. 

Reframing our experiences doesn’t mean rejecting everything: it means reinforcing what serves us ALL, and releasing, reconfiguring, or refusing those things that simply do not.

I know, I know: this is such a big issue in such a big world, and each of us is one little voice, right?   But what if - what if - we began using those voices in a continual chorus?

Might be a pretty amazing sound.

 xoxo d

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xo d

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