When I was a small kid my family was closer than it is today. I remember afternoons filled with sounds of playing at my grandmother’s, or at the house of one of my mother’s cousins. I remember how my brother and I played with my cousins, both girls.
It was around that time that I noticed girls (and later I would realize, women of all ages) had a special language. One boys couldn’t understand mostly because it was spoken in very soft tones and just between them. All we would hear were soft whispers.
Of course, boys being boys, we misinterpreted those whispers and in time we learned to call those sounds “gossip”. Not saying that some whispers aren’t gossipy which is common to both genders, but back then I didn’t know the difference. Why would we think otherwise, if they kept it to themselves, sometimes pointing at us and laughing? It couldn’t be good, or so men told men.
For a time, the notion of those whispers carrying a secret meaning enticed me. It would draw on my attention and I would wonder: why do they whisper? It must be to keep something secret, it must be to protect it. I was naive enough to believe words need protection more than we as humans do but again, I didn’t know better. All I was taught socially any way, was that women whispered and that was not a thing for men to do.
But still those soft sounds had to mean something. They made me curious and as most men, I wouldn’t know better than to keep away instead of asking about it. Maybe if I had done so when I felt the urge I would have understood this faster and maybe even put that knowledge to some use. The truth is that as I didn’t know why women whispered I assigned those hushed sounds a magical meaning: they were part of a secret language only females of our species can talk.
Preposterous, I know, but aren’t all men ideas about women so? Or maybe I was not wrong and my initial approach wasn’t that bad at all. Maybe there is some magic in the soft, permanent yet impossible to catch sound a whisper really is, but time has taught me that magical thinking is only desirable up to a certain point.
As I became a man and interacted with different women in different circumstances I was more and more exposed to those sounds and the situations in which they appeared. I realized with time that whispers were indeed made to protect something. Not words as I had thought but rather women themselves.
That realization shocked me. It couldn’t be right I thought, so I kept on listening, paying attention not to the whispering per se but to the moments when these would appear. I was surprised to find those at the workplace or in places where everyone is supposed to feel free and equal enough to share ones opinion such as college or any given educational institution. Whispers there didn’t sound magical at all, and sometimes they even sounded ominous.
Other than the naive sharing of thoughts regarding the cuteness of someone who’s nice, I encountered whispers that had more to do with not letting others know what a woman thought, keeping those thoughts safe and secret, hidden from a world were even today a woman’s opinion does not carry the same weight everywhere as a man’s does. Or so men would have women believe, yet the truth is simpler and more precise: a whisper is a quiet opinion, but stronger and possibly franker than the one that’s shouted.
This is the 21st Century, yes. And even now countless women prefer to whisper rather than share their opinion openly and frankly with everyone. One would think that specially in modern Companies or the Academic world women would have better opportunities or at least the same men have but I keep seeing and hearing every single day that that is not the case, hence the whispers continue. If you look at the Corporate world, it doesn’t look better really so imagine how it is in the Politics and Religion worlds. In some of them women are not allowed even to whisper.
Disappointment and anger become actions then. Soft whispers of a teen girl become angry claims of a grown woman. Cries for gender equality and most men wonder why. It is as they never heard the words before, never paid attention to the whispering, never read the invitation to feel equal to them and instead worked to make them feel different to us.
It is as if most men prefer women to whisper, not caring to understand. Violence comes in many ways and one of the most hurtful ones is none other than the one that comes from an ignorant mind. Aren’t we as men then ignorant, if we can’t understand why those whispers exist? What kind of help can we give any women if we don’t realize we can speak the same language? It only takes trying to listen intently, opening up so whispers are no longer needed.
I’ve came to realize there’s a reason why whispers still exist: there is still something to protect and there will always be something to protect until we open up and “equality” becomes a word of the past rather than a desire and a claim, and so whispers turn magical again.
But as everything in a man’s world, it is scary for most. Can men listen? I know I can. It only requires paying attention to the whispers and understand them for what they are: silent cries that only want to become normal, free and equal words of normal, free and equal women.