February 14 was an important day. Nope, it’s not because it’s Valentines Day (although C and I managed to scrape a few minutes during lunch time. We were both drowned in our own deadlines that day). And it’s not because it’s also Ash Wednesday. I did something and it’s one of the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I spoke about women and human rights and how wrong rape culture is.
There’s this thing in the office that we do twice a week wherein someone from the team gets to pick a topic they’re interested in or passionate about. Then, they would discuss it in front of the whole office. After that, the audience gets to share or ask questions. It’s like a typical show and tell except we don’t get grades from it. Personally, it’s really fun because you can really tell a lot about a person from the topics he/she chooses.
So I was assigned to discuss that day. Well at first, I was having second thoughts because I was clouded with doubt. What if people wouldn’t get me? What if they judge me for being too angry about stuff? What if they accuse me of hating men too much? What if they shake their heads in disagreement? What if someone from the crowd asks a question and I wouldn’t know the answer to? But the need of speaking about it was stronger than these doubts so on Sunday night (I was due to report on Wednesday), I was doing research and making notes. There was no turning back.
When I spoke in that room, I was so determined of making people understand what women go through everyday. I even shared my own experiences as a woman in the society and how I was treated because of it. I also made sure that my discussion won’t be female-centered because I wanted to invite the male population. I was careful with my words and avoided saying things that might offend them (and men get offended by everything). Which means not pointing out the things that they are but the things they are “programmed” to be–so as to not sound as if I was blaming them.
Okay since the world is full of political arguments these days, here’s a quick tip on how to let yourself be heard by someone from the opposing side–forget the facts and empathize. Sure, facts are facts but are they willing to acknowledge them? No. So, there’s really no use of listing down all the things they are wrong about. They won’t listen. People will believe what they want to believe. Here’s what you should do–you talk in their language and speak about the stuff that they understand. Reach out and listen. Yes actually LISTEN to them no matter how bullshit their facts are. Because only then, you get to understand why they think that way. You listen to the things they care about and that’s when you explain how their beliefs will endanger these things. Don’t mock them or be mad at them. These things will only make things worse. And even if, in the end they don’t listen, give them time and retain that respect.. Remember, before all these you yourself were also ignorant of these views and you were also as apathetic as they are. So be patient and empathize.
Now back to where I was, even though my audience was small (not more than 25 people), the whole thing was an accomplishment. I was so happy that people were asking questions and making arguments. Some women from the crowd were even sharing their own stories! They were all talking about it and that was enough for me.
Ever since I’ve been awoken about how wrong women are treated in the society (despite people saying both genders are now equal because women are allowed to vote blargh), I cannot help but be vocal about it. I cannot help but insert it on conversations among friends. And just seeing how my friends are influenced by these beliefs was already fulfilling for me.
But having to spread the awareness to my colleagues? That was beyond everything that I’ve been doing for the past years. I wasn’t just inserting points to them in a conversation. I wasn’t just making sarcasm about how women are treated. I wasn’t just rolling my eyes and expressing disagreement on how the world works. I was actually conducting a proper discussion about the whole thing–with prepared PowerPoint slides and notes and sample videos to back up my statements!
I would never know if that tiny thing I did was enough to sink into the minds of everyone in that room. But I was lucky enough to get my voice out there.