Sunday, May 8, 2011

Speaking My Mind

About a month ago, I got into a heated debate on Twitter about an admittedly controversial topic. The following morning, the debate continued to some extent, until someone said to me something like, "we get your point, you don't need to keep bringing it up." Since that point, I have tried to remain mostly silent about the issue, even as joke memes and other comments relating to the debate have been reverberating through my Twitter family.

I am starting to think, however, that keeping silent is the opposite of what I should be doing. Generally speaking, our culture is one in which women are taught to be silent, be appeasing, speak when spoken to, keep their heads down, be selfless, and most of all don't be annoying. I don't think that these are messages my parents or schools particularly endorsed or imparted, but they are nonetheless lessons I seem to have learned. I have always been terrified of speaking my mind, especially in a group setting, because if I do, then I have to be able to defend that position. I also expend a lot of energy trying not to get in the way. I sometimes don't bring up issues at work because I know my colleagues are swamped and don't want to be a burden. On Twitter, I try to only call people out for egregious statements, because many of my Twitter friends view it as a non-serious medium of communication. I let my sister win nearly every argument -- the TV, the front seat, etc. -- because I'd rather not argue about it. I think, when it comes down to it, I am afraid of conflict and of doing anything that could possibly lead me into a conflict. Of all of the things that scare me -- driving, cooking, spicy food, phones -- being afraid of conflict is the one that is most likely to impede my ability to both enjoy my personal life and succeed in my professional life, especially when I transition into a career in activism.

I believe that I need to be come comfortable speaking my mind, regardless of whether there is one or one hundred people in the room, and regardless of whether or not the crowd is likely to agree with me. I am a person. I have every right to take up time and space, to be heard, and to be understood. In my career in activism, I cannot expect to win or persuade in every single conversation, but the more difficult conversations I engage in, the more likely I will convince enough people that they should care about the issues I work on, which will translate into greater political and societal acceptance of my causes, and thus create change. This is not to say that there isn't a place for tact, timeliness, manners, or finding the right message for a specific audience, but I cannot fret about those things and allow them to stop me from trying to get my point across.

I am not really sure how to go about fighting this fear of mine. I can say that from today forward I will never allow fear to silence me, but that would likely be difficult to measure and enforce. I have considered taking some public speaking classes, but beyond that I'm not really sure how to move forward, other than stating that I would like to do so. If anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments.


  1. A good start would be taking personal responsibility for your getting yourself into this position.

    Also, did you consider that whomever you were Tweeting with understood your point, considered it, rejected it, thought made clear that they had considered and rejected it, and simply wanted the conversation to move forward? It's not thing females alone face. I get it from people all the time.

  2. hi i face the same issue..i am afraid of conflict too. i am not comfortable putting across my view unless i'm sure that it'll be accepted. If anyone can help us on this it'll be great