I’m the worst at debates. I literally walk away from confrontation. But one day, I found myself in the middle of a discussion on sexism and I had a personal perspective to give.
Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that the discussion wasn’t about learning at all, but about what dramatic remarks and sexist jokes would purposely inflame the other side.
And I was stuck between wanting to contribute with a meaningful comment, and being taken for a fool.
In all fairness, I don’t think this was anyone’s cruel intention. But I walked away wondering, just why did the discussion go sour?
Maybe issues like sexism make us feel uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t all agree on the same points. Or maybe we’re afraid that what we’re thinking in our heads will reveal us as horribly ignorant monsters.
All I wanted to do was share how I felt about the unfair portrayal of men and women in the media. I wanted to talk about how we grow up in a system that promotes impossible standards for the ideal man and woman, of which the latter have had to overcome an incredibly derisive impact.
I felt strong and confident in my perspective. And yet, I doubt anyone was listening to a word I said.
Instead, they noticed the passionate look in my eyes, heard the edge to my voice, saw the flush in my cheeks. And here’s one that will haunt me forever: the way I smacked one hand against another to emphasize my point.
They remembered the way I performed.
And that was what left me the most wounded of all.
In a discussion about sexism, one of the lasting elements was not the words I said, but the way that I said them.
I was just being wound up, so they could watch me dance.
I don’t know how to fight that, besides closing my mouth and keeping my head down. And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve wrestled with how to react when a touchy subject comes up in a room that can go from seriousness to laughter, based on how someone voices their opinion.
I’m still trying to figure this out. But here is what those closest to me have said as I struggled through this.
If I ever feel I would be better off just keeping my mouth shut, the problem is with the people in the room, and not me.
And if this is an issue that I’m very passionate about, no one should be able to take that away from me.
I’m still working on believing these things for myself.