I am still angry when I think about it.
The note was atop an article passed on from a female colleague on the art of active listening. She suggested that I learn to speak less in the meetings dominated by the corporate males surrounding us.
Had I a genuine relationship with this fellow worker, I might have felt hurt, but I wouldn’t have been angered. However, we barely spoke during our work days, had never enjoyed a girl’s lunch nor worked together on projects except when she needed something of me.
I fired back an angry retort. I told her that perhaps I risked making an ass of myself, but it was my risk to take in putting forward an idea. I was upset that another woman would want to shut me up in a world already so full of the male voices in the room.
Neither of us was the best version of ourselves that day. She had no business delivering such information to me via paper. A face-to-face conversation where she could have explained her intent would have been better.
As for me, I was obviously so angry that I could credit her with no good intentions at all.
It would not be the first time another woman tried to keep me from speaking up in a meeting.
Many years later, during a conference call, I was about to make a point in the conversation when my female supervisor, sitting beside me, put her hand on my arm to stop me from speaking and began talking herself. The message was as clear as the written note from years before.
All those years of corporate male dominance and the women who submitted to and supported it have come flooding back this week as the consideration of Neera Tanden to head the Office of Budget and Management has hit roadblocks over her confirmation due to the boldness of her Twitter voice.
It has created a knot in my stomach I haven’t felt in awhile. It is stirring the burning anger that still resides in me for being told to shut up because I am a woman. What could I possibly have to contribute?
For four years we have listened to Republicans say they paid no attention to the demagoguery, fire and fury of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, to the point the man was allowed to use it to promote election fraud and persuade his followers to the incitement of insurrection against the U.S. government.
Yet Tanden’s Twitter account is the reason being given by two Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) for not confirming Tanden to the post President Biden has chosen.
Not whether she has the requisite experience. Not whether or not she is up to the job.
But because she used her voice on Twitter in a way they deemed “unladylike” while Trump got a full-on pass from the GOP for nearly bringing the country to its knees.
One of my favorite moments of the 2020 campaign came when now Vice-President Kamala Harris chastened a Mike Pence trying to talk over her, when she clearly, loudly and pointedly said “I’m speaking.”
I was so pleased at the way this powerful woman used her voice to put a misbehaving man in HIS place for a change. It is a quality I hope she doesn’t lose in her role as Vice-President.
Meanwhile, I urge those Senators who would penalize women for using their voices to be careful how many times they resort to this trick.
Women make up more than half the electorate. We come in many colors, from many backgrounds, and with differing points of view.
But the one thing I would guess we all share as women is having been told at some point, somewhere, by someone to not talk, to be silent, to acquiesce.
At 67-years-old, I have nothing to lose.
If I feel the need to speak, I can, I shall, and I will.