I love to empower people, especially women.
I’ve spent a good part of my teenage years allowing people to censor me. Eventually, I got sick of people trying to silence and/or belittle me and I sure as hell got really tired of holding back when discussing certain things.
As I became more of a confident teen, I turned into a completely unapologetic and outspoken young woman. Some of you may be thinking “hey, that’s great” but I wasn’t. I would ram my opinions down people’s throats and refuse to see any other viewpoint. I totally didn’t respect other opinions and would inadvertently make people feel bad for having a different opinion.
Thankfully, I grew up and learnt that respecting other opinions is important. I think it’s a journey and not everybody gets there. Stigma and small-minded opinions don’t change or go away overnight especially when it comes to feminist issues. Ignorance is bliss and quite often negative thoughts surrounding feminist issues don’t change until the individual has gone through a particular experience. For example, I didn’t fully understand how uncomfortable catcalling can make a woman feel until I experienced it myself. Since changing my views after experiencing something, I’ve learnt to respect this process and I now understand that becoming a feminist is in fact a journey.
In the past, I have been guilty of not respecting others opinions and as a result it wasn’t very empowering. I am a very strong believer in woman standing together even when they don’t agree with you. It’s a very tricky one but I try my hardest not to make people feel bad about their opinions because every woman’s voice is a victory. We are pitted against each other so much already and we really do need to stand together.
Believe it or not, you can empower other women even if your views are conflicting. It sounds strange, right? But I truly believe this is the right way to be (unless their views are really extreme). After all, feminism is all about freedom of choice and everybody is allowed an opinion.
In the least patronising way possible, here are some of the most effective ways I keep my cool when interacting with somebody with a clashing opinion.
The moment somebody starts declaring their opinion to you, leave your judgement behind. Immediately. It is one of the hardest things to do in the world but it’s important that you don’t judge. You have to remember not everybody is like you. Certain opinions are formed from personal experiences and you don’t know what everybody has gone through.
Have a rational debate and try to understand the other person’s views. You don’t have to agree or see eye to eye but you also don’t have to fight or put the person down either. Debates can sometimes offer a different perspective and you could probably learn a thing or two from each other.
Ask More Questions
This ties in with understanding. Often when people are debating passionately, they forget to cover all bases. Some things can get lost in translation and whilst others just need clarifying. Instead of riding on their mistake, ask them to elaborate. Don’t immediately jump to conclusions and attack.
Use Positive Language
Things can often get heated real quickly. Make a conscious effort to use ditch slurs and insults and only use positive language. You can debate without insulting one another. Insulting people not only makes you look bad, it could make the other person refrain from sharing in the future. People shouldn’t have to hold back from voicing their opinions just because somebody might not agree.
Praise The Strides
Most people thrive in environments where they consistently receive positive feedback. If you want somebody to change or see things differently, you need to respect that it won’t happen immediately.
I am constantly talking to my mum about feminism and making her aware of certain sexist ideals. She grew up in an era where feminism was seen as extreme and as a result doesn’t really want anything to do with it. We’re not completely on the same page but she has definitely started to see things differently, respect my opinion and even said she now supports the movement and for that I praise her. You won’t see progress if you just focus on the end game and refuse to acknowledge strides.
Don’t Give Up
One of the most inspiring things I’ve read that will always stick in mind is “don’t give up over those who don’t get it, keep fighting for those who do.”
What other ways can we empower one another?