When I think about the many struggles over my life, what has been the most difficult?
To find and know my voice and to speak with sincerity.
I learnt to hide my truth because to hide meant to be safe. Linked to this was also the fear of conflict. A person may not agree with your perspective, whilst a normal phenomenon, in a patriarchal family/system, there was only one person who was right. Here “resistance” was met with the threat and the follow through of abuse and a stinging reminder that your place as a female child was to be silent. One’s opinion was irrelevant. I was a quiet listener. I was invisible and to be invisible was also a place of strength. I learnt to think more deeply, to observe and calculate and respond only to protect myself, possibly to protect others.
It also manifested as shame, self-deprivation and anxiety. Sometimes it can be seen as obsessive-compulsive disorder and a perfectionist mentality that refuses to move until it is safe. To be spontaneous craves liberation.
The issue of speaking truth and avoiding conflict is not one to do with being ‘Italian’, nor linked to the act of migration, nor the lack of privilege. One could blame it on culture, to say that traditionally the Italian woman’s place is behind her husband, instead of beside him, but that’s not what it means to be Italian, far from it. The matriarch is alive, strong and demonstrated great leadership, for the lack of male leadership that professed puffy chests and threatened authority, for wanting to be in control. (Reminiscent of behaviors played out in the vitriol of this week in Parliament.)
“This is how it’s always been”, my elders, peers and women I complained to told me that there is “no point trying to change things that are beyond your control, focus on what you can control”.
Weren’t women then smart in their silence? Was it easier to point the finger and stay silent?
It has become embedded in the social structures that expect women to remain passive recipients, politely accepting, working quietly on the sidelines.
How do we shift this to the next generation of young women?
What if I was not a lone voice, and our voices were united?
To speak my truth, express my voice and allow myself to debate and uncover diverse perspectives is a wish that fills me with both complete dread and uplifting exhilaration. It’s a tug of war with myself. It’s like breathing in and breathing out, but not knowing in what order as the breath sticks in my throat. Chokes me.
It’s like standing at the edge of a precipice with a parachute and fully trusting that the wind will carry you, and at the same time knowing that if the parachute doesn’t open that there lies the dilemma, but if you do not jump you will never know. The thrill will carry you until you land and realise that you CAN do it.
Not that I have ever jumped with or without a parachute. I have a vivid imagination and prone to melodramatic tendencies.
Realistically it is more like performance. Having a platform, the stage and the space to stand in front of a group of people exposed. Here there is permission to be truth in the spotlight. For some reason, being in that space is sincere.
It’s like you are one person who represents the thoughts and feelings of the collective, and your ability to stand up and make a statement then is about doing it for everyone. Here then is where I find confidence, knowing that when I speak I’m standing not only for myself, but for other women. I can speak more freely knowing that what I say will stick up for the voice of women within a united equality.