If you’re a woman, you’ve surely been told, reprimanded, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ To the extent that there may be nothing nice to say, that standard of politeness has crippled us. It has made us keep our opinions to ourselves.
My neighbours have their tv on all the time; as a result, they do very little thinking on their own. Not only because there is no silence, typically required for thought, but also because they’re exposing themselves so relentlessly to a worldview censored by a handful of conglomerates motivated primarily by self-interest. And then, because there’s nothing going on in their heads, they can’t stand the silence, so they keep the tv on all the time … But do I say “Shut that thing off and wake the fuck up!”? Of course not. That would be rude.
They also travel a lot, by RV and by plane, checking off destinations on their bucket list. (They also keep their thermostat at 21 degrees, make single-stop trips by car into town all the time, and eat meat every day.) Do I point out that they’re leaving a huge ecological footprint, that they’ve contributed to the climate change, that they’re partly responsible for the increasing number and severity of storms, even the forest fires that have twice ravaged areas in their own province, and that they’re therefore being rather selfish and inconsiderate? No. I ask whether they had a good trip.
It the standard were applied to men as well, on the one hand that would be worse: everyone would be self-censoring, no one would be honest, dissent would be internalized and then extinguished altogether. However, as it is applied mostly to women, it enables one of the worst elements of sexism: it makes us mute.