Time to eradicate the female post-shame

All of us three in the cloakroom had been “the woman in the room” previously. This time none of us had the energy to take that role.

Being the only woman to be seen, heard and talking in a room can make you feel vulnerable.

Being the only woman to be seen, heard and talking in a room can make you feel vulnerable.

Foto: Tommy Söderlund/montage

Engelska2024-03-08 14:50

The Governor of the Riksbank Erik Thedéen has landed in Skellefteå and during a well-attended breakfast meeting at the Wood Hotel it is time to take questions from the audience. Several hands go up in the air and I soon sense a trend. There are only men asking questions. 

Of course I also have a question. For example, how much of Swedish inflation is imported, what is Riksbanken's opinion of increased use of crypto-currency or how much of a problem for inflation is the unregulated bidding process in house sales? But I do not ask a question. Instead I find a thousand reasons to keep quiet. 

After the meeting I meet two other (in my eyes completely brilliant) women in the cloakroom and they are as frustrated as I am about the lack of women asking questions. We slowly discuss our way towards the core issue. None of us wanted to be “the woman in the room” this time. 

The woman in the room is she who asserts herself, asks the question and offers herself to be questioned by others. She is also the one who later on in the evening is full of a lot of difficult emotions. We call it post-shame. 

This is what post-shame sounds like: Was it a stupid question I asked? Did I sound unpleasant? Should I have worded it better? Was it even the right question to ask in that context? Did I look grumpy or angry? 

Us three in the cloakroom after Thedéen’s lecture have all done it. And we chose to remain silent this day because we did not want to deal with it. 

Well, you might think, that sound like bad self-esteem. However, it has nothing to do with things brought up in therapy. The feeling arises because you are alone. The only woman in the room who is seen, heard, talking. You feel vulnerable, even though you actually are not. 

The day after Thedéen I am listening to the former MD Caroline Farberger, who talks about her transition from male to female, from Carl to Caroline. She describes the mentally wide corridor Carl was walking in where he did not care about his looks and where others had to deal with his opinions and moods. As a woman Caroline has learned that there is an invisible minimum level for looks and that certain behaviours are not OK. For example demanding too much of the attention and even worse, being perceived as grumpy or angry while doing it. The corridor is much more narrow for Caroline. 

It hits me right then that it is not strange for post-shame to exist as “the woman in the room” is also challenging social norms. But it does not have to be like that. 

Today on 8 March we celebrate International Women's Day. A very suitable day to start eradicating the reprehensible, and I would dare to say female, post-shame. It is time for us to stop swimming around in this somewhat musty slush of emotions just because we want to have our say. The good news is that post-shame can be eradicated. The only thing we need is to help each other out. 

Are you a man and have read all the way to this point? Congratulations, you can make a massive difference. Go up to the woman who voiced her opinion and give her praise. That is it. 

And if you are a woman. Ask your question. Do it. And I promise to raise my hand, even if my question happens to be both unconsidered and misplaced such as whether Erik Thedéen travelled to Skellefteå via train or plane? We already know the answer but I promise not to feel any post-shame despite a fairly stupid question. I will just be happy that you and me together were participants in the room.

Åsa Svanberg, editorial columnist