Handling confrontation as a woman
Women have been silenced for so long that many of us automatically opt for conflict avoidance even when we are well within our right to complain, especially when the complaint is against a man. When a man harasses or even assaults a woman, she is expected to massage his ego still so that he doesn’t get angry and harm her any further. In marriage, women are told to endure everything, that their husband is the head, should be obeyed, must not be angered and where appropriate, he is also conveniently akin to a child who must be coddled and pampered. The precariousness of confrontational situations for women makes many women avoid it altogether even where it is necessary for their wellbeing, safety and the procurement of justice.
In this week’s podcast episode, Sharon Machira speaks of her experience with the gender pay gap and how difficult it was for her to speak up even when she knew her anger was justified. She was getting paid considerably less than a male colleague who was employed at the same time as her and had about the same work experience.
Other men that she spoke to about it were willfully obtuse about the subject, they supposedly didn’t know or understand the weight of it. “I knew it wasn’t okay internally but, I didn’t know if it was something I could raise with HR or if I was allowed to complain; it felt so normal that I just talked myself out of feeling bad. I didn’t know that I had any agency to address this shit.” Even in this situation where she had an unequivocally rational reason for complaint, the normalcy of this sort of thing (that is, the sexist pay gap and the routine silence about it) made it hard to do so.
Similarly, in many cases, women who dare confront men when they do something wrong are punished with violence and ostracism for doing so. Because of this, women are socialised or learn to pander to men and not hold them accountable for societal advancement or even for simple safety.
Unfortunately, many women believe that men should be left unchecked simply because they happen to be men. This culture of letting men skirt accountability emboldens them to act as they please even to the detriment of others.
It is certainly not easy to speak up when violence against women has been so normalised. Complaint or confrontation from women is seen as an anomaly even in the face of dire necessity. Regardless, women need to realise that it is our right to air our opinions and grievances and demand justice when there is an injustice committed against us.