In her words:
“Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.”
About three years ago I experienced something online that seared my subjectivity to the extent that it still regularly announces itself when I sit down to write something. It generated an insecurity powerful enough that I have blocked myself from websites and muted hashtags in order to proceed with some clarity and perspective on the thinking I want to do about urban change, the role of creativity, ‘do-it-yourself’ renewal efforts, abjected urban experience such as homelessness and begging, and gentrification.
I thought I could ignore this moment online, this blip on the spirals of my thinking and the mostly wonderfully frutiful conversations they have led to. I told myself I was better than this, that I ought not to have been so provocative and was probably just reaping what I had sowed; and that, anyway, I am a “reliable witness to my own life”, in Solnit’s words. However, clearly none of this is fully realised: the expository, mendacious take-down of myself, my work and my ideas has taken its toll. As Solnit’s piece reminded me, to be a woman with something to say means you start from a position of underconfidence – which can be dragged to the depths of self-silencing in the blink of a godseye.