“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hmmm, so yesterday was a pretty heated day for me. How about all of you? I think what actually bothered me more than all the hate, ignorance, and degrading comments on that page, is how many other people must have seen it and not said or done anything about it. While I understand that sometimes standing up for what is right can be a rather sticky and unpleasant business, doesn’t it leave you feeling lighter than just standing by and witnessing a gross act of injustice?
Now I am by no means claiming to be perfect. Anyone who reads this blog know better! However, I am never going to be the type of person to not speak up (ever again!) I spent far too long being too polite to stick up for myself, let alone other people. It was something I needed to change to grow as a person, and it’s something our culture needs to change as well.
Unfortunately, I feel like the individuals of this society have been so conditioned to mind their own business and not get involved that even when something completely damaging and malicious is occurring right in front of them, they still don’t act.
The misconception is that unless someone is degrading us personally, that it is really none of our business. Well, I for one, would like to call bull$h*t on that point. IT IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS. Let me explain why.
Those people who were ganging up and publicly ridiculing a young girl were doing so in front of a lot of other people. When there is no negative feedback, they just go on to assume that they aren’t doing anything wrong. By doing nothing, you are essentially condoning their behavior- behavior that can only exist in a setting where it is condoned. In other words, if someone had spoken up when the page first started, maybe it wouldn’t have ever gotten so far. Better still, if someone had spoken up at the first derogatory comment uttered by any of the page organizers, maybe it never would have gotten to the point of being created.
We currently live in a culture where people think it is totally okay to publicly degrade and sexualize women. It’s in the media, music, all over the internet, and in everyday conversation. We are so flooded with it, that no one seems to find it offensive anymore. At what point does it become not okay? At what point do you stand up and say something?
It’s not a problem exclusive to women either. It is a problem with society in general. When did it become acceptable to insult and mistreat a person simply for not agreeing with them? Why are we as a culture so callous toward one another? How can we all want the world to be a better place, yet say nothing when someone makes a derogatory, racist, insensitive, or offensive comment? We have lost our feedback loop.
We have produced a society where individuals feel they can say and do whatever they please without fear of repercussion… and then we wonder why there is so much violence, hate, and lack of compassion. It starts with the everyday conversations. It starts with holding each other accountable. It starts with getting comfortable with (politely) telling the people around you when they behave in a way that offends you. It starts with you and me.
The best way to make an impact in this world is to start with the small things and the people around you. For example, I have a coworker who had a regular habit of referring to every person and situation that irritated him as a derogatory term for a woman or part of her anatomy. After spending an entire 13 hour shift of pointing this out to him every time he did it (and equating it to me using a insulting term for male anatomy every time I was annoyed), he finally got the message. He’s not a bad guy. He just honestly had never thought about it. Now he makes an effort not to use that kind of language (at the very least when he’s around me). If each of us said something when we heard degrading comments (not just against women, but in general), then maybe just maybe we could make an impact. I, for one, could live very happily if I made it through the rest of my days not ever again hearing the “N” word, “C” word, any other racial slur (for that matter) or another woman referred to as a b*t@h or hoe.
I know it seems like a small thing, but that is how the ripple effect works. Change the conversation and soon you’re changing the culture.
I am not sure how many of you have seen the recent commencement speech given by Admiral McRaven, but I think he has some pretty sound advice that is applicable not only to the graduating class he was addressing. Rather, I believe we all can use a reminder every now and then of how much power we have to change and shape the world we live in.
In addition to all the eloquently stated tips he offers, I’d also like to add some of my own:
Be kind. Treat those around you with compassion. You never know when yours may be the only compassion another individual sees in a day or a lifetime. You would be surprised what a long way a little caring and understanding can go in this world.
Do what you can. Don’t worry about it not being good enough. It’s about the effort and intent. So do what you can with what you have right now; and when you can do more, do more.
Lead by example. There is a lot to be said for a life well lived, so live your life well and show others how to do the same. Sometimes people just need an example. You never know who you might be inspiring.
Use your voice. So many people forget they even have a voice. Speak up! Don’t ever voluntarily give up your power. Your voice can make a difference. Use it wisely.
At the end of the day when your life is over, is it really going to matter how much is in your bank account or how impressive your resume was? To me, it seems like the most important thing would be to have made a positive impact during my time here. I’m not going to be the person to find a cure for cancer or win a Nobel Peace Prize, but at least I will know that I was kind to those I met along the way, did what I could to make the world a better place, tried my absolute best to lead a good life, and spoke up. If in the process I manage to change the way even a few people think or act then that is just an #EPIC bonus.