As little girls we are taught how to play small: be quiet, be nice to your brother, don’t speak too loudly, do as we are told. As we grow and develop, some of us rebel, but most of us have deeply buried in our subconscious the need to conform, to comply, to fit in wherever possible.
Much of that stops us from taking up too much space in the world. From speaking too much or too firmly. From shining too brightly. And the fear is deeply ingrained and very real, long before we came into this life.
Deep within our bones and heritage we have the knowing of the stories, even if we have never heard them before. Stories of women being shunned, cast out, killed, and burned at the stake for speaking the truth, for being healers, teachers, for being deemed witches. For being seen. For being heard. For taking up space in a world where we were not meant to take up space.
In her brilliant book Burning Woman, Lucy Pearce writes:
“Free-thinking, powerful, passionate women are dangerous to a conservative male-dominated culture.”
We see it everyday, especially when we witness women in public life being torn down or ridiculed, with the attention largely placed on how they look, sound, what they are wearing, and what dress size they wear. Think about Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential Election. Julia Gillard when she became the first female Prime Minister of Australia.
Think of an actress or singer who has the audacity to speak out on issues. A business leader who publicly goes against the grain.
And of course, there are the very real, life threatening consequences for women who dare to speak truth to power, or to disobey the patriarchal order. The women of Iran are the most powerful demonstration of this in recent times, protesting for their human rights after the death of Mahsa Amini in custody.
The messages to women, even in this day and age, are clear. We’ve been told loudly and clearly: We speak, we burn. We take up space, we burn. We stand out too much, get ready to burn. We dare to disobey, we burn.
The new womanhood is filled with women who are ready to be seen. Ready to be heard. To take a stand. It’s time to burn, to light things up, to set the world on fire with our power and passion and presence.
So stand up, speak out, put yourself forth, and take up your space in the world.