Holy mafuckin moly.
Few words have ever rung more true to me than these uttered by Lily Myers.
I have described women as ‘deflating’ before, but I think shrinking is a better encapsulation of what I try to articulate. Deflate means that it is easy for one to re-inflate, whenever they so choose. Deflate means that one simply coils into oneself, molding one’s shape.
Shrinking is more dramatic; it is more permanent. Shrinking leaves scars. When one shrinks, they don’t crouch down, they literally take up less space. When one shrinks, one takes away parts of oneself. One chisels one’s soul. Once you have shrunk, less of you remains. Parts of your being have been discarded.
Women have been shrinking for centuries.
We have been taught to shrink. We have been taught that small women are ideal. Quiet women are preferred. Agreeable women are proper. Modest women are favoured.
Men have been taught to expand. They have been taught that opinionated men are trailblazers. Loud men are sought after. Strong men are leaders. Proud men are honourable.
We have been taught to “grow in”. Our mothers, our fathers, our teachers, have always promoted that we work on ourselves. We should reevaluate ourselves. Change ourselves. Better ourselves. Men have been taught to reevaluate the world, change the world, and better the world.
We have been told: Men are fine, it is women who need to improve. The world is not fine, and we need men to improve it.
When a woman expands herself, ever so slightly, she has learnt to be weary. She has learnt to apologize.
She apologizes for taking up room. She apologizes for allowing her words to flow through open space. She apologizes for voicing her insights, especially when there are countless men to do so. She apologizes for having an opinion, because for so long she has been told that hers are insignificant and inferior.
Society has yelled at us, taunted us, and tormented us, telling us that we are to be small. It has been whispered in our ears for generations. You. Are. Small.
And everyday women shrink themselves. Everyday they give men permission to expand into the space they do not feel entitled to occupy.
“Inheritance is accidental,” as Lily said. And we have undoubtedly inherited a fearful perspective of the world.
Our mothers have passed along to us this innate sense of consciousness; a cognizance of the people around us, of ourselves, of how we look, of how we talk, of how we present ourselves.
This consciousness keeps us small. It keeps us inside our head; censoring ourselves, doubting ourselves, and rebutting ourselves.
We have inherited this. It is in every fiber of our being.
But it is not impermeable and it is not invincible.
Let’s take back our space in this world.