They were two words heard around the world. I'm speaking.
I hadn't yet seen the US Vice-Presidential debate, but all my inboxes were blowing up.
As a general statement, "I'm speaking" is so pedestrian; inoffensive, polite, no slang, no "talk to the hand", and no dismissive "whatevs". But against the backdrop of a Vice-Presidential debate for an upcoming election and when being subjected to a barrage of interruptions, Kamala Harris' "I'm speaking" spoke volumes to women worldwide.
Women throughout time have been branded hysterical if they show emotions, get upset or display anger. In days of yore, women would have been given some kind of sedative by a visiting male physician and sent to bed to sleep off the emotions or what I can imagine as the frustrations of the time. They certainly would have been frustrations for a woman like myself.
It's no surprise that this so-called hysteria would make a woman look incapable, yet a flare-up in anger from a man would make him brave, strong, and a force not be reckoned with.
The Black Lives Matter movement has made me aware that not only do black women have to deal with the general hysterical label, they are also put into the category of Angry Black Woman.
Harris knew that all of her talking points and her statements during that debate would be overshadowed by being labelled an angry black woman if she was to get too feisty, roll her eyes, speak too loudly or become too impassioned in response to a load of micro aggressions including interruptions. Dismissive labels would have all been levelled at her, at times familiar to me. Angry. Nasty. Unable to control her emotions.
I'll proudly admit I can be a fierce woman of strong thoughts and opinions and I have been known to voice them.
For my final two years of high school, I attended basically a boys' school. I think the ratio was 550 boys to 50 girls and to be frank, you had to have a degree of strength to survive, especially if like me you were the only girl in your PE class.
Gender-based micro aggressions were part of Mr Gilbert's schtick, and being told to stick my chest out in front of 18 teenage boys who had never had a girl in their class before? Let's just say I regret not telling him where to go.
I remember being drafted into the girl's house debating team and eviscerating our opponents upon our debut. A teacher said in a lazy voice, "That Nicola, she is a sharp-tongued bitch". Instead of being praised for winning, being told I'd done well in my first-ever debate, that I was a quick thinker or an impressive public speaker, I was called a bitch. Those words stuck.
In light of this, there are times when I've had a Kamala moment, but I haven't spoken up and I regret it. I've been worried about being rude, my job, or I've just bitten my tongue to keep the peace, and when I think back it's mostly been when I've been surrounded by men and usually in a work environment.
Irrespective of your political leanings, Harris displayed an impressive restraint last week. We heard her powerful words, and I think she has inspired legions of women worldwide to stand up and firmly yet politely insist that they get their chance to speak uninterrupted. I'll be teaching my daughter that small yet mighty phrase.