It is often the painful experiences in our life which shape and define us and for me it was the isolation I felt and the sexism I experienced as the only girl in my Year 11 IT class, which inspired me to start Girlboss. One day the subject of my odd/rebel/lonegirl presence was brought up in class and I was earnestly told by a classmate, a friend, that the lack of female representation was a result of “female’s physically smaller and less capable brains.” I have always prided myself on speaking up, calling out injustices, declaring what I know is true with little remorse or complexity. But my words failed me. My mouth ran dry. My tongue stood still. Despite always being encouraged to intervene in cases of classroom bullying all I could manage with a whisper of a voice was “uhh I don’t think that’s true.” “Yes, it’s scientifically proven” the teenage boy breezily declared with the confidence of a neuroscientist. I let it go. I did not want to make a scene, a fuss, to draw attention to myself or this blatant injustice. I was well-liked, I was nice, and I wanted everyone, including the friend to continue to like me. My niceness kept me safe in this environment where I, as the only girl, was already an outsider.
But is this need (learned) to be nice, to be liked, holding women back from reaching their full potential? We believe that there is no harm in our silent states but every time our words fail and we allow these comments, we are limiting our own confidence and potential, we are telling our subconscious selves that other people can write off our potential due to our gender and that’s okay with us. What we allow, we encourage. My quest to be well liked and easy-going had not served me well.The desire to be liked inhibited me from expressing my true feelings. The desire to be liked had prevented me from standing up to this classmate ibecause I feared I would no longer be liked by him. My silence had led me to being an accomplice in his rhethoric.
And so my challenge to you, GirlBosses, is to refuse to remain silent in the wake of sexist comments. To be brave, to take sides, to declare what you believe is true without remorse or complexity. Neutrality enables the perpetrator but never the victim. To quote Elie Wiesler, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest it.Every time you speak out against sexism you are pushing us all forward. Your silence contributes to someone else’s struggle. So GirlBoss, the moment to speak is now. We need you.