The Lady Vanishes

A lesson in bravery and speaking up.

A core part of my courage work is to enable women to Speak Up, usually as part of their business marketing model. Naturally this skill swiftly follows into all areas of life as these empowered ladies have discovered and trained themselves in the art of Speaking Their Truth, from the heart, unapologetically without confrontation.  It is a skill that comes in handy from resolving family disagreements to getting the decorator to paint the hallway that way you want it, not the way they want it.

I was watching a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes this weekend on Netflix.  (I do love a good old fashioned thriller/who done it.)  I was struck by one line at the end of the film delivered to the heroine Iris Henderson.

“Not speaking out is dangerous ….. it was very fortunate for me that you already knew the importance of speaking out.”

It was interesting as the heroine is quickly set up in the initial scenes as, well not all that likeable.  She has a strong independent personality and that English Imperialism of the time which is uncomfortable to witness. Lots of “why doesn’t everyone speak English” and rude ignoring of her fellow travelers’ conversations and interactions with her.  This was a woman who simply spoke her mind, regardless of how such rudeness would be received. She didn’t care what anyone might think of her as a result, she simply looked out for her own best interests and didn’t waste time on anything else. Of course in the film, this rudeness backfired on her but that’s not what caught my attention.

Iris always spoke her mind and did so fearlessly.  This is what made her dig her heels in and not sit quietly by.  She went out of her way to cause trouble and to get involved. It was the same trait that made her be rude which gave her the courage and conviction to carry on being a nuisance.  She was one woman, on a train of many, faced with being labelled hysterical and insane.  She continued to speak out, to speak her mind and inevitably to save the day.

As a society we are slowly emerging from a long held belief in ‘minding one’s own business’.

It is a recently as the 21st Century that what happened in the home was not the concern of anyone.  It didn’t matter what kind of beatings or cruelty were going on, neighbours and friends simply didn’t mention it.   It was nearly the end of the century before the police were able to arrest someone for domestic violence without the victim pressing charges.  Nearly 100 years to turn that culture around.  I have a colleague who spent her late youth/early teens living with a paedophile who would pick her up from school every day and yet the culture of the time meant that everyone turned a blind eye.

It is still this culture of ‘keeping out of it’ which means that cruelty persists in all levels of society, whether it is  children, animals, men or women.  We don’t want this cruelty to be happening and yet standing up, pointing a finger and saying that’s not acceptable still takes courage.

Why should we care if we get judged for speaking out?


Women have a long history of violence for speaking out.

I think there is a deeper and  primeval reason why we think twice before speaking up.  There is a fear of violence being turned on us.  This is especially true for women, with such a long, horrific history of what happens to women who dare to speak their minds and speak against the pervading opinion.  Labelled insane, locked up in asylums, put on trial as a witch, beaten, the perils were very real for a very long time.

I think the fear of violence is real, but the likelihood of violence is over estimated in our minds.

We all know that bullies will back down when confronted.

Well we probably don’t want to be considered rude.  It is important to think about how you are going to speak up, with what kind of language, with that tone of voice and with what kind of outcome.

We don’t have to be like Iris, speaking out and putting yourself first doesn’t have to be done rudeness.  If you don’t go looking for a confrontation than the chances are you won’t find one.   Speaking out is not about enforcing your opinion, it is about opening a dialogue.

  • Have you thought about it from this point of view?
  • This is what I have observed
  • Can you explain why that is happening
  • That doesn’t seem acceptable to me
  • For me it is about

The difference now, in the 21st Century, is that we can speak up without rudeness, and with compassion.  You might not convert everyone you have a conversation, but you never know what little shifts might happen in someones mind.

It also gives you the fire and trust in your ability to get you out of a situation where you could be on the receiving end of being bullied, or bantered with, or put upon.

We won’t always win when we speak up, but you never know who you might influence little by little.

We change the world through the courage of our convictions and our convictions will only be heard if we speak up and keep speaking up.