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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » Speaking Up

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Author Topic: Speaking Up
treetops
Activist
Member # 44381

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Hi, wasn't sure where best to put this topic, but anyway.

Recently I've been feeling really down about people making offensive comments in my presence (the ones I've been aware of recently have been sexist and homophobic, specifically). The thing is that I hardly ever feel confident enough to challenge them or call them out, which leads to me feeling even worse. Or sometimes it just doesn't seem like a good moment to do so.

For example, the other day my housemate made a comment to someone within my earshot about how gay people were probably more likely to rape because they were 'crazier', but I wasn't in the conversation (I was in the adjoining room, doing something else) and by the time I'd finished doing a double-take, the conversation had moved on.
And today, I was at a choir rehearsal when the musical director made a comment about a song being 'really gay' (in a negative way) when addressing the whole choir, and I didn't feel I could speak up.

It's getting so that I am really angry and upset with myself for not saying anything, and I end up feeling unsafe/uncomfortable in the situation and feeling like it's my fault for not challenging it.

If anyone has any advice on how to call things out, or any thoughts/experiences to share, that would be great. I'm really upset with myself at the moment and am staying in my room because I feel safe here, and at the moment there aren't that many other spaces where I do feel safe.

(nb. I'm aware that I am lucky not to face worse discrimination/attitudes, and that in some parts of the world/situations it would be a lot worse than I'm describing.)

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Just a quick check-in first: with the homophobic comments, are you LGBQ? If so, are you out, and/or comfortable being out in responding to comments like these?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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treetops
Activist
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Yes, I'm queer. I'm out to some people, I don't intentionally conceal my sexuality (it's on my FB profile, for example) but there are people I know who aren't aware.

I'm not sure if I'd be comfy being out in responding to this kind of comment; it would probably depend on the context and how safe I felt. Frankly, though, I look kind of dykey so I reckon some people would assume I was queer anyway.

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Heather
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Okay.

Obviously, how safe you feel being out to someone in these situations is going to influence how you respond. Ideally, I think when we've been very personally insulted, it's most powerful to make clear that it's personal for us, since that tends to have the most impact. So, if and when you can do that, I'd advise you do. But if you don't feel safe, it's not usually worth putting your safety at risk.

You CAN always revisit a comment someone made once the conversation has moved on. There's no rule that says we only have X minutes or seconds to call an -ism out, after all. It's always relevant, and sometimes you might even need a few minutes to collect your own thoughts first.

With the situation in class, again, this will depend on your comfort, but I' advise talking privately to the prof first. They will probably respond better, and might even -- especially if you ask them to -- make a retraction to the whole class later.

Sometimes with things like this about people feeling safe, I feel like I'm not the best person to ask, since, as an activist, growing up activist, it's kind of been my job and my practice to take big risks in speaking out. Some of us are up to that and feel able to do that: some of us don't, and there's no right or wrong in this, because we're not all the same.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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treetops
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Thanks, Heather.

Part of my problem here is that I *am* an activist, in other areas, and do speak out about stuff, but in *these* instances I often feel unable to speak, which is not in keeping with how I see myself and how I'd like to be.

With the choir situation, it is student-run and I suspect if I spoke to the director he would be very dismissive, based on how he has acted so far.

I will try to be more out and respond to these things more.

Part of the problem is when someone says something offhand, like a jokey generalisation about women being [insert stereotype here], or a vaguely rape-related joke, I don't know how to respond to/challenge it, especially in a group situation. I don't know whether to respond in a similarly jokey fashion or just say I find something offensive, or speak to them afterwards, or what. I am not great at social interaction at the best of times, tbh.

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Heather
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I'm not a fan of making a joke back. The whole reason you want to say something is that what was said was not funny -- or likely earnestly jokey -- so if you joke back, that undermines the point of calling it out.

A call-out response can be as simple as "It really bothers me to hear you say that, and I'm really uncomfortable with it," or "I really don't think that's funny, I think it's offensive or whatever-ist." Or it can be as complex as asking the person who said something to have a conversation with you of some depth about what they said and why you're not okay with it.

I have always liked the wonderful slogan, "Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes." I don't know about you, but my voice often shakes when something big is on the line. A lot of the times I have called folks out, my voice is shaking. But I just keep trying to do it anyway, accepting the shaking, accepting even getting the responses or non-responses I really didn't want, or hoped would be better. None of us are responsible for singlehandedly changing anyone's minds or making them think differently. Rather, we're all just adding our own drops to the bucket, and the more of us who do that, the more often the buckets will overflow and help create those changes.

Another trick I have with this is to think of myself as speaking not just for myself, but for someone else much more vulnerable than me, or with less privilege or rights than me. That tends to help me get my courage up and keep it up.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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treetops
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Thanks, that makes a lot of sense.

A lot of times, people saying milder/jokier things are people in my social circle that I otherwise like OK and get on with, and sometimes where I know that they are saying something out of ignorance or without having realised it could be/is offensive. For some reason that makes it more difficult to call stuff out, if I know they didn't mean it; part of me feels like I shouldn't make a fuss over it (but a bigger part of me disagrees).

And sometimes it's something very nebulous, like talking about women in a sexualised way and not doing the same with men. It's hard to even articulate what bothers me sometimes.
Some of the social circles I am in are predominantly male (often I'm the only female-bodied person there, and sometimes the only queer one) and it can get so that I feel uncomfy and isolated sometimes, even when, as I say, the people there are mostly people I like (or don't dislike). And I don't find it particularly easy to make good friends, so when I get on with people, I am very nervous about doing/saying things which are socially discordant.

Not to make excuses for my not speaking out; I know that it doesn't make it OK for me to be silent.

Urgh, sorry to go on about this, I'm just finding it very distressing at the moment.

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Heather
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I'm sorry you're feeling so upset. Is it the comments that are making you feel that way, or your sense of self in not rresponding to them in the way you want to or feel you ought to?

One thing I want to make clear is to bear in mind that calling people out to help them get past ignorance or bias is not a bad thing to do, or something you'd be doing with bad motives. It's effectively a reminder/invitation for those folks to kind of get to their higher selves, to be the good people I presume you think or know them to otherwise be. Friends also call friends out sometimes: it's part of friendship, because it's part of helping each other grow.

Can I say it also sounds like you might want to expand your social circles some so that you're more often surrounded by people who'd NOT make sexist or homophobic jokes and who would be supportive/on board with not being that way?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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treetops
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I think it's both. It just seems to be everywhere, in many different social groups/situations. I am in a couple of feminist groups, which is good, but I don't really want to give up my other activities just because I feel bad about some stuff that some people say. It just feels so universal sometimes that I get very down about it.

I'm going to try and get some sleep now, but I might post again in the morning if that's OK.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I understand, I do. Take care of yourself tonight, but for sure, glad to keep talking with you about this as you like. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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treetops
Activist
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Bumping this up because I'm feeling really down about this all again. Someone has posted an offhand jokey comment on a site I frequent, and it's something that has made me quite uncomfortable (although it's clear that it was made as a joke). It's hard to know the exact intention behind it, so I kind of want to post a fairly mild reply pointing out that it could be read as rude/offensive etc. But I am so scared to do it, I am actually shaking. (I do know this person vaguely in real life as well, and we have mutual friends.) I think I really would like some encouragement that it is OK to do this, and that I am not being silly. I guess I feel like whatever this person's intention was, I felt uncomfy and so it is valid to say so. Yet I am worried about their and others' reaction.
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eryn_smiles
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Hi treetops [Smile] . I think that it's absolutely ok and important to call out a comment that makes you feel uncomfortable. And that it can be done in a kind way which doesn't make the other person defensive. Having said that, I can definitely also relate to feeling unsafe and scared to do so. Do you know anyone on that site who might support you in your reply?

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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