Wednesday, March 30, 2016

97 and (finally) counting

Image description: The number 97 with the word 'courage' written in the '9' and 'voice' in the '7' under those numbers are the words 'and counting'

Everyone heard her.

Well, not everyone, it was clear the person she was speaking to couldn't hear her at all.

We were leaving the store, our bags all tucked away behind me, when we heard her voice. At first we couldn't see her but as we got closer to the door she came into view. She was a small woman, she was angry, and she was determined to be heard. The man she was speaking to was clearly finding her 'cute' and thereby discounting her anger and ignoring her words. She was 97 years old, which along with her size, may have contributed to the 'cuteness' designation that was eliminating the impact of her words.

How do I know she was 97? She said so, several times. She was hoping that her age would engender respect for what she was saying. It wasn't working.

Just as we got to the door, she fell silent for a second.


She lost it.

She changed tack and everyone froze. She said, and this is as close as my memory can manage, "I have been silenced by men like you for most of my life. I lived in silence. I kept my mouth shut and let men like you walk all over me. That's what we women were taught to do. We were taught to respect men like you. Well, sir, it took me a long time to find my voice and even longer to find the courage to use it. I want you to know that I will stand here and I will use that voice until you and all men like you listen to what I have to say."

His aspect changed from dismissal to intense embarrassment, he clearly didn't like to be classed with men who didn't listen, men who didn't respect, men would would discount to voice of a woman. He clearly didn't realize that that's what he was doing. Privilege makes it possible for people to behave horribly without personal notice. Privilege makes it possible for outrageous bigotry to be put on display.

She called him on it.

Suddenly her age mattered.

Suddenly her gender mattered.

Suddenly her voice mattered.

I don't know how it was that she discovered her voice or what the process was for her to find the courage to use it.

But thank God that this woman is here now, fighting to be heard - and winning that battle.


Anonymous said...

I don't think she "lost it." I think she gained it. She gained the courage and the motivation to use the voice she had fought for. She gained power by confronting him with terms he could understand.

She helped the rest of us gain that, too. Every time someone speaks up like that, we all gain.

gps said...

I find myself wishing the story included that which she had wanted to say in the first place. I want to hear her!

Frank_V said...

First: Sir Dave, thanks for going out into this world, and bringing us these stories. It's as though you are out there, collecting "soul feeding goodies" for us all.

Second: If a 97 years young lady can speak out, then, SO WILL I!

Mel said...

I agree she totally gained it! More women need role models like this.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I am with GPS!
I can guess why you didn't include this info. You might have missed what she was trying to say. Or you got it but it wasn't the main point you wanted to make (which was, that she made herself heard in the end). Or you sensed it was something that she might not want broad casted on the Internet, even without her name attached and even though it was something she was willing to discuss in public.
But, whatever it was she said was obviously important to her, and I feel like I want to honor that by listening to it, as long as it isn't something semi-private.
Andrea S.