It's so easy to tell someone to shut up, to write their opinion off as invalid just because it is different from your own. I quickly learned that just because something is easy, doesn't mean it's right. I used to have problems with writing people off when they disagreed with me, but I have worked hard to overcome this and make sure that my own views on subjects are as strong as possible by hearing all sides of the argument.
For other people, though, listening seems to be a very large, nearly insurmountable challenge. Especially when they know they are talking to an outspoken feminist. This has happened both in my real life and my time spent as a feminist blogger. I didn't really realize how readily people will tune you out and try to shut you up, though, until last night.
I wasn't prepared for what happened to me. A young woman I am very close to hurt me, using the same tactics that anonymous trolls have used on this blog. It started with me stating my opinion on a tattoo that she wanted to get. Swiftly, her boyfriend swooped in and (to give a very much abbreviated version of what happened), told me I was wrong and that she could do whatever she wanted. He said several times that I supposedly think I am better than people because I think I'm smarter than everyone. He finished with a hearty, shut the fuck up no one gives a shit what you think about this, or anything else.
He wasn't listening to me as I tried to explain why I felt the way I did about things. Instead, he swore at me, changed the topic to something completely unrelated to try to discredit my character, and tried to silence me by telling me that no one cared about my opinion. The young woman saw this happen, and when I got a moment alone with her, I told her that what her boyfriend had done was not right and that it hurt me deeply. I told her that silencing me and insulting me was not acceptable on his part. She didn't acknowledge my feelings and justified his actions by saying, "He was standing up for me!" I tried once more to get her to acknowledge that the way her boyfriend had behaved was wrong. I had handled myself civilly. It's possible to steer clear of personal attacks and silencing techniques, but he had chosen to use them. She still refused to acknowledge my feelings or that he was wrong, and told me that my opinion means nothing to anyone other than myself, implying that I should just keep my thoughts and ideas to myself.
And this all ties into blogging because the theme of me being overly opinionated ran throughout the whole awful ordeal. The young woman asked me, as soon as I stated my displeasure with her idea, why I have to be so opinionated all the time. She soon showed that she associates me having opinions and being unafraid of telling and standing behind them with me acting like I'm better than people. She made it clear that she feels that because I have a blog, I must think I'm smarter than most people.
This blew my mind. Because I don't always agree with people, and because I will not tolerate being called names and being silenced merely for disagreeing, somehow that makes me the one with the superiority complex? Because I take the time to make sure my discussions are as civil as possible, I am the one with the problem?
I get accused of this a lot in comments on this blog, too. When someone leaves a comment that insults someone and it doesn't make it through moderation, a wave of comments comes in from the same reader saying things along the lines of, "Oh you think you're so smart, so much better than everyone. That's why you won't post my comment! You obviously think that you're never wrong!" But trust me, hearing those sentiments hurts a lot more when it comes from someone you're close to.
And even while I was being told that by blogging and having opinions, I am acting like I am better than other people, I was thinking. The idea of women's voices can be so very troubling to people, especially when those voices are challenging or critical of, well, anything. It's much easier to tell women who are criticizing gender roles, tattoo ideas, or the Patriarchy to shut the fuck up than to acknowledge that their opinions are valid. The picture on the left is me speaking at my second open mic at Take Back The Night at Knox College. I was discussing some unpublished blog comments that had attempted to get me to stop talking because what I was saying just wasn't important.
I will not shut up. I will not accept that my opinions only matter to myself. My power comes from my voice, and my unwavering committment to use it. If what I say doesn't please you, I don't care. You can disagree with me without silencing me. And I will not be silenced.