Israel Neely, Guest Reporter |
Adjective. “Offering reasonable grounds for being believed.”Merriam Webster.
Adjective. “Worthy of belief or confidence; trustworthy.”Dictionary.com.
Adjective. “Not able to be disproven by the end of the interview.”Urban Dictionary.
“In a world…” begins the movie trailer. It’s spoken by a deep, throaty, masculine voice – a voice with authority, a voice with credibility. One is driven to believe this faceless man and whatever he has to say about this epic world. Viewers are ready for him to sell them a movie. Could one even imagine those words—that promising, introductory “in a world”—being spoken by a woman? Maybe, if the movie were about lipstick or something. But would they even believe a woman without a face? There’s no way to even know if she’s sexy or not. If she’s not sexy, then one would have to discount every word she says immediately.
Maybe if she sounded kind of sexy this conundrum could be avoided—if she moaned out the words, perhaps? “In a—oh god—In a wooorrrllld!” Oh, dear lord! Scratch that. What a bimbo. What a whore! One mustn’t believe a word that woman says. She’s got no respect for herself.
So, hey, let’s just stick with men.
As it turns out, women are all liars. There is something deceitful about their voices. They aren’t considered credible sources.
Merriam Webster defines the word “credible” as “offering reasonable grounds for being believe.” Dictionary.com defines it as being “worthy of belief or confidence, trustworthy.” Urban Dictionary says it means “not able to be disproven by the end of the interview.”
Considered by society to be uncredible, women’s stories of sexual assault and rape are more often than not met with doubt and scrutiny. In the news, women are never interviewed as experts or distinguished sources (but are free to weigh in as the ordinary, dubious citizen). A woman is not considered an expert even in women’s issues—from abortion to birth control and so forth. Even then, it’s far more likely to hear a man’s voice than a woman’s.
The idea that a woman’s voice cannot be trusted can be traced back as far as Eve of Eden—and likely further still. As feminist author Leigh Gilmore said, “To keep women’s stories from taking root, people in power, generally men, go straight at the credibility of the woman.” The way that men attack a woman’s credibility is, of course, her appearance. A woman’s voice is immediately discredited if she is ugly, but also if she is too good looking. Therefore, they’ve made it so the credibility of a woman exists in a void—it’s right at the nonexistent line between modest but not prude, confident but not threatening, attractive but not whorish, sexy but not sexy.
The balance is contradictory and simply not possible, but that hasn’t stopped women from trying. Jennifer Pozner, in an interview for Miss Representation, said that “During the democratic national convention in ‘84, when Geraldine Ferraro was running, she was introduced on national television as the first female vice presidential candidate—Size six. So, this is not new.”
Sarah Palin, another vice presidential candidate, took on the challenge of being confident but not threatening, sexy but not sexy (bless her heart). “In a nutshell, she was pornified and ditzified,” Caroline Heldman says of Sarah Palin for Miss Representation. She was just a hair too sexy, and so she was paraded as a bimbo. Another female politician, Hillary Clinton, was a hair not sexy enough, and was paraded as a harpy.
As stated by Nancy Halpern for the Huffington post, “[N]o matter how senior you are, expect to not be believed. It happens to all of us, even the most senior women who run huge departments, large budgets, and have great visibility, not to mention national responsibility.”
If this is how society treats even the most powerful, “senior” women, what chance does the average woman have of ever being taken seriously? As seen on a daily basis—Not much. Every day, a woman gathers her bearings and comes forward about rape. One in six women are victims of attempted or completed rape. And every day, women are doubted.
A fantastic quote from an article on Vox: “People don’t believe victims of sexual assault because it’s simply easier not to. But it also goes deeper than laziness or loyalty. The widespread disbelief of rape has a complicated history but a relatively simple cause: People don’t believe women.”
Again and again, everything ties back to the same line of truth. Women’s voices are not credible. Eve couldn’t be trusted not to eat the apple. Women aren’t even trusted to sell movies. How do women overcome this?
Another woman, Margaret Cho, also interviewed in the documentary Miss Representation, has a tremor in her voice when she says, “I don’t know how we survive it. I don’t know how we rise above it.” Neither do I.
The same Huffington post article about how women aren’t taken seriously even in senior positions, ends in a list of tips for seeming credible as a woman. They range from being just a little bit passionate (so as to seem confident but not over-emotional), to learning from repeated defeat (“What, if anything, could you have done differently? Was it your timing? Your message? The delivery? No allies?”).
At the end of the day, women just can’t win in this world. I don’t know how women will survive it. I don’t know how they rise above it. The short answer is that they don’t. Not in this world. Maybe in the one that lady was moaning about.
Verb. “To get up after falling or being thrown down.”Dictionary.com.
Verb. “To become active in opposition or resistance; revolt or rebel.”Dictionary.com
Verb. “To not allow oneself to be hurt or controlled by (something bad or harmful).”