For young women raised in Christian families, modesty and passivity is a virtue. (Cue angry feminist rant.) I was raised by women who didn't really follow this pattern. Family dinners were often political arguments between both aunts and uncles. I remember being a loud and obnoxious kid who spoke confidently about things I didn't understand and swore long before my other friends. Most people would argue that I haven't changed a bit.
It wasn't until high school that I became self-conscious about my outspokenness. I saw the girls in my grade who were quieter and sweeter. Guys weren't afraid to approach them. So I naturally imitated their behavior. I became wishy washy and more concerned about what guys thought of me and what I looked like. I always asked what they wanted to do. I would eat a tiny bit in front of them only to stuff my face with 100 calorie snacks when I got home. I was so infuriatingly quiet and on the fence about everything.
Eventually I got sick of hiding my frustration with myself and the world. I realized that the illusion of me being a passive and sweet woman was just flat untrue. I always had guy friends in high school, and I would frequently get shut down or laughed at for saying something too blunt or "unfeminine." Once I got to college, I became friends with a lot of like-minded women who actually listened and contributed to conversations about being a woman or about how femininity gets defined in our society.
This past year I realized that my closest friends are in fact women. Or men who identify as feminists, which is great too. Nothing I say in front of my friends is ever too shocking or personal. If I say something that's offensive to a group of people they call me out on it, and I appreciate that.
When I come home for breaks or find myself in a new community, I always have to decide if I'm going to censor myself or interject when people say offensive things. The ability to choose whether or not I want to be disruptive is a privilege. I can turn a blind eye and get along easily without experiencing the judgement of others. I can smile and hold my more radical views imprisoned behind my teeth.
However, if things are actually going to change in this world, I'm going to have to get over myself and risk other's opinions of me. Silence from the advantaged only harms the marginalized. So I am not going to shy away from inflammatory questions about my liberal coffee mug stickers.
I'm sick of being admired for what I don't do. Being called "elegant", "classy", and "sweet" only makes me think that I am being recognized for the qualities people want to see in women. Why do women get called bitchy and pushy for speaking our minds? It makes me sick that silence is rewarded because it just encourages everyone to stay out of way of injustice.