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Jul 19

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Claiming our opinions

Today I saw two young women who appeared to be living entirely different lives in different environments…and yet they had one striking thing in common – they seemed unwilling to voice an opinion.

In one case, the girl remained mostly mute when asked to give an opinion.  In the other, the girl was actively engaged in conversation, but after a minute I noticed that she was doing just enough to get the other person to offer her an option which she immediately said yes to.

But this isn’t about the girls I saw today – it’s about what we do to our girls.

I don’t think this is a generational thing – I remember the same thing happening when I was in high school.  In fact, I remember a very specific example.

As a junior in high school, I was chosen as one of four representatives from my school to attend a government-in-action program called Girls’ State.  There was  a Boys’ State held at the same time and four of our male classmates were chosen to attend.

During the Girls’ State mock government session, the organizers had us debating bills that were not at all pertinent to our lives as teenagers – I believe it was a bill about Medicare.  We hadn’t been given any time to learn the issue, so we had no idea what we were talking about.  My friend Julie and I got it into our heads that we’d try a different maneuver – we’d introduce our own bill for something that we cared about: merging Girls’ and Boys’ State into one larger event that would more accurately represent the world we lived in.

The response that we got from organizers wasn’t good.  But the response we got from our fellow delegates was downright astonishing!!!  I will never forget the young woman who stood up and said, “I can’t sit next to boys during a debate!  I’d be so worried about whether my hair is combed and my lipstick looks good that I wouldn’t be able to participate.”

To say I was floored would be a vast understatement.

What is it about teenage girls in our society that is so threatening?  That’s the only thing I can come up with that would explain why we teach them to so thoroughly muzzle themselves.  And we do a darn good job at teaching them that lesson because they practice it well.  Some young women unlearn it but I think there’s a far larger portion of women who never do.

So where is the miracle?  I suppose part of it is that despite all efforts to the contrary, I am one of the lucky ones who unlearned (and continue to unlearn on a daily basis) that lesson.

Another is that I saw these two beautiful young women today – and even though they won’t know that I’m doing it, I can hold the vision for them that they will stand up and take their place as fully present and opinionated members of society.

Ah – but here’s the thing, and I just realized it as I was typing this – in this moment I’m able to appreciate that girl I was in high school who had such high ideals that I was able to stand up in the midst of craziness and say, “This isn’t right.  Something needs to change.”  And even though nothing did change in that instance, I took the opportunity to stand and be seen.

Here’s to you, Julie!  Here’s to us.  We did good.

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.themiraclejournal.com/2011/07/19/claiming-our-opinions/

4 comments

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  1. Jo-Ann Keene

    Leah, I agree with you whole heartily. I see this every day in the high school classes I teach. I believe this issue is even bigger than just our society stiffling the opinions of girls. I believe the stiffling of female opinion and potential dissent may be even evolutionalily based. Most girls are very free to express their opinions and even very dissenting opinions until the age of puberty. And many women stay “muzzled” until after menopause. There is a very strong need to “conform” to the group during the child bearing years. This need to conform in opinion may have resulted from the physical necessity to be part of a group when pregnant, nursing, and taking care of small children. Lack of support from the group would most likely have resulted in death of the child and probably the mother as well. At some level, most likely a subcounscious level, girls/women realized thes risk of expressing conflicting opinions. The drive for survival is very strong and the drive of a female to protect her young (even potential future young)is one of the strongest drives of the human race. Maybe if we can expose this drive for what it is and bring it out of hiding from the subconscious into our awareness as a society, we can deal with it on a more rational level. Only then may we be able to teach our girls that it is safe to express their opinions and to truly be who they are withour fear of rejection by the males around them. Just sayin’!! LOL Love ya and miss ya!

  2. Maria Pawlowski

    From my point of view, a miracle came about when “Girls’ State” came about. In my high school years, it didn’t exist, at least not as far as I knew. Change is excruciatingly slow…in honesty, I get so weary sometimes of working and waiting. A true miracle for me occured last nite as I engaged in a rational conversation with a man that covered much of what Jo-Ann K. has written about. He listened with appreciation and contributed thoughtfully to the conversation. This means a lot to an intelligent woman who grew up being told my place was taking care of men; picking up after them and other ‘duties’. Forward…into a new paradigm…we’re doing what couldn’t previously be done. Hurray!

  3. Leah Carey

    Wow, Jo-Ann – I hadn’t thought about it that way. That’s really profound. Thank you. I love you too. Miss you, my beautiful sister! :-)

  4. Leah Carey

    How wonderful Maria!

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