Tracee Ellis Ross, actress, performance artist and motivational speaker recently opened a TED talk conference in Vancouver with a talk called “A woman’s fury holds lifetimes of wisdom.”
The TED talk website describes the talk as such: “The global collection of women's experiences can no longer be ignored, says actress and activist Tracee Ellis Ross. In a candid, fearless talk, she delivers invitations to a better future to both men and women.”
And it’s a talk that is very important and one that needs to be had. One that’s needed to be had for decades actually. Because every woman (and some men too) can relate to feeling angry about a situation but not doing anything about it for fear of being labelled sensitive or being told they’re overreacting.
Tracee opens the talk with a story about a friend of hers who was at the post office and was physically moved out of the way by a man who needed to get something. Tracee’s friend didn’t know how to react – she was shocked at first and then she became furious. “…And then a fury rose up in her that she could not explain: not annoyance, not frustration, but "fury" was the word that she used. And she went on to say, ‘I mean, I wanted to get physical. I don't know -- I was furious. And I don't know why. I mean, he didn't hit me. He didn't hurt me, he didn't violate me. He moved me, and I wanted to hurt him, or at the very least, run after him and yell in his face.’”
And Tracee said that she identified with this feeling and she felt the fury too even just by hearing the story second hand. And she says she’s been “chomping on” this fury “since the last U.S. presidential election.”
And Tracee points out that this fury is not just her friend’s fury. It is not something that has experiences alone. “Her fury was ignited by lifetimes of men helping themselves to women's bodies without consent. There's a culture of men helping themselves to women, and in this case, in a seemingly innocuous way, where a woman's body is like a saltshaker: ‘Get out of the way so I can get to the fries…’ to the most egregious, violent and horrific situations,” she says in her talk.
“When someone helps themselves to a woman, it not only triggers discomfort and distress, but the unspoken experiences of our mothers' lives, sisters' lives and generations of women before us. That's lifetimes of women dealing with men who assume they know better for us than we know for ourselves, being the property of husbands, landowners, and having old, white men tell us the fate of our lady parts; lifetimes of having our bodies used for love and objects of desire, instead of bodies that we get to wield and use as we choose; lifetimes of knowing that whether we play by their rules or not, we still have to tolerate harassment, assault and even worse; lifetimes of our bodies being used as property that can be hit and hurt, manipulated and moved and like objects that are not deserving of respect; lifetimes of not being able to express the anger of our bodies. It's no wonder we feel this fury. And if you add in the history of race -- which is a whole other talk -- it gets exponentially more complicated,” she goes on to say.
Tracee also discusses how women seem to rationalise how to react when we are mistreated or manhandled. That we say to ourselves that we’re overreacting even if we’re not. This is problematic behaviour and needs to stop.
We keep letting those who have the power get away with their actions even when they hurt us. We allow them to have power over us because we don’t want to be seen as ‘too much’. But that needs to stop.
Especially in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements where we've encouraging women to take back their power. Especially in the light of all the sexual harassment accusations that are coming to light now. Especially with the recent news that Bill Cosby has been found guilty of three counts of sexual assault after months of deliberation and dozens of women coming forward to share their stories.
We need to say no more to being moved out of the way to make place for other people. We need to stop apologising for existing. We need to stand up and say that we belong here and we have a right to exist in this time and space. And that time is now.
Watch Tracee’s talk here: