Photo credit: 27147 via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Whenever I meet someone who is very deserving of being put in their place, I have inner battles whether I should be provoked and defend myself or some cause I believe in. I’m always torn. I don’t want to be quiet and let someone think I agree. But I don’t want to state my position and give that person the idea that they’ve managed to rattle me and that they’ve won by making me speak up.
What do you do? Do you scream and fight and make sure your point is heard and received? Or do you keep quiet, letting the unspoken words torture you and eat you from the inside out?
Whenever I am put in a situation where the person I’m communicating with is being utterly absurd and offensive in whatever way that might be and I don’t let them have it, I regret not expressing whatever is on my mind. Even if that might mean going full-on crazy.
If somebody would insult a person or be mean towards them in front of you, would you say something? I normally do. I would like to think I would always defend any wrongdoing and unfairness around or towards me. But every time I wonder whether that is even registered by the opponent. Does it do any good?
When you pass men working by the side of the road and they start shouting inappropriate comments and whistling behind you, I always wonder if I should turn around and recite them a monologue about respect, equality and manners? Or do you keep going, ignoring and pretending nothing has happened? The problem is that a scenario like this makes me feel disrespected and embarrassed. It shouldn’t. But it does.
During a conversation with someone they start using a tone you don’t quite like. What do you do? Should you make them see and retract? As a linguist it bothers me immensely when I detect an unwanted tone or an expression dripping with some negative emotion. But I wonder what it says about me, if I would be set off by every instance like this. I have been wondering whether you win by letting it go.
A few days ago, I also read a blog post where a blind person described her experience in a lingerie store. A customer and the shop assistant were having fun with her visit there, questioning what she would need it for. And the blogger was wondering whether she should have said something. Would it make a difference? Or would that feed the two persons’ nastiness and ignorance?
And an incident that happened to me on Wednesday sent my thoughts into a crazed over-drive. An adult student in my English course started discussing the American elections and tried to engage me. I told him I don’t want to talk about it, being still very disappointed and not wanting to talk about DT anymore. But of course, it would be too nice for him to stop. So he went on telling his neighbour that “Donald Trump is such a nice guy and Hillary Clinton is a crazy bitch.” I lost it. There was no yelling or upset involved. However, there was a lot of agitation. That man had been testing my patience, calmness and manners for a few years. Using defamatory and discriminatory words like n***a, fa*** etc. and being disrespectful towards women in class, he had made me have an altercation with him more than once. But the forced smile had never left my face. However, this week I had enough. No man will ever call an ambitious and strong woman a bi*** just because of her gender. And I don’t care who you like, support or even voted for in this past elections.
What does that make me? What does it mean if I want to defend what I believe in? Every. single. Time. A lunatic? A fighter? Aggressive? (Too) outspoken? Out of my place? Righteous? Fair? A believer in being nice, fair and tolerant? Brave? Stupid? Smart?
I’m just as unsure as I was before starting to write this post. Do I win if I speak up or does that make the person opposite me win? Should we fight every single battle on the way to complete uprooting of discrimination or should we pick the fights keeping in mind the war?
I might be naive. And I might be idealistic. But I will not keep my mind shut. And trust me if I let you off the hook once, I will not make the same mistake twice. I will not tolerate any injustice. Losing or winning. Being naive or brave. I would rather let a person I don’t respect think they’ve won than to let myself down by holding my tongue and having the unspoken argument devour me from the inside out.