Dear Women, Is Staying Silent Hurting Our Capacity For Change?
It has been a hell of a couple of weeks for us women (and the men in our lives). Between the back-and-forth over whether or not Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is lying, to the discussion over whether or not he should be confirmed to our highest governing body in the land, to the insensitive comments of our Commander In Chief about “how it’s a scary time for white males;” I personally feel like my emotions have been in a constant state of yo-yo-ing every time I open up my news app and see a new headline.
For the most part, I’ve kept silent publicly on the issue of moral character and how it should affect our government leaders--as I am sure many other women are being silent while simultaneously being innately affected by this upheaval our country is going through. I’ve kept quiet for the same reason we all stay silent at the dinner table when the topic of politics arises, and two or three dinner guests get into a heated discussion as the food gets cold and we all get more and more uncomfortable. We keep silent because we don’t want to rock the boat, we don’t want to make enemies, we don’t want to be perceived as ‘that feminist crazy woman’ who over-shares and starts fights of a political nature, and probably--at least for me--most importantly, we don’t want to be wrong.
But, what are we giving up as women and citizens if we keep silent? This question has haunted me so many times over the past few years, as I’ve watched our country continue to grow more and more divided. As issues for women, homosexuals, gender-fluid individuals and minorities have become more heated and more hateful, I have felt at a loss as to how to engage without making the dynamic worse. Don’t get me wrong, I have shared my thoughts on occasion. But sharing has not made me feel better, if anything it’s made me feel worse, because inevitably that one family member or Facebook friend that doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me, gets angry and starts spewing their differing view in my social media feed, or in our conversation. I’ve blocked a number of people on my social profiles, and have stopped talking about my views in public (for the most part) because it’s just too hard to deal with the wrath, and anxiety that has a stranglehold on our country.
This week I have a breakthrough. It came from two things that I saw occur on social media--forgive me, but it is my best point of reference right now. Mostly because we have all stopped having in-person political conversations--for the sake of the dinner table vibe--and have resorted to yelling at each other online--from behind the safety of our computer screen. But what if we were all to agree to save the discussion of these issues for in-person conversations? I’ll unwrap this thought more later.
Here’s what happened that made me realize the importance of NOT staying silent.
First, I shared an article on Facebook from Time Magazine titled, The Kavanaugh Hearing Showed Why The Myth Of Nice Girls And Tough Guys Persists. I thought this was a relatively safe share. It didn’t push forward an argument for not confirming him, or for confirming him. I hoped to make people think and feel something. On the inside, what I really wanted to say to his supporters in government and beyond is, “Are you effing kidding me? We’re really going to allow this guy, who obviously shows a propensity to lie and misbehave--ask any of his former classmates--into the Supreme Court? Are we all okay with this? What is happening?!” But I didn’t want to be ‘that woman’ so I shared my ‘safe’ article. A sh*t storm ensued with one woman bashing anyone who doesn’t support Kavanaugh, and individuals who didn't want to see him confirmed battling it out in my Facebook feed. Basically, I failed at being a low-key politically-savvy woman. And I also realized that I hadn’t even shared the feelings and passion I really feel for the situation. Being a woman who has been sexually harassed--many times--and has witnessed many of my women friends and family members suffer through situations that are more disturbing than I can bear to share, for no other reason than because, well, we’re women, I feel extremely passionate about wanting to foster and support political figures who DO NOT have a history of mistreating or abusing women. That’s what I wanted to say, but I didn’t.
The second thing that happened was that I started seeing an image circulate that showed how many people change their political views because of something shared on social media--I’ve saved you the guesswork. The picture is to the left. As you can see, it shows that no one changes their political standing because of things shared on Facebook. The chart isn't backed by any research--although I think we can all agree that most people don’t change their beliefs because of an ‘angry,’ and I put that in quotes on purpose, social media post. But does that mean we should stay silent? What does that mean? I couldn’t figure out why the graph and the underlying joke got under my skin so much. But it did. It was almost like the dinner guest who nonchalantly reminds the two guests in a heated conversation that "no one wants to hear about politics at the dinner table." And maybe the dinner table, or someone’s social media feed isn’t the place to have a political debate, but in the end, it is a place to voice your opinion and beliefs, and without our beliefs and moral compass, what are we? We have all become incredibly apathetic and afraid of each other, in my opinion. We want what we want in this country, but we don’t want to have to fight for it. Well, I fundamentally disagree with this premise. If we don’t fight, we will lose. So, I’m officially calling all women (and men)--whatever your political standing or beliefs--to fight for what you think is right, fair and moral. BUT, let’s discuss some very clear ground rules first.
DO Your Research:
In the era of fake news, other countries meddling in our elections, and many misinformed opinions, it’s critical that if you are going to make a case for your beliefs, political standing, or a particular issue, you need to do your research first. Nothing is worse than seeing a social media post or getting into a conversation with someone about a politically-charged topic and realizing that either their information is false, or grossly misinformed. Don’t do it. Check your facts and source before you take a stand.
Ultimately we all have differing opinions and passions. You may agree with 90% of what your best friend or husband believes, and then that feisty little 10% that you disagree on end up getting you into the biggest arguments. Am I right? But I bet you forgive your husband after a disagreement like this, and probably still go to coffee with your BFF. I’d love to break this insane belief that we all need to be on the same page. It’s okay not to agree! It’s okay to discuss your differing views, too. This is how all of us can learn and grow to be more informed, better citizens and people. But we can only benefit if we share AND listen. That said, please for the love of God, be kind when you are sharing your beliefs. This concept also greatly affects the physical, emotional and mental criticism of others. When I see someone share something derogatory about Melania Trump or Ivanka's appearance, or slam Trump's hair, I can't help but feel that this practice is hurting us all. Read more about how 'slamming' Melania's appearance is hurting the #MeToo movement here. I fundamentally disagree with the President’s beliefs, policies and overall demeanor, but I do not want to propagate the ideology that cheap shots are the same as sound political positions. Don’t let yourself fall victim to insulting someone’s appearance, speech, weight, gender (yes, women, I’m looking at you--men aren’t out to get you just because they are men). It’s not going to prove your point, or encourage healthy political debate.
We all disagree. I know, I know, many of the issues on the line today are deep-rooted and hard to take an unbiased position toward, and I’m not saying you should. But, think of the last time you got into a disagreement with your friend over who sang “that song from the 80s,” or got heated in a work meeting because your strategy was being questioned. I’m guessing, you all went back to work or like to get your sh*t done after, and hopefully, didn’t hold a grudge. Embracing the fact that other people feel just as passionately about their ideologies, political beliefs, and moral values as you do will set you up better to share your opinions with them, and maybe even find a bridge between your two viewpoints, instead of causing a war of words. Again, I get it; how can you be civil with someone who wants to see Kavanaugh confirmed, when you feel in the depths of your soul that he should not be? I think the key here is knowing that the other person is not trying to wrong you, they are just taking in the same information and based on their beliefs, background and past experience, they’re coming up with another desired outcome.
PLEASE KNOW: I am not, in any way, suggesting that you should embrace the beliefs of someone who is racist, aggressively sexist, or in any way propagating hate. Just that we try to be compassionate in our disagreements.
Get Thicker Skin:
Yes, I do think most of us need to get a little thinker political skin. It’s worth noting that to hear opposing opinions to your own, honestly take in the information you are hearing, process it, and benefit from that perspective, you need first to be willing to listen to an opposing opinion to your own. In other words, get a thicker skin. If someone doesn’t agree with your political viewpoint, that doesn’t make them a bad person, or wrong. It just means, as I mentioned before, that they processed the same information as you and came up with a different belief. As long as the person is being respectful of you as a person, why is it wrong to hear them out? Read this article on how diversity makes us smarter, for more scientific insight on this concept. Again, this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for you or anyone else to be abusive in their communication. Just that if you both are in a heated debate, it stays civil and productive.
Don’t Give Up:
There will be times when you want to give up, stop watching the news, move to another country, and never engage in a political debate, invest in a political concept, person or thought again! Don’t give up! We need engaged citizens in our country to be able to function. We need your passion to keep our leaders in check. And we women, need to support each other in our beliefs so that we can affect positive change. Please, please, keep fighting for what you believe in. I’m a big believer in the peaceful protest. It’s one of the best ways you can participate in something larger than ourselves, encourage change and find camaraderie.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” - Elie Wiesel
The Skimm, one of my favorite news recap sources, has been running a #NoExcuses campaign to get out the vote in our upcoming midterm elections. You can find out more on their dedicated webpage, here. But the gist of it is this. If you don’t get out and vote, you’re giving up one of the most significant ways you can create change in our county. You may think your vote is pointless. You may not like your choices for candidates on the ballot. Those are just flimsy excuses. Whatever your hang-up, get over it. Without your voice and your vote, we can’t keep growing as a nation.
You can register here. And, thank you for taking the time to read my perspective on the current political state we find ourselves in. Let’s continue to be passionate about our beliefs, and willing to have a conversation about them--together.