The number one thing I was praised for as a child was my silence. The elders of my family and community had sold me a product that said: “If you are a quiet and silent girl, then you are good, nice and smart.” This was a bogus product, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
The ‘quiet and nice girl’ label earned me much applause from my family, teachers and even my peers. Text books, television, and society in general reinforced the message that a girl who is quiet, was smart and good. These labels were a social badge of honour and would always follow close behind me for much of my youth.
Little did I know that being ‘silent’ and commended for being ‘quiet’ and ‘good’ was a set-up all along. It was teaching me to accept bad treatment, substandard facilities, disrespect, and insults. It was teaching me to accept being second class, under-educated and marginalized as a woman. It was teaching me that women must accept in silence whatever men shovel out, good or bad.
Being ‘quiet’ and ‘good’ meant that I had no opinions worth listening to. I had no right to decide for myself, the things that affected my life. Being quiet means being told how to live by someone else. It meant that if someone mistreated me, I had to accept it quietly and not defend myself; not complain or seek assistance. If I didn’t understand something, being ‘good and quiet’ meant that I should not ask questions, probe for answers, or search for my own truth. That is a poor product to sell young girls.
When I became 18+ and I knocked on independence’s door, the qualities I had been praised for were keeping me from becoming my own person. To think that I would find myself stumbling, fumbling and mumbling my way towards my dreams when I had been praised for being the ‘quiet girl’ was nothing short of comical for me. It didn’t take me long to figure out what was wrong. Being a silent woman was incompatible with being who I was born to be. It was a barrier to being educated, ambitious, defending my ideas, asking questions and shouting for help if I needed it.
I had to dig deeper to free myself of my upbringing to be quiet in the face of everything that is going on around me. A ‘silent and quiet’ woman does not have one face. She can have the skills and ability to take charge in the boardroom but is too scared to stand up to her boss. A silent woman underachieves so she will not out-pace her husband, partner, family member or male co-workers. A silent woman claims to understand gender equality, but goes home to suffer domestic abuse from a family member. And to be a ‘good girl’ she must endure all of this in silence.
I think that many women, raised in villages and in traditional homes were taught, as I was, “be silent and you are good girl.” Now, I know a lot more. Now I can say with confidence, that being taught to ‘keep quiet’ is NONSENSE!
Some of the greatest inventions in this world were done by women. They did not achieve these high heights silently watching the world pass by.
The ‘quiet girl’ product needs to be taken off the shelves of all stores forever. There is nothing smart in being quiet for the sake of it. Instead, let’s create new products for sale like: ‘bold woman’, ‘speak your mind’, ‘love yourself’, ‘stand up for yourself’, ‘and move forward ’,‘ you can do it or you have wonderful ideas’. I’ll buy any of those products wherever I can find them.