On December 10th 2020, WiS organized an Open Mic Night to provide a platform to share about a moment where they spoke out and made their voice heard this year. Or, perhaps there’s a moment you wish you had spoken out but for whatever reason, at the time, you couldn’t find the words. We invite you to share with us as we wrap up the year together. It can be against sexism, racism, stereotypes and much more.
With the permission of the authors, we wanted to share their stories here. If you want to share with us and our community, send an email to Caroline (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The familiar consequences of not using my voice
By Sophia Valaris
My stomach sinks to my feet, my heavy heart crushing my insides, making it a struggle to breath in and out. These are the initial physical feelings that overwhelms me when I realise I ‘ve missed a chance! A fleeting moment that I saw presented to me, to interject, to make my voice heard, to express my truth. I let go! It may have been as simple as, ‘hey I don’t agree with that….’ Or ‘have you considered this…’
If left unchecked, these visceral feelings will overtake logic and chew me up inside, sinking me further to the ground and along with any ounce of self-esteem that may have survived the times before.
Once that has happened, my panic-stricken mind begins to scramble, making it impossible to express a coherent argument or point of view or even understanding the emotions arising. At this point, you open your mouth, desperate to be heard, and no voice, no words come out. Just silence.. Just like that you become Mister cellophane, from Chicago the musical. Where he sings ‘Mister Cellophane shoulda been my name, cause you can look right through me, walk right by me and never know I am there!’
This positive feedback loop of panic and silence, panic and silence spiral out of control. The longer they continue the more reluctant and less able you become in expressing your truth.
As well as having the outside world subliminally and not so subliminally undervaluing you and your opinions, now you have an enemy from within keeping you silent. Societal biases have nurtured these feelings within us and we have let them flourish unknowingly! See them for what they are, question them and untie yourself from them.
The battle between fear and courage rages on inside. This may last moments, days, months, until suddenly a moment of clarity, where you rise above them. And finally, you open your mouth and the words come out, not as eloquently and articulate as you might have wished but they come out to be heard by anyone who might be listening. An instant momentary relief overcomes you.
Now begins the battle of how the world will perceive what you have said. Many times, it will be as if you never said a thing. In the best-case scenario, you will be heard and some good may come from this, even if it is just a ripple on effect that you don’t directly see. Regardless of the consequence, I always have to remind myself that speaking out whenever possible will drive the incremental change within myself and society, so don’t let the enemy inside hold you back! And speak your truth, speak out.
by Viviana Siless
by Mary Catherine Catanese
How should I have reacted?
by Caroline M.
When I was a postdoc, an older professor came to work with our group and .I was to perform experiments for him at the request of my supervisor. During the entire two days, his remarks to female colleagues were so not professional. He also touched my back up and down, tracing my tattoos that were visible. Because my boss wanted me to work with him, I said nothing and really not knowing how to say anything or what to say. And no one in the room said anything either. But everyone was uncomfortable. These two nights, I drank alone, blaming myself and my choice of wardrobe. I wish I had spoken out to the older professor, but at least I spoke out to my boss saying I did not want to work with someone who made me and others feel so uncomfortable.