Notes on the journey of motherhood

Good girls don’t make history, but squeaky wheels travel far

girl on a bike

Post by Karen Charlton

Karen headshot

Daily Life has announced today Australia’s Most Influential Female Voices of 2012. It’s an impressive list of talented women who use their platforms to advocate, critique and analyse issues, policies and decisions which effect women in the public sphere. These are women you want on your team; the PM Julia Gillard, Penny Wong, Leigh Sales, Anne Summers, Clem Ford, among others.

Reading the list makes me feel verklempt. It brings up thoughts of times in my own life when I’ve been denied a voice, or I’ve felt apologetic for having a voice, and it reminds of the place I’m in now; I have a voice and I make a point of using it.

Women often internalise. We take what the world says about women in general and we squirrel it away in ourselves, trying to make ourselves a little bit more like the way the world wants us to be; slimmer, neater, more pliable. We like to feel the support of those around us before we open our mouths and dare speak, regardless of it coming from a place of truth. If we dare open our mouths, our assertiveness is painted as aggression, hysteria or just plain everyday whining. Those of us who speak up, we’re witchy, we’re dangerous, we’re cows. It takes a lot of guts to repel those kinds of personal attacks, because often there’s a small part of us that is apologetic for rocking the boat. Rather than launching back at the attacker, we go inward and wonder – was it me? Did I cross the line? Sometimes it seems easier to lay low and say nothing. While it might be easy, in the long run saying nothing gets you nowhere.

I remember sitting in year 11 Psychology when one of my classmates – a guy – told me that girls couldn’t be funny. What? I asked. What a ridiculous comment. What about Judith Lucy? Helen Razor? He conceded, girls can’t be funny except Judith Lucy. My sarcastic barbs kind of reminded him of Judith Lucy, but still he was adamant that girls could not be funny. It really irritated me – both the logic and the sentiment. It came at a time when what boys said about me really mattered, and this comment stuck to me like a brier on fur.

It made me angry and it hurt and it was completely untrue. This is why we need voices; to stick up for ourselves, for each other, to question and to probe and to widen the space available to all women.

Pop over to Daily Life to read about our 20 most influential female voices. It’s an inspiring list, and although some of these women would have made it through their own through sheer determination and bloody mindedness, I can’t help but think that the digital space allowed room for some of these voices to echo and resonate with a wider audience. The internet is a new frontier that makes way for all people with a computer and an internet connection to use our voice, especially women.

While we’re talking about women, I’m over at Kidspot this week asking if women are wasting their talents by staying at home? Are we really the most empowered women in the world if we choose to use that empowerment to stay at home with kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[Also a big thank you for the kind messages about Hamish. He is fine. More than fine, he is Mr Sunshine.

So long tonsils, I never really liked you anyway.]

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11 Responses to “Good girls don’t make history, but squeaky wheels travel far”

  1. Carly Findlay (@carlyfindlay)

    What a brilliant post Karen. I think the list on daily life is good.
    However I still see some advocacy for feminism resulting in women tearing other workmen down – you only had to see some of the discussion about paying writers – especially women writers – on twitter yesterday.

    Reply
  2. debbrightandprecious

    So enjoyed reading this, Karen. Agree, agree, agree! I read the list this morning and was inspired. Feeling a bit determined and bloody-minded myself! Hope to see you on that list in the near future. xx

    Reply
  3. Carli

    The Daily Life list is full of impressive women and I agree with you the digital space has broadened their audience. How wonderful is that?! (Although I was a bit hmm over the comment that Chrissie Swan was an antidote to “pearl-clutching yummy mummies”. Can we not bring down mothers, just for once?).

    I think people are too quick to make judgments that women are being aggressive or bitchy when they are simply disagreeing. I internalise quite a bit because of the fear of being misrepresented, because I often change my mind and because I’m not always confident in my own smarts. But I’m working on it. Loved your post at Kidspot and great to hear Hamish is well :)

    Reply
  4. Gill

    “Of course you manipulate people – you’re a woman.”

    Earlier this week a male acquaintance directed the above words at me, complete with smirk and elbow nudge. The worse thing was my response. I clammed up, I felt angry, silly and at a loss for words, my face blushed with frustration. It is not often that I feel voiceless but this comment floored me. I replay the moment in my mind, I think of all the things I could have said. But it’s hard to get the right response.

    Listening to 4 year old girls speak to each other (“you can’t come to my party, you are not that pretty”) makes me realise how far we have to go. This is what makes lists like that at Daily Life important.

    Sticks and stones and all that…But the words we use reflect the deeper messages lurking in society, and we need to be conscious of them.

    Reply
  5. maxabella

    Women can’t be funny? Oh my god, I hope that kid got out more as he got older. Women have the best senses of humour on earth. Always have. x

    Reply
  6. remodelingpurgatory

    I have a T-shirt that says “Well behaved women seldom make history”, a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Women freak when they see. Think about it. True, right?

    Reply

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