Taking up space in a men’s world

I grew up with the belief that men are superior to women. It wasn’t just my parents who taught me that: at every turn in my life, society made sure I knew damn well that I should shut up and listen to men. Things haven’t changed. Especially at work, it is abundantly clear that men receive preferential treatment. Ideas proposed by me are shut down, but when my male colleague proposes the same idea a day or two later (or sometimes in the same meeting), it’s greeted with praise and enthusiasm.

Being quiet when I am among men, silently putting myself down and doubting myself are habits so ingrained in my life that until recently I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. In a way I have been brainwashed all my life, and considering I am over 40 now, it is going to be a hard, uphill battle to undo all that social conditioning. Especially since I wasn’t even really aware of it until recently. I think that is the most horrifying thought of all.

I always think of myself as an introvert. And I am not exactly a very social, outgoing person, but I don’t think I fully classify as an introvert. I often am quiet in large groups not because I am afraid to speak, but I don’t really feel like I have something worthwhile to contribute. I often think that people don’t really want to hear me speak. And especially when I am at work in the presence of me senior to me (or even at the same level as me), I find myself reluctant to share my views on anything really.

This habit of mine really annoys me. So much so that I have recently made a resolution not to be quiet anymore. As women, we are taught to diminish ourselves. We are not supposed to take up space in a men’s world. Men don’t want us sharing our views and opinions lest we are smarter and more knowledgeable than them. And we certainly shouldn’t be physically big. We should be quiet, dainty and nondescript. That message has been taught so effectively that we obsess over our height and weight. We try not to laugh too loud, not to argue too much, not to demand anything.

Well, this woman is not going to do any of those things. At work, I have started to speak up more. Not waiting for my male colleague to talk first, I wade in with my opinion as soon as there is an opportunity, and I argue as loud as anyone else. At a recent dinner, I didn’t quietly observe until I figured everyone out, I started the ball rolling with the conversation and set the tone for the evening.

I constantly doubt myself. Whether this is due to social conditioning or my upbringing, or something totally unrelated, I don’t know. At a recent Scarlet Self workshop I learned to look at my self doubt critically. Why do I always tell myself I am a failure? Why do I feel I can’t stand up for myself and demand better recognition for the work I do? It’s very interesting to examine self doubt and then overlay this with the reality of all my achievements to date. I realise how much I have accomplished in my life so far. I know my self doubt will not disappear overnight, but I am slowly starting to believe that I am a capable woman.

Standing up for myself and taking up space is still scary for me. I often am afraid that someone will tell me to shut up, that my opinions are not valid. But so far, that hasn’t happened. On the contrary: I have started to get more recognition at work. I am enjoying social situations more. I am now actually making some money with freelance writing, because I demanded to be compensated for my work.

Especially when it comes to sex, it’s important that women take up space and speak out. Victoria from Pretty Pink Lotus Bud has started an amazing campaign called Women’s Orgasms Matter. Women also demand better porn, which results in great, ethical porn like the Crash Pad Series, which Carly from Dildo or Dildon’t reviews. Women taking up space in a men’s world leads to improvement of lives.

Let’s all be big, loud and taking up a lot of space!

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