“’I’ve spent the past 3 years researching and writing a book on the importance of a woman’s voice (Speaking Up: The Hard-Won Power of a Woman’s Authentic Voice). And a fascinating phenomenon has emerged, as I’ve begun talking about and showing the manuscript to other writers, editors, and professionals. I didn’t expect men to fully “get” how a women’s struggle for voice feels, any more than I can fully “feel” or “get” the pressure men feel to be a provider or suppress vulnerable emotions. But I thought they’d at least be aware that the struggle existed.
I was wrong.
In my 30 years as a writer, I’ve never encountered such a dramatic and total gap in understanding. There are no shades of gray here. It’s night and day. So what gives? I found a clue in one of the few exceptions I’ve encountered so far. The man who’s most intuitively “gotten” what the book is about; well enough that he could even elaborate on some of its points, also happens to be African-American. And I think that point is telling.
If you happen to be born into a group on top of the power structure in a society—which would still be white men, in America—you have fewer constraints on your ability to be yourself. Your group, after all, is the one that set the rules. And since you were born with the privileges that come with that power and freedom, you’ve never known any other experience. So you often aren’t aware that those perks and advantages aren’t enjoyed by everyone else.
It’s like a story a friend of mine tells about a beautiful young woman who goes into a pizza parlor. The man behind the counter, dazzled by her looks and trying to curry favor, gives her a free piece of pizza. After she leaves, she says to a friend, waiting for her across the street, “I don’t know how that place stays in business, giving customers free pizza.” Indignant, the friend exclaims, “They gave you free pizza???” The beautiful woman looks genuinely perplexed and says, “Well, yeah. Doesn’t everyone get free pizza?””
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