One of the intentions I set for 2018, was to call out racism, sexism, homophobia and the likes. I have been in uncomfortable situations where people are saying, writing or posting commentary that is dangerous to our society and I have not said anything. I am sure many of us have thought at one time or another “it’s not worth it,” “they are set in their ways,” “there is no point,” or something similar, only to reflect later and wish you had said something.
Here’s the thing I realised, when I was saying “it’s not worth it” what I was actually saying was its not worth it for ME at this point in time. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, or have negative feelings directed towards me. I was not focusing on the cause, those who were marginalised or the bigger societal picture. I also checked myself on my “there’s no point” thinking. How do we even know someone will reject our opinions until we express them? It may be the seed that gets planted, or it may be the last piece they need to have a paradigm shift. I am also conscious of the other bystanders. We never know who else could be listening or reading something which could influence their thinking or provide them support in a space where they are feeling the hate, judgement and oppression.
At first, I told myself ‘well its not like I am being racist/sexist’ to try and make this realisation easier to take, to make myself feel better, to feel more comfortable in my silence. And although that technically may be true, I am perpetuating it. I am not doing anything to challenge or change those thoughts, and in some cases social norms. I am letting people who say, write, and post about these things think I agree with it, think that it is ok.
It is not ok. I am not ok with that. This is not who I am.
This realisation was quite confronting. I thought I was someone who had strong social values, and a strong sense of social justice, who had fairness and equity in her DNA, yet my behaviour was not supporting this.
So, back to my 2018 intention of calling this out, and no longer being a silent partner in the fight for equity. I have unfollowed people on social media as a show of ‘voting with my feet’ of sorts. I have commented on posts that contain dangerous narratives, even if I am the lone voice and comments are made in other places that are negative towards me. I have told people I disagree with what they are saying, or simply questioned their statements. And it feels good.
Sure, people may in turn unfollow me, say negative comments or have ill thoughts about me. This says nothing about me, it says something about them. I am confident in my views. Sure, I have more to learn in these spaces, and I can still respect differences of opinion, however, I am confident that racism and sexism are never ok. And, as I said above, maybe I have given someone else the support or release, or voice they needed at that time.
The other part of this 2018 intention for myself, is about being ok with expressing myself from an emotional space or viewpoint. I do my research, I am connected with some pretty amazing people in both the feminist and racial equity spaces and engage with them regularly, my background is one rooted in education, and I feel like a good argument has sound evidence. However, this thinking, coupled with the societal push I feel for only having a perspective based in cold hard facts has meant I have dismissed my own anecdotal pieces, my own experiences and my own emotions. These topics are emotional. I am allowed to be emotional, and I will not try to hide this or pretend it is not part of my calling out. I believe there is so much research in these spaces, but let us not forget an individuals voice or story. I want, and feel some people need to see and hear the emotion that is attached to these areas.
I am already connecting with some amazing people, making new connections and being exposed to new opportunities through the calling out, challenging, deconstructing, questioning and not accepting of these attitudes and social norms.
So, there it is, one of my intentions for 2018. I will no longer stand by and be a silent witness to the ‘isms’, I am standing up.
In what areas, and how do you stand up?
Mel H x
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