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Image description: The number 97 with the word ‘courage’ written in the ‘9’ and ‘voice’ in the ‘7’ under those numbers are the words ‘and counting’

Everyone heard her.

Well, not everyone, it was clear the person she was speaking to couldn’t hear her at all.

We were leaving the store, our bags all tucked away behind me, when we heard her voice. At first we couldn’t see her but as we got closer to the door she came into view. She was a small woman, she was angry, and she was determined to be heard. The man she was speaking to was clearly finding her ‘cute’ and thereby discounting her anger and ignoring her words. She was 97 years old, which along with her size, may have contributed to the ‘cuteness’ designation that was eliminating the impact of her words.

How do I know she was 97? She said so, several times. She was hoping that her age would engender respect for what she was saying. It wasn’t working.

Just as we got to the door, she fell silent for a second.

Then.

She lost it.

She changed tack and everyone froze. She said, and this is as close as my memory can manage, “I have been silenced by men like you for most of my life. I lived in silence. I kept my mouth shut and let men like you walk all over me. That’s what we women were taught to do. We were taught to respect men like you. Well, sir, it took me a long time to find my voice and even longer to find the courage to use it. I want you to know that I will stand here and I will use that voice until you and all men like you listen to what I have to say.”

His aspect changed from dismissal to intense embarrassment, he clearly didn’t like to be classed with men who didn’t listen, men who didn’t respect, men would would discount to voice of a woman. He clearly didn’t realize that that’s what he was doing. Privilege makes it possible for people to behave horribly without personal notice. Privilege makes it possible for outrageous bigotry to be put on display.

She called him on it.

Suddenly her age mattered.

Suddenly her gender mattered.

Suddenly her voice mattered.

I don’t know how it was that she discovered her voice or what the process was for her to find the courage to use it.

But thank God that this woman is here now, fighting to be heard – and winning that battle.