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On tone policing and why I won't calm down

Tone policing is a tactic used to silence an oppressed and marginalized sector by focusing on their tone instead of what they are actually saying. Philstar.com
Violence is more often than not associated with physical assault, but so much of the violence against women hinges on emotional and psychological abuse.
And yet, in a patriarchal society where the cards have been stacked against us by default, our collective response as women against oppression is often met with condescension. Often, our righteous anger is dismissed as irrational fits of rage by those whose privileged standpoint affords them the luxury of being untouched and unaffected by daily injustices that women like us live with.
We are constantly told to calm down as if we could easily distance ourselves from emotions that are inseparable from our lifelong struggle against oppression.
This is called “tone policing,” a tactic used to silence an oppressed and marginalized sector by focusing on their tone instead of what they are actually saying. It conveniently allows a person to evade his or her own momentary discomfort caused by another’s fear or grief or anger over an unfortunate situation while ignoring—if not erasing—the reality of another’s oppression.
It may seem trivial to some people, and it might even be tempting to sometimes use this tactic when confronted with an unsettling reality that does not have an adverse effect on one’s daily life. But it is a tactic laced with the sting of rejection and ends up being extremely frustrating for us women and other marginalized sectors who bear the weight of systems rooted in inequality, such as a patriarchal society.
To be refused an audience just because we are deemed emotional, as if our emotion is separate from reason, is an outright refusal to recognize our struggle as women. To invalidate our struggles when we dare speak of our daily difficulties in a tone that echoes the suffering we constantly live with, as if our constant oppression is something that can be dismissed easily, is a denial of a shared reality that places us at a disadvantage. To deny the inequality that exists in a society rigged against us women, as if another’s comfort is isolated from the violence that we are regularly subjected to, is an insidious act of violence in itself—one that is committed against women who have always lived lives filled with fear and frustration.
Asking us women, together with the many others who are oppressed and marginalized in a patriarchal society, to feel nothing in the midst of systemic oppression is no different than asking us to surrender our humanity altogether.
In times when the initial discomfort makes it difficult to pay attention, how then must people respond to our righteous anger?
The answer is simple. One must take the time to acknowledge the source of our anger. One must take the time to listen. Really listen.
Because what we need is solidarity and support that is hinged not on our tone, but on the recognition of our rights and how these rights are constantly violated simply because we are women. We need people to understand that our voices carry echoes of anger because anger is a valid and reasonable response to injustice and oppression. We need people to listen not only to our words but to our collective fear and frustration and sadness which comes with a strong desire to change our circumstances.
We need people to recognize that to struggle is far from comfortable, and our anger will not wane until our rights and freedoms as women are considered no less valuable than that of a man.
Until then, we will not be silenced.
Marrian Pio Roda Ching is a writer and human rights defender from the Bangsamoro. This piece is written to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence which starts on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25.
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