When I was a little girl, I was afraid of thunder. I didn’t mind the lightning, but that loud noise in the middle of the night was enough to make me go racing across the hall to my parents’ room for safety. My mother tried countless times to help me understand that it was just noise, and the noise couldn’t hurt me. She assured me that in the morning, everything would be ok. My mother consoled me, promising that nothing would happen in the middle of the night to hurt me. Finally, one day I decided to be brave. I decided no matter how loud it got, I would stay in my room. That night as the thunder boomed, I stayed in my room, eyes closed tight, and I waited. After several minutes, I opened my eyes and saw my mother standing at my door smiling.
She knew I was still scared, and she also knew I was trying to be brave. She knew I was testing what she taught me. It was just noise, and it couldn’t hurt me. I took great comfort seeing my mother standing guard at my door.
Last month, I thought about things that go bump in the night and those standing guard. As our troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan, I watched and worried about the weakest of their nation, the ones with the most to lose, the ones whose voice was quickly being strangled. Not the children, not the poor, but the women. Within days of the new regime becoming more visible, the women began to disappear. As other voices got louder, the voice of the women diminished. I wondered about the woman who wanted to get dressed and go into her corporate office to work. I was worried about the college woman who didn’t know if she could attend classes. What took twenty years to build, took mere days to erase. In a matter of days, women became soundless. Within a matter of days, they became again invisible.
The voices of Afghan women were not on the agenda when the decision was made to pull the troops. I understand all the reasons for having the troops withdraw. I get all the resources and lives that have been lost during the war. That’s not what this is about. This is about how quickly a woman’s voice can be silenced.
This is about the control and power the world has over a woman’s voice.
I wondered if Afghan women are once again afraid of things that go bump in the night. I wonder if they were feeling the terror, unable to explain the loud thunder of a storm. When they opened their eyes, there would be no one standing guard.
I also began to wonder if I have reason to be afraid of the things that go bump in the middle of the night.
See, it’s not the loud noises that cause the fear. Just like thunder, these loud noises are the results of other stuff happening in the atmosphere. When it comes to the voice of women, it’s sad that a group of men can make decisions that affect not only the voice of a woman but the very life of a woman. It took twenty years and an American military force for women to be able to wear nail polish. It took 30 days to strip it all away. How long would it take to steal your voice? How long would it take to pull you back to a time when women couldn’t vote?
How many days would it take to draw your life back to a time when you were considered property? How long would it take for you not to have a seat at the table but instead only be allowed to be invisible as you bring in the coffee and clean up after the meeting ends?
September 1st, I woke up to a notification on my iPhone from CNN that said Texas 6-week abortion ban takes effect after Supreme Court inaction.
Again, this is not about the killing of babies. It’s about the killing of women. It’s about literally robbing a woman of her right to use her voice. Yet again, the world’s answer is inaction.
In Corporate America, every day, women struggle to use their voices. We work to use the right tone, texture, and volume. In any boardroom, corporate meeting, zoom conference call, we find women trying to speak up, trying to step into the light.
Yet there are people in every room, trying to pull us backward. And sometimes, those doing the pulling look like us. Sometimes one pulling is female.
Today I stand with the women of Afghanistan because aren’t we all fighting that same fight? Aren’t we all fighting to be heard, seen, and valued? Aren’t we all fighting for our place in this world? Aren’t we, in fact, sisters of the women of Afghanistan?
As you walk boldly into the last few months of 2021, consider the things that go bump in the night.
Consider the woman in the meeting with you who is struggling to find her voice. Consider the woman on your team who has been fighting to elevate her career. Consider the woman who’s fighting for her reputation. Are you helping, or hurting?
Listen, we are all in the same fight. Make sure you are holding the microphone steady for your sister instead of snatching it away, robbing the sound of her voice. Don’t be a thief of another woman’s voice. Don’t be a thief of another woman’s career.
Because after all, my fierce sister, no matter what you do, who you are, if certain things go bump in the middle of the night, the next voice being silenced, the next career being stolen, could be yours.
Blessings and Peace
Coach Andrea O.