I used to be a very, very quiet person. At school, I read books. I was quiet because everyone talked over me and I let them. At home, I was shushed when I had something to contribute either because of my young age or my brothers’ learned traits from my father to talk whenever and say whatever comes to their minds. I was used to being pushed aside and talked over. And it’s not their fault. I forgive them. It’s something they learned from their father and he learned from his father and so on and so forth.
In Marilyn Frye’s Oppression, she discusses how women are retrained physically and how those restrictions damage us. And though my experiences growing up were not seriously dangerous as far as life and death, I know that there are wives and mothers and daughters who have dealt with this and more severe oppression; and I can’t even begin to try to grasp how remarkably restrictive that must feel.
These constrains that we have on women and their voices and what they attempt and do not attempt stunt their growth both spiritually, and mentally. When we cannot ask questions, we will never find out answers. When we don’t get to ask questions or contribute, we don’t have to think for ourselves. And it’s no that we don’t want to, it’s that we don’t know to. And when we don;t take action, we have no experiences to learn from.
As a result of these remarks, for a long time, not only did I not feel like I had the right to speak, but I had nothing to say. The people who were supposed to be teaching me did not know of my questions and my stagnant interest in learning and personal growth, which was mediocre at best. It keeps us from a better education and a better understanding. I didn’t think there was much more than what I was being told.
Eventually I did start to speak up and ask questions in class and learn to not be shoved aside. But some days i do mourn the loss of so many wasted years where I did not try. And I think this is where Marilyn Frye makes her point. Oppression is not only being pressed, but sometimes we are pressed until we stop. And that’s not alright.