To: Elizabeth Renzetti: We are not dead yet and be careful what you wish for…
This early morning, while waking up with a mug of dark roasted coffee and opening the e-version of the Globe and Mail I expected to read the usual. And indeed, today was no different from others.
..and I got angry!
I am angry because there are so many unresolved issues and so much that needs to be done, but time and time again, rather than feeling empowered I feel being set aside. Renzetti quotes Roald Dahl’s warning that “a thought unrecorded is a thought lost”, and that quote encouraged me to write.
Renzetti writes about her experiences and these are mine too. No, I am not dreaming of standing in front of a class of newly graduates to deliver a commencement speech. Renzetti is, and I am sure that she will get this opportunity as she wrote the book “screwed” and no self-respecting university can overlook the power of emotion coming from her voice.
Renzetti however, seems to talk about herself and about us, the cohort of women who graduated around the time she did. The women who were made to “do spins for [a professor] like [they] were fashion models”. A professor providing clothing advice, leading to Renzetti going on a crash diet. Renzetti like me, and so many other women felt that we had to shrink ourselves to be more attractive. We were “shushed” by our parents, teachers and extended family members. We were told that we were appreciated more if we were quieter, smaller and less opinionated. Renzetti is angry about this, and rightly so.
Shrinking, yes that was in my mind. Looking back at photos of the time in high school and university, I was far from being overweight and I am average in height. How come I felt that I had to shrink? How come that I felt that my boobs were too big? I hardly had the size many women desire these days and for which they go to great lengths with push-up bras that increase cup size, and implants.
Renzetti, it is not too late for us. We women who were shushed and who felt that we could not use our voice, and our bodies. Who felt that we had to hide. Who felt that we had to pretend to not want sex, who stepped aside when thinking that we were not good enough to take up the space in a room. We need your speech as we need the support and acknowledgment that we are are doing something right for ourselves and for our children.
I know there are women, young women out there who need to hear your speech too, but please do not forget that the young women you are talking about are not like you and me. We are parents now and we have helped to create daughters who are not shrinking, who are confident, who are outspoken and who are proud to be a woman. Women who are finding their way with our guidance and the support they need to stand up for themselves and what is right.
We, however, do not need to create women to take up an entire room, trying to be as large as they can be, “spreading into every crack and corner”. We do not need women who “sit with their legs apart on the subway until a man is forced, politely, to ask you to slide over so he can have a seat.” We do not want these women as these would be the people we resented when we were told to be quiet. The women you are describing are the men we detested when we were shushed and pushed aside. These women were in our high schools. They were our bullies. They were the ones that men in power hung out with but did not chose to start a family.
We do not want our daughters to be “the bigger woman”, nor do we want our sons to “be the bigger man”. We do not want people who feel entitled to take up all the space in the room.
What we want is to empower others, including our children to be people who are respectful and kind, who use their voice as they have one.
Yes, “there is enough cake for everyone”, let that be our guidance.