My Existence Does Not Warrant an Apology

“It’s not a woman’s job to get smaller and smaller until she disappears so the world can be more comfortable.”

Women should not have to apologize for taking up space.

The suppression of women in our society is systemic and often unconscious. Whether it’s a male coworker interrupting you and talking over you during a business meeting, being expected to wait around for a boy to make up his mind as if that’s your only purpose, or a group of men making decisions about women’s healthcare on Capitol Hill, it happens everywhere. And conscious or unconscious, it has to stop.

Recently, many women have been taking on a little experiment. When they walk down the street, and male passersby are walking in the opposite direction, they don’t step to the side.┬áNow, this doesn’t mean invading the man’s space, because he deserves to take up his space too – it simply means reclaiming your own. So often as women, we feel it’s our obligation to move out of the man’s way, even if that means stepping completely off of the sidewalk. Instead, this experiment requires fighting that instinctual urge and standing your ground.

Overwhelmingly, the women who took on this experiment, myself included, were physically run into by oncoming males. Did the women receive apologies? Rarely. In fact, many felt the sudden need to apologize to the male. Why? For taking up space.

Women should not have to apologize for taking up space.

There is absolutely no reason why a woman should walk into a business meeting or presentation with fear she will be interrupted by her male coworkers or supervisors. Or that her ideas won’t be taken as seriously. Or that she will be seen as less capable in a leadership position, because women are “emotional” and “irrational.” And in turn, a woman should be able to stand up for herself when these things happen without being penalized in their position, ostracized, or seen as bossy, aggressive, or a “radical feminist bitch.” (Newsflash: being a feminist is not a bad thing.)

Regardless of gender, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other differentiating factor, we are all human beings. We all deserve to be listened to, valued, and respected. Your voice deserves to be heard.

I would like to encourage all of the women out there to stand up for themselves. Demand equal pay. Insist that your voice be heard, and if they won’t give you a seat at the table, build one. Require that others treat you with respect and speak up when they don’t. And never, ever apologize simply for taking up space.

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