“Just be quiet.”
“What are you talking about? What gives you the right to talk politics?”
“Shut the #%$& up or else we’ll create a hashtag in your name you idiot.”
I open those tweets and look at the profiles trying to understand who and why they’d address me in that way. Are they all misogynistic, extremely conservative, men? Well, not to my surprise, the harshest words come from not only men but from women.
Men and women whom have been brought up in a condescending culture. A culture which praises men’s opinions in all areas but would rather side-line women’s opinions in most. A culture where expectations for women have been set in stone. Expectations of being submissive, quiet, non-problematic, docile and sometimes completely non-existent.
Maybe women have chosen the more silent or low key path because if they do, God forbid, speak up they are harassed, endure psychological violence, verbal abuse and/or humiliation. Or maybe their mom, husband and/or friend would probably say something to yet again to make them feel it is not their “place” to speak about things they cannot comprehend. Lest we forget the cyber-attacks by e-armies on the recently appointed female ministers, journalists or politicians. No matter what their stances are, they are continuously demeaned or targeted with vile words that focus on their features as women. They are rarely challenged in meaningful discussions. Insulting their outfit or hair or gender is far more important according to our online bullies.
That’s what you are by the way, if you’re one of them. A bully. Nothing more.
So how can that change? How can we take part in the change?
The only efforts which matter are women’s efforts to overcome stereotypes and hurdles that limit their participation in decision making and expression.
No #HeForShe movement will ever be able to lift us up if there’s no #SheForShe.
No woman can ever feel safe to do whatever she wants living in a society that lacks sisterhood. To overcome double standards and to empower more women, we need to work twice no 3 times harder especially when there are so few of us in decision-making positions.
How can we create laws that are more just towards women and promote gender equality and facilitate the way for more women to come into public office when we are allowing MEN to take those decisions for us?
Don’t shy away from politics! Tap into its enormous potential. How can you do that and come into office when you don’t encourage women to talk politics. Think about that every time you comment back on an Instagram post or a tweet or when you talk about the subject with friends or family.
Remember that when you support a woman’s view in politics, it’s not just about that. You are knowingly affirming her right of expression, her right to an identity of her own choice, her right to have an audience that might take her words into consideration and act upon it, her right to believe freely. Freely.
Just imagine for one moment if strong women across history did not have the courage to speak up.
What if Mother Theresa never spoke up?
What if Margret Thatcher never spoke up?
What if Rosa Parks never spoke up?
What if Malala Yousafzai never spoke up?
What if Oprah Winfrey never spoke up?
Do you not want the same for yourself?
Or do the sentences, “Just be quiet.”
“What are you talking about?
What gives you the right to talk politics?”
“Shut the #%$& up or else we’ll create a hashtag in your name you idiot.” appeal to you?
If not, then join me.
While women’s voices are often drowned out by gendered harassment online, I thought of founding an oasis where women can engage freely in nuanced discussions about politics and current affairs. It is “Her Trust”, a Facebook group comprised of women across the Middle East— both liberal and conservative — who talk about everything from politics and policy to periods and menopause.
Only dialogue can build better communities. And we desperately need that in the Arab world.
There, you won’t be called a drama queen. You won’t be reminded that it’s not your place to speak politics. You won’t be called a bitch if your opinion is different from theirs. There, you won’t need to water down your opinions.
There, you do not need to be quiet for you are a princess and you do speak politics.