Stop telling me what to say!

A while back I came across an article that said women apologise too much and that we should stop. I didn’t think much of it.

Since that article I have come across maybe three more stories, opinion pieces, whatever, that have more or less outlined certain words, phrases and behaviours that I, as a woman, should avoid or use more often. Then I started to get annoyed. As my annoyance reached its peak, I was reminded of the Big Day Out in 2008 whenRage Against the Machine headlined and thousands of people in a massive sweaty mosh, jumped in unison screaming, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!”

That particular moment in time is my response to any article, opinion piece or story I read that instructs me on things I should/shouldn’t say due purely to the fact that I have a vagina.

As the rage within me intensified I thought I would dig a little deeper. I did a Google search on words men shouldn’t use. It was almost like Google cocked an eyebrow and jokingly offered up this doozy of an article. Ten Things you Should Never Say to Men. WOW!! Just wow.

There are no words men shouldn’t say. They can say whatever they want, whenever they want in whatever tone they please. There are no articles (or very few) because a lot of men don’t care.

And why should they care? What these articles do (although the writers may have the very best of intentions for their fellow sisterhood) is generalise an entire gender and set certain rules of dos and don’ts based on that sweeping generalisation. In accordance to said rules, a woman’s individuality and personality is diminished. Why should a feisty, boisterous woman communicate in the same manner as a shy, timid woman? Or vice versa? It doesn’t make sense.

Representing half the population, or thereabouts, it comes as no surprise that all women are different. We come in different shapes, sizes and colours. We talk at different volumes in different ways to a bunch of different people. We each have our own unique personality that makes us special and different from one another. So why should we all have the same playbook of rules?

My latest girl crush at the moment is Senator Penny Wong. Or Slayer Wong as I call her. Born in Malaysia to a Malay dad, Slayer is an openly gay female in Australian Parliament. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate no less. Penny Wong is outrageously intelligent, composed and articulate. I very much doubt she takes any consideration of words she should or shouldn’t use.

Penny Wong. Image https://www.laborherald.com.au/author/pennywong/
Penny Wong. Image Labour Herald

She is slayer Wong and she is more concerned for championing the rights of minority groups and important battles such as climate change. She is working every day to better the current state of politics using her own personal brand built on strength of character and a passion for what she does. She is a force to be reckoned with and a champion for female empowerment. Watch here as she destroys Senator David Bushby. Slay!

 

Written By

Suzi is a stay at home writer/editor/homemaker and maker of humans. After years in the debaucherous media industry, she never dreamed of a domesticated life caring for small people. She is also editorial director of parentingfortrashbags.com

8 Comments

  • Oh gosh, that is so true. We don’t always realise the sexism we live with and accept every day! Why are we so focused on limiting women (we’ve even been brainwashed into doing it to ourselves) when we should be teaching ALL people to just be more awesome?! x

  • Agreed the strong and powerful lies that are spewed forth about what we should or shouldn’t do. How we should or shouldn’t act. F@?k you we won’t do what you tell us

  • I like the sentiment of your article. A little more analysis of the articles you saw would have been good. In my view there is language in business that’s harmful to women that we should try to avoid, for example the language apology. Starting sentences with “sorry”, or saying you’re “just” doing something every time you say you’re doing something. I.e “Sorry [boss] I just wanted to discuss my recent work on X”. Men tend not to use this language. Women are trained to apologise for simply being in a business environment and its ingrained in us to devalue rather than show confidence in our work from a young age. I think it’s good to remind women that there’s no need to say sorry or debase your work by saying it’s “just” anything. I will always tell junior women working for me not to apologise when they receive constructive feedback or to say sorry before they ask for something. Maybe this is more relevant in the corporate world than other sectors (I’m a lawyer) but I think it’s a good lesson. Thanks for the article!

  • I’ve not worked in your profession so this is a legitimate question. I understand that you are trying to educate young women who have newly entered the field. I think that’s admirable. Could you not empower these young women and build their confidence so that they can be themselves and communicate with conviction rather than set guidelines of words or phrases that are deemed to be acceptable or harmful?

    If young women are taught that their opinions matter, that they are smart and make great contributions, should it matter what language they use?

  • I think the two go hand in hand. If I’m mentoring someone I’m going to encourage them strongly so they feel confident and empowered and I’m also going to say that when they’re working for me don’t put the word “just” in an email when you’re asking someone for something – just say what you want. So say “could you please let us know X” not “just wondering if you could please let us know X”.

    I would obviously give a man the same advice. However, honestly, in my experience men don’t write or speak like this often in the corporate world and women do. It reflects the way we are taught to feel about our work and our place in the corporate world. That’s the analysis I think is missing from your piece.

    For me it’s a two fold thing – I want them to believe they’re awesome and talented (which they are, these girls are geniuses) and also ditch the habits that hold us back.

    This advice was given to me when I was a graduate and its served me well.

  • SPS I think the girls (and guys) you mentor are very lucky to have such guidance. Good on you for making a difference and boosting these young geniuses.

    I have always struggled with authority, especially when I was younger and I don’t take well to being told (or gently advised) that I shouldn’t do or say something. That’s my personality. And I guess that’s my point. We are all so different. Our differences should be celebrated.

    I think you and I could discuss this for hours!

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