Be quiet. Be still.
Don’t be loud, don’t not-give-a-fuck, don’t be sexual. Don’t criticise, voice concern, or surpass men.
Or be sexual, and be slut-shamed.
Say no, and be ruined, speak out and be ruined.
Succeed, and be belittled.
Be questioned, be mansplained – be womansplained – be ridiculed.
We must be stifled and hold our tongues. We must comply. Why? Because we are not men.
We must whisper our achievements and glories. We must keep our secrets and hurts bound to us. We must cry out their crimes of assault and abuse when they happen, and then be slandered in court, or close our mouths for decades only to breathe the truth and be damned. For making a fuss.
It’s a trick, an illusion. It’s a lie we are urged to believe. It’s a game we are shown we cannot win.
In one hour on Twitter today: living female authors and publishers are dismissed by men; dead female authors are hated by a male celebrity in a national broadsheet; a fictional short story character is slut-shamed by a national broadcaster; another Hollywood star said no and her career was stymied; a woman who reported her rape by an MP is blamed and degraded and denied in court; and a lone female MP challenges our female prime minister to investigate allegations of a male MP’s harassment and pornography that have not quite yet managed to slip away, to sink beneath the oily, scum-laden surface. A fundraising campaign is launched to rescue women’s refuges from government cuts so that we can flee and save our own lives and not die, not be murdered, at the hands of men as two women every week are.
It is a dark hour, this political, institutional, and public silencing. It is the exhausting, grinding, tedious new normal, thirty-nine fucking years after we first dare utter ‘the glass ceiling.’ Our only retort is to again bring change, to, once again, scream louder.
Our stories are forming. Our lips have parted, and we are shouting.
We cannot, will not, hear the lie.