Difficulties in documenting: Why it can be hard for women to speak out

I’ve been trying to interview women and girls for the documentation action that Take Back the Tech! announced. I’ve found it’s more difficult than I anticipated, so I wanted to explore the reasons why because I think they are directly related to the theme of freedom of expression.




  • “I’m not sure I can speak to that.”



Many of the women I speak to say they don’t feel prepared to talk about the issue. They question their knowledge and their experiences. They feel like I should be asking someone else. Even when they have a personal story, women often feel like their experience isn’t meaningful enough for anyone to listen to.



This response reflects the devaluation of women’s stories. It reflects a tradition of privileging experts over survivors, and it shows how much women’s voices are ignored, demeaned and erased.




  • “I don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”



Some women have experienced violence and don’t want to talk about it because it’s difficult or because they do not want to open themselves up to more attacks. In fact, when women are vocal about issues that affect women, they are more likely to face online harassment.



Even those who don’t have personal stories still feel some discomfort in discussing violence against women. They don’t want to rock the boat. They know what often happens to women who speak up.




  • “I don’t really care that much.”



This kind of response tends to come from people who say they “don’t do politics.” Would they rather just accept the hardships and pretend everything is fine? Are human rights violations invisible to them? Is this a reflection of a privileged life or a resigned life?



At the very least, this speaks to the normalisation of violence against women and silencing women’s voices. Many women and girls expect a certain amount of harassment on the street and on the internet and think that’s just how it is. It can reflect a lack of understanding of intersecting oppressions or a feeling of hopelessness about those oppressions.



In the end, all three reasons are why we do this work. Women’s stories matter. Personal experience is valuable. I want to see more videos of women demanding their right to tell their story, speaking up for those who can’t or won’t or feel like they don’t know how, and questioning and challenging, no matter their educational background.



Is this the moment you decide to use your voice?