“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou
On any given day, I have a finite amount of energy to spend on myself, my friends and family and my job. Every encounter, every action and every choice saps that energy a bit. Of course that energy can also be replenished by those things, but that definitely happens less frequently. Membership in any and all groups imposes both costs and benefits. The unchanging reality of my life is that I’m female. However, I’m also heterosexual and white. I’m independent, but I married someone who saw that as an asset in the beginning. I’m also childfree by choice and an avowed egalitarian and feminist. Less willingly, I’m single, divorced and over 55 years of age. I often describe myself as knowing something about everything without being an expert on anything.
Given all that, I’m amazed at how unaware and conformist I was for much of my life. I want to control my own life, but I’m not worried about controlling others without much direct impact on it. And I’ve come to understand that control is really an illusion and my reaction is all I can really control. (Of course, I forget from time to time.) I can plan for the future, but the future is ALWAYS changing.
Having said all that, what I’m really thinking about is the need to apply “see something, say something, do something” all day every day. Failure to point out a bias, condones that bias. This doesn’t just pertain to #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter or whatever the latest cause for outrage or to the loudest protest or social movement.
Every person has to decide who they are and what they believe FOR THEMSELVES. Listening to the loudest voice or the messages backed by the most money and accepting that as “truth” is irresponsible and repugnant. Worse, it enables those people and those messages. Going along to get along is NOT moral or ethical or responsible. It isn’t be admired or shrugged off. Success under those circumstances (whether you are the shouter, the amplifier or the listener) is NOT admirable.
For me, this means noticing when I cut off someone who’s speaking, especially if that’s another woman. I’ve been socialized under the same circumstances that normalized this. It means noticing when other people do it and stopping myself and telling them.
I also pay attention to thoughts that judge others and myself. Most of the time they are negative and related to height/weight, physical appearance, situational appropriateness and conversational skills. People who refuse to be objective and apply logic are my biggest trigger. People who are too lazy to verify the truth of their comments and beliefs … to apply REASON … repulse me. Yet I do that too. I do it less, but it happens.
Finally, it means I question myself and ask everyone around me to do the same. When I see something, I say something. When I can, I do something. Tradition, convenience and inertia are just camouflage. My three biggest heroes are Amy Goodman (who makes me want to go out into the world and make it a better place), Jane Goodall (who is completely serene in the face of resistance, discord and disaster) and Colin Kaepernick (an imperfect person in an imperfect world who risked his career and livelihood for his beliefs). There are more since I broadened my world view and examined my own biases. And I hope there will be many more.
So, if you see something, say something. To the best of your ability, do something even if its small. And I’ll keep trying to do the same.