• meredith fay

Why We Stay Silent

I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently with women who are eager to use their voice and privilege to speak out against oppression and injustice, but are not doing so because they’re afraid of getting it wrong or not striking the right tone.

I get it. I’ve been in that headspace, too. Of course it’s important to be thoughtful and aware of our blind spots. But maybe that’s not the deeper reason we’re not speaking up.

Maybe the real reason is that we’ve been socialized to preserve the status quo at all costs.

We (especially women, but others too) are trained from an early age to swallow our perspectives, our voices, our needs, our power in order to please others and keep the system humming along smoothly. The constant message that we’re not qualified enough is an incredibly effective way to ensure self-censorship that, if lifted, might topple the entire game.

We’ve been subtly, systematically told that speaking out is a risk to ourselves. Really, it’s a risk to many of the institutions and traditions who have a vested interest in our acquiescence. We must be crystal clear on whose agenda we really want to serve.

Whose safety is actually ensured by our silence? Not our own, and certainly not the communities bearing the injustice that inspires our muted fury.

Many of us struggle to quiet our self-censor for our own sakes because it feels self-indulgent and vulnerable to do so. Perhaps this moment is an opportunity to quiet our self-censor for the sake of others, and harness our deeply-felt empathy and outrage into disruptive action instead of internalized anguish and self-flagellation over whether we're doing it "right."

We don’t have to have the perfect words or have it all figured out. It’s self righteous to imagine we could. We do, however, have to get very clear on what it is we’re actually trying to preserve.