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There are ten words every girl should learn according to writer Soraya Chemaly — not vocabulary terms, but critical phrases they can use when their contributions to a discussion are interrupted or discounted. Practicing the phrases such as “Stop interrupting me,” “I just said that,” and “No explanation needed” will help girls speak them in real life — and teach both boys and girls that it’s not socially acceptable to interrupt or ignore a female voice. Whether in the classroom, in the boardroom, or on the Senate floor, it’s time for mighty girls and women to persist and ensure that their voices are heard.
Chemaly points out that, “Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical… we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.” As a result, boys and men are more prone to interrupt or talk over another person — and to firmly prevent someone from interrupting or talking over them — while girls and women are more prone not to interrupt, and to give way to someone who interrupts them.
“It starts in childhood and never ends,” she continues. “Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.” This continues into adulthood where “women’s speech is granted less authority.” Research found that in male-dominated problem solving groups such as boards, committees, and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, which is why researchers summed up, ‘Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.’”
Chemaly also highlights another common problem: “A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.” This may not happen consciously, but Chemaly points out that makes it easier to underestimate “how broadly consequential the impact can be. [And w]hen you add race and class to the equation the incidence of this marginalization is even higher.”
But women and girls can reclaim their voices by standing up and refusing to allow even unconscious sexism in the flow of discussion. So when, Chemaly says, people ask her “what to teach girls or what they themselves can do,” she says, “practice these words, every day: ‘Stop interrupting me,’ ‘I just said that,’ and ‘No explanation needed.’ It will do both boys and girls a world of good.”
Have you personally experienced this or seen girls or women’s voices crowded out or gone unheard in groups? To the women in our community, how do you make your voice heard in these situations? To read more, visit http://huff.to/1qllYLo
For an excellent guide to help tween girls learn how to approach over 200 social situations with confidence — including information on the importance of body language — we highly recommend “A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say” for ages 9 to 12 at https://
For a fantastic guide for teen girls on how to assert themselves and voice their opinions, check out “Express Yourself: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are” for ages 12 and up athttps://
For an uplifting picture book about an irrepressible Mighty Girl who won’t let the criticism of others hold her back, we highly recommend “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon” for ages 4 to 8 at https://
For a helpful book for parents that explores this issue in depth and offers practical strategies to foster girls’ assertiveness, resilience, and integrity, check out “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence” at https://
And, for hundreds of true stories for children and teens of female trailblazers who wouldn’t let their voices be silenced, visit our “Role Model” biography” section at https://