Smashing Patriarchy With Silence
“I’ve not spoken to Mariyam in over six months,” was my cousin’s reply to my mother over a general call. Before I could say why this was, my sister said to our mother, the cousin usually discusses her child, and my mother replied, “Well, she is raising a child, so that is what she will talk about. Girls are doing everything now a days. Taking care of a family, raising children, managing a job, and spending time on their hobbies. It is what all women do.”
My mother was subtly implying that unlike other women, I wasn’t doing enough in life. In all probability, she was judging me for choosing a single life, a job and various other passions, sans marriage, sans motherhood. I chose silence in that moment, rather than justify my choices. The conversation ended with her sigh of displeasure.
For women, silence is handed as a prized possession by patriarchy. It is what makes us ‘more feminine’. It is what keeps us within ‘our limits’. It is what keeps us ‘safe’. It is what helps us lead our lives without conflict. How many times have women heard, “Why did you have to speak up?”
A woman with a mind and the confidence to speak her mind is a threat to every patriarchal set up. She will refuse to cover up the injustices, abuse and neglect that a sexist and misogynistic society imposes upon her.
However, speaking one’s mind often requires processing the multiple layers of conditioning, stigma, expectations, trauma, and history attached with our lives.
This processing then translates into actualisation of one’s place in the world. The confidence to speak for oneself emerges from this actualisation. Silence should then be a way to process the situation instead of being taken as an answer. Silence is a pause, to address the layers of emotions and experiences that were conjured in that given moment. Silence is patience. Silence then, is never always the answer, rather a prelude to most of them.
However, in a world, where being patient is often understood as being slow, silence can be taken as a mark of weakness. As my friend recently said, “silence is guilt.” A patriarchal society feeds on that. As long as women are silent about their abuses, the world can continue to run as it has been running for centuries.
I am learning to respect my silence as my emotional calibrator, which chooses the words that will follow. I am recognising my silence as a way to dive deeper into my life and emerge with more clarity. When I am silent, I am not weak. I am not guilty. I am not ashamed. I am merely taking mental notes, to write my own story. It is through this slow deliberate process of accepting silence that my highest conviction of selfhood emerges.
My silence allows me to speak in the highest order. I employ empathy, rationality, and education to drive a conversation, which has a deeper impact than simply putting up an argument. I speak with conviction, unlearning the conditioning to argue for argument sake. I speak with more power. And all of this emerges from the space I gave myself before putting my point out there. I use silence as my reset button to speak up with more confidence and clarity.
Going forward, I am ready to hold space for my silence as it guides me towards better actions and decisions that can loosen patriarchy’s grip in my life. I am ready to use it as the fuel that drives me towards constructive conversations with my mother.