It was Canadian author Margaret Atwood who said, “A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter as fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.”
I think we underestimate how much language shapes our reality. We can often use speech to cut people down- or even cut ourselves down- without realizing it. But all of the subtle messages we send through our comments and jokes have an impact.
*vulgar language warning*
For instance, I was recently watching the movie “The Other Guys” in which almost every insult was equating something with being feminine. Think about this: you compliment someone by saying “wow, that was really ballsy!” (what does that even mean?) whereas it’s an insult to say to a person, “you’re such a pussy.” We say things like “man up!” or “I’m gonna man the fort” to connote strength, and “you play like a girl,” or “bros before hoes” to connote the lack of value in anything female.
We’re constantly reinforcing this idea that to be male is to be courageous, strong, and capable and to be woman is to be weak, and overly emotional, and senseless.
I care about these language issues because I see how they affect women. Many of the women I sit with believe that they are weak and overly emotional and senseless. They’ve bought into the lie that we all tell them- tell ourselves- that women have nothing to offer. It’s extremely difficult to enter into life and use your voice and God given talents when you believe you have nothing to offer.
But women do-we do- have something to offer. We can choose to use our voices to lift others up instead of cutting them down. We can use our voices in conversations where we have knowledge to contribute or creative ideas to share. We can use our language to enter into life and into relationship instead of retreating behind empty shells, because we fear that it is true that we have nothing to offer.
Step up. Speak up. Define your reality.