Everyone has their place in the world. We all belong somewhere. We all have a voice, and we should all be able to speak up for what we care about. But sometimes, despite good intentions, our actions have consequences we didn’t expect. Maybe sometimes we should let someone else speak. Someone else who has overcome a bigger struggle, who has fought a bigger battle. And we should understand that it doesn’t diminish the battles we have fought ourselves.
All human beings are equal, we all have the same rights, we should all always be able to pick our battles, and to fight for change. But sometimes it’s not our place to have the leading voice.
As a feminist, I don’t believe a man should have a more powerful voice than I do. Or than any other woman does. Because feminism is my fight. Is women’s fight. There are certain struggles men have not been through. And that gives them a lesser level of understanding in some of the issues that feminism has to deal with.
I do not know any man who walks home alone at night and fears to be raped. I do not know any man who has to ignore the look of old disgusting men chasing him down the street. I do believe their voice is important. Sometimes it’s just not your place to speak. I promise I do not hate men. This will all make sense. Please keep reading.
Let’s mention racism for a different example. I do not believe that I, a while middle-class individual, should have a more powerful voice than a black individual. I do not know how it is to experience racism. I should learn from the experience of someone who has and amplify their voice as much as I can. But it is not my place to have a leading voice.
Recently I was asked to participate in the movember campaign for my sports club. And I found myself in a very odd position. We all want to help, and there’s nobody who supports that more than I do. But there are different ways to do it. Or at least that’s my way of seeing it.
I do not believe a man can understand what it feels like to be chased down the street on a regular basis. I do not understand how it feels to experience racism. I do not believe you can fully understand struggles you haven’t experienced. And regarding movember, I do not think I can understand the struggle of needing help and fearing to speak up in the same way as men who are supposed to be strong and not talk about feelings do.
I can provide a safe space. I can preach for validating men’s struggle. But as a woman, I can speak up and no be judged for it. And therefore, I don’t understand what it feels to not be able to. Not everyone has to be the leading voice in every fight. And movember is not my fight to fight. I, as a woman, believe I should take the back seat and amplify the voice of those who experience the struggle.
There are many ways of amplifying someone’s voice. Stealing it is not one of them. And that’s the feeling I got from the movember campaign.
On a different tone, how, as a woman, can I help? Several suggestions were made from within the sports community at my university. Growing body hair and recording the progress was one of them. My first response to it was: What the hell?
Would you ask a teenage girl who just started uni to grow her body hair to support a men’s campaign? The whole idea sounded crazy to me. I have been fighting to normalise and naturalise body hair for so many years, I have overcome so many fears and broken so many stereotypes about it. It just sounded crazy to me.
But maybe it was me who was crazy. To my surprise, the idea didn’t seem odd to everyone. Sometimes our beliefs take the best of us. And this was my case. Maybe I was so invested in feminism, and female body hair was an issue that touched me so personally that I did not see the good intentions in it.
Having revised my beliefs, I came to the conclusion that I still think it is wrong to ask that of a girl. And I also think it’s unfair to all the guys who have deconstructed their behaviour in order to speak up and ask for help. Its them who we should listen to. It is them who should have a leading voice.
I truly believe that by stealing someone else’s narrative you only make both less powerful. When involving female body hair in the movember campaign, we not only takes a step back in normalising body hair, we also see women speaking up. And it should be the guys who speak up.
As a society, I believe we have been drowned in this idea that we all can make a difference in everything. We can. But sometimes in patience, and in silence, lies revolution.