Feminism | Posted by Kylie V on 04/16/2014

Why We Must Speak Out

I love Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Who doesn’t love a message about overcoming fear in order to express one’s opinions?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

But why is simply expressing who we are and what we think interpreted as brave? Why is this so controversial that we have to be afraid of opposition? We live in a culture where backlash has become extremely harsh, especially when it means challenging the white middle class straight status quo. More than ever we need inspiration from brilliant thinkers like the late great Audre Lorde, who challenged us to push past the fear and voice our opinions.

Speaking out can be truly and honestly terrifying. It can hurt and put us back in our place. It can leave us vulnerable and accessible to the whims of others, who can use the opportunity of our opposition to tear us apart, either because of our opinion, or because of their own weaknesses. It can make us cry and feel shamed and like a scolded child. It can be hard and it can hurt.

And yet we still must speak. Audre Lorde reminds us that silence separates and creates boundaries that only speaking our truths can bridge. It is our responsibility then, as activists and as compassionate people, to stand up to inequalities. It may be as simple as disagreeing with what someone says or it may be as important as rallying a group together to truly and loudly oppose something. We have the right to challenge a system that puts so much pressure on us and forces us into so many contradictions. If we are pressed to see ourselves as individually responsible for upholding a system that is not necessarily meant for us or good for us, then we should be able to express our opinions about that system. We should be bold and expressive, even when there’s push back.

I have been shamed for speaking. I have been shushed for questioning. I have had people attempt to put me in my place. It is scary. It hurts. I have been embarrassed and afraid. I spoke. Then I got over it. Not all situations where we speak out will lead to the back patting, to “Good job, you exposed an inequality,” but it’s practice for another time, a time when we’ll be heard, and when it will really matter. It toughens our skin and reminds us that there’s always a next time, and when we’re pushed and shushed, we will be able to handle it better, and we will sleep at night.

As Audre Lorde’s daughter reminded her, “You’re never a whole person if you remain silent, because there is always one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.” Sometimes I will make the choice not to speak out and to avoid controversy, but not every time. I am not ready to surrender my values to that extent. Instead, I will take Bareilles as my inspiration and Audre Lorde as my muse, and I’ll continue the messy work of activism and speaking out.

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