'You’re too sensitive' is just another way to silence women

Oct 22, 2015 at 11:00 p.m. ET
Image: Image Source/Getty Images

I read Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the pay gap in Hollywood. She put the blame for accepting lower pay on herself. That’s good — now she (and we) have the control to change it.

One other thing stuck out. She talked about how she was clear, direct and forthright in a discussion with a male employee. His reaction? “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” — as if she had yelled at him.

My mantra, “What I say matters,” is directly influenced by my experiences with reactions and feedback like that (read the full story in the book Behind the Panty).

But here’s the thing that hasn’t been addressed yet: When women push back, fight to get their voices heard, we’re told it’s our problem. I’ve had people (mainly men) tell me that I’m too sensitive when I point out that they are not listening to me. Others have told me that I’m misinterpreting, misrepresenting or just plain wrong.

Here’s what we need to remember:

  1. If you are feeling it, it’s real. You aren’t being too sensitive, your perceptions aren’t skewed. If someone is doing something that makes you feel like less of a person, it’s on them to change their behavior. You are not to blame.
  2. Keep talking, keeping pushing. It’s going to be uncomfortable. You will be sick to your stomach, your shoulders will get tight, you will be scared. It’ll go away. I’ve found that things are only scary the first couple of times you do them. After that, you know what to expect, you know how to handle it, you know how to win it.
  3. You’ve got the power to change things. You can walk away. If you see that someone is never going to listen to you — you can decide to leave them behind. No one can shut us up unless we let them. Find another job, find another friend or partner, stop seeing the person that refuses to hear you.

You’ve got millions of women in your corner. You are right, you are strong, you have a voice.