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Workplace Microaggressions: The Aftermath of Confrontation

After confronting oppressive systems and people, after a probable internal struggle and crossing all the barriers that make women unwilling to speak up, what happens?

In this week’s episode of WNCYA, Awazi talks about how when she confronted the men who’d been speaking over her, they made her feel like she was crazy. “At the time, I tried to fight it. I thought maybe I was being unreasonable.” The podcast embodies the defiance of this norm. We are not imagining things; no, we’re not crazy, you are.

Women who confront oppressive systems or speak out about injustice are deemed problematic for speaking up where countless women before them have endured in silence and they pay for it somehow. First, women’s complaints are diminished and the women who complain are accused of making it up like it’s all in their heads. It’s almost like there’s a concerted effort from everyone, including other women encountering similar injustice who are (rightfully) scared to rock the boat to silence them and put them in their place. 

In the workplace, when women speak up about things that merit complaint and confrontation, their experiences are diminished and they are ostracised even by other women who will benefit from their speaking up. Male coworkers rally around the perpetrators in camaraderie and, even if they don’t declare their support outrightly, their antagonism and “banter” show their true intentions and views. 

Beyond workplace microaggressions, Sharon speaks of an instance where a man violently assaulted a Kenyan woman for rejecting his advances. He pushed her off a balcony because she dared to say no to him, to turn him down. Women are not allowed to be assertive, make their own choices and hold their views outside of what men and society want. 

Sharon also speaks of the emotional violence that women in politics face when they try to effect any change that rubs men the wrong way. She mentions how culture furthers the practices that silence women. “Culturally, women can’t be the ones to make a smart decision because what does that mean? That men are dumb?”

Confrontations are a necessary evil. They’re uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous but they’re needed to achieve a better outcome especially because possible alternative courses of action or inaction are worse. 

However, confrontation does nothing if the people (re: men) that it is aimed at are unwilling to genuinely accept their faults, work towards effecting actual change and fix the subject or object of complaint. We just need to realise that sometimes, rocking the boat is the only way to effect real change and make progress.

Listen to Awazi talk to women from all over the world on their country’s feminist fights on our podcast, “We’re Not Crazy, You Are”.

Share your thoughts using the hashtag #WNCYA

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