The original version of this article was published on October 10, 2018 on Medium. It has been modified and republished with the permission of the author.
Silence is no longer an option.
Thank you, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, for fighting fear to share your story on the world’s stage . Thank you for using your voice.
The political outcome of your vulnerability did not result in what you — and so many of us — desired, but your story will have a lasting impact. On behalf of those of us who prioritize morality over a political agenda, and those of us who believe in the bedrock of justice upon which our country was built, I want to say thank you for speaking.
It’s a critical reminder to all Americans of the indelible power we hold. It’s also the catalyst for me putting pen to paper to use mine.
Recently, I represented my firm at “Wine, Women & Words”, a panel celebrating female leadership in San Francisco’s creative industry. Fueled by curiosity and cabernet, audience members asked questions, which we took turns answering.
Following a fellow panelist’s reflection on the ease and good fortune that today’s women experience, an attendee raised his hand, directed his gaze to mine and said in a gently antagonistic way, “You didn’t like what she said.”
My dissent must’ve been visible.
The attendee pressed further. “Tell me why.”
I looked to the audience, a sea of arched brows, and slowly began to reply.
“We don’t have it easy. Today’s women face a challenge with more at stake than anything our predecessors faced.
“Speaking used to be a choice, albeit a gutsy one. Being heard was the unlikely goal. Now, vocalizing our wants and needs isn’t a choice; it’s a responsibility. It’s our greatest duty, and if we don’t speak, we’ll jeopardize women’s credibility forever.
“The test to use our voices is the defining moment of the women’s rights movement.”
Expectedly, this triggered many. Within minutes, however, skepticism and confrontation evolved to rich conversation.
I’d been harboring my thoughts since that evening, unsuccessful in my attempts to coax them onto paper. It was Dr. Blasey Ford’s words at her testimony and the discussions that followed that finally summoned my own voice to grow wings and take flight.
Women, as one of you — your greatest ally and advocate — I demand you speak. Speak of injustice, objectification, workplace inequality, sexual harassment, gendered stereotypes, double standards, intersectionality, the anger you repress.
Our voice is our most important tool, and we must ceaselessly put it to use.
In her op-ed published in The New York Times, Salma Hayek addressed patriarchal privilege and sexual harassment, citing the disproportionate percentage of words spoken on screen by women (27 percent) versus men in Hollywood’s biggest movies.
Hayek wrote, “People wonder why you didn’t hear our voices sooner. I think the statistics are self-explanatory — our voices are not welcome…Women are talking today because, in this new era, we finally can.”
In this new era, we finally can.
By so poignantly articulating what many of us hadn’t been able to pinpoint amid the tsunami of claims that inundated — and still shock — a #MeToo world, Ms. Hayek reframed the question surrounding women’s ability to speak and be heard.
The question isn’t when; it’s what. Speaking now, as opposed to weeks, years, decades ago, should not — and does not — dilute the gravity of sexual harassment or any unjust experience.
It doesn’t matter when, but it does matter.
As women in 2018, we are no different from our predecessors in terms of voice: we have one. The difference lies in our ability to assert it. Today, our voice can be our greatest asset. Or greatest disadvantage.
Because of more than 150 years of women’s tireless efforts, our voices have a platform. However, if we don’t speak our truth, our silence works against us. An unused voice with something important to say is a disservice to all women, as well as all champions of equality who do not belong to the elite club of white, Christian, heterosexual men.
Our silence erases Susan B. Anthony and her army of suffragettes from history. It burns bell hooks’s books. It condemns Gloria Steinem and the 1970s bra burners’ courage in combating patriarchal control. It snatches Barbara Walters out of the anchor chair and into the kitchen. It skips Lena Dunham’s nudity in Girls. It embraces Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement with apathy. It trivializes heroic acts demonstrated by Dr. Blasey Ford and all survivors.
It lets down Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Angela Davis, Beyonce, female friends and family, future daughters and all fellow females.
Silence negates the centuries of sacrifices and advancements made by women who fantasized about the platform we’ve finally achieved. Silence kills our momentum and credibility in the present and for all posterity.
We must speak and never stop.
We owe it to our predecessors, and we owe it to our successors, as their destinies lie not in their hands, but in ours.
More than ever before, the time to speak is now. It’s our duty to share our experiences and expose our truths until inequality is eradicated. We cannot view incidents like Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a failure; we must use it to forever fuel our ferment.
We must speak and never, ever stop.
Silence is not an option.