“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” –Rebecca West
I recently ran across this quote in a feminist bookstore in Austin, TX. It was on the front of a greeting card, and upon reading it I broke into audible laughter as the truth resonated in my being. Sometimes it feels as though my two options are raging feminist or doormat.
What others have coined my “passionate voice” is starting to become a problem. On several occasions over the last couple of months, well meaning men who care about me deeply have pulled me aside to offer me advice. The advice basically boils down to this: “I love your enthusiasm, but you may want to be careful. Some people may be turned off by your passionate voice.” My spouse pointed out to me that if I change my tone, people might be more able to hear me. My dad, who himself loves to argue and play devil’s advocate, suggested that I start more sentences with, “In my opinion…” A crude male co-worker stated that women who swear out of anger offend him while another male co-worker admitted to dismissing my opinion, stated in my so-called passionate voice, due to my irrationality.
When I form an opinion carefully, especially when it is based on my life experience, I can at times state it strongly. I can be articulate, assertive, confident, committed and convicted. Yet four men who want to see me succeed have essentially warned me to not come off as too passionate lest my strength be misconstrued as bitchy, irrational, pushy and moody.
Rebecca West has laid out my options so clearly. I do not want to concede my passion to make others feel more comfortable, even if that is how the world currently works. I do not believe that I must state things in a quiet voice or with docile body language to be heard as a woman. Especially when other women say they find my passion liberating. Even if I must choose between an offensive feminist and an effective doormat, I am choosing the former.