By: Alyssa Fechner, Regular Contributor
Lately, I’ve been having trouble speaking up. I’ve found myself in “pleasing” mode—I don’t speak my truth for fear that it will burden those around me. And I don’t even mean big, important truths. I mean truths like, “I would rather stay in for breakfast than go out” or “Can we watch The Office again instead of Breaking Bad tonight?” These little decisions have rendered me silent, and tonight I realized that there is a lot more wrong with this than I first thought. The first, most immediate issue is that my fiancé is also in this weird indecisive mood and always wants to do what I choose, which is exasperating. “But what do you want to do?!” I plead (to which he replies the same to me).
Really. This is the battle I have been fighting lately. It’s silly. It’s menial. It’s petty. But it’s also so very important. In these examples, the problem seems like one that should be framed with “air quotes”—it’s not really a problem. Born of politeness and consideration for another, my indecision is merely frustrating at times. But it’s actually so much more.
Immediately after speaking up about this silence at tonight’s IATG meeting, I was walking to my car with some of my fellow members, when a group of guys began catcalling and then harassing the whole group of us. And of five girls, none of us spoke up (until one finally let them know that they were being inappropriate). Just after speaking up about not speaking up, here we all were, choosing silence over expression. And while our reasons may be varied, I can’t help but wonder if our silence during every-day decisions—the silly, the menial, the petty—train us for silence at other times?
Everything in life is practice, and I always like to think that I am practicing the right way. It unsettles me to think that by not expressing my desire for one type of breakfast food over another, I am also the type of person who allows myself and my friends to be harassed and objectified. It unsettles me that I haven’t been practicing to be the kind of person I want to be.
By not speaking up, we essentially allow others to speak for us. And while sometimes, day-to-day trivialities don’t truly matter, I still need to maintain my voice. In the times where I have an opinion, I will express it. I am practicing claiming my voice, because if I can’t speak up to those I love about things that don’t matter, how can I speak up when the pressure’s on?
(P.S. I encourage anyone who’s interested in this topic to read Linda Alcoff’s article “The Problem of Speaking for Others”).
When you speak up, you inspire and empower others to do the same!
- Have you been in a situation where you stayed silent when you wished you had spoken up? What happened? How did it make you feel? What did you learn?
Alyssa grew up on a diet of grilled cheese, books, and ice cream with books predominating. She recently graduated with a Master’s degree in English and lives in her favorite place with her favorite fiancé (she only has one). Post-graduation, her plans are to start a new women’s magazine that leaves women feeling GREAT about who they are, and to open a publishing house for untapped talent.
image via pooshtioo.deviantart.com