I’m pretty outspoken, saying what I think, telling people I don’t agree, and reasoning why there’s a different way of thinking. Just over the weekend I told a sales assistant who was glued to his phone while serving my Mum at the market that serving her is just as important as his phone call. Since I’ve been blogging here and using social media, I’ve been more vocal than ever in speaking up about the things that matter. These aren’t just the things that matter to me, but the things that matter for equality, kindness, harmony and empathy.
Last week a friend made ableist remark on Facebook (no offence intended, of course). Another friend made a racist remark about women wearing burkas (or balaclavas, as they said). I called them both out on it, publicly. My responses were “wow” to the ableist remark, and “If you’re referring to a burka, then it’s not a balaclava. It’s cultural dress. The woman probably isn’t going to go skiing nor rob a bank. How lucky we are to have freedom to express and uphold our culture through our dress, without being discriminated against.” (And then I saw a meme saying “counting peoples’ sins doesn’t make you a saint” – oh the irony!)
It got me thinking. Does calling out prejudice – like ableism, racism and homophobia make you seem superior or easily offended, or strong? Is it a way to influence people or lose friends?
As an activist, I constantly think about people see me as a victim or over sensitive for speaking up or blogging about ableism or discrimination issues. I wonder if people think I’m a whinger or the fun police? Am I a busy-body when I comment on things that aren’t directed at me? Am I a sanctimonious bore? And then it’s tiring having to explain why something is discriminatory or offensive when a person says “but language evolves, it’s ok to use retard”, or “I wasn’t intending to offend”. Or even having an opinion based on experience rather than viewing a program out of choice. I can no longer count the amount of arguments I’ve had due to my stance on Embarrassing Bodies. I have an opinion on it – based on my own experience and observations of how others react – but I won’t watch it. And I think that’s ok.
Some friends constantly advocate on social media for equality. Like, more than I do. They share articles, photos, rants and blogs. They’re forever battling with peoples’ prejudice beliefs – reasoning, providing evidence and experience and sometimes blocking. I wonder if they’re tired?
I recently prefaced a conversation with ‘I made international news for speaking up about discrimination, but I’m not a victim’. This was because I was involved in what became a heated discussion about discrimination towards people with disabilities by taxi drivers and someone suggested that there is a lot of victim playing happening. I added that while lots of things are said to me about how I look on a daily basis, I don’t write about all of them. I don’t apply the word discrimination lightly in my own circumstances.
I don’t want to remain quiet when I see injustice. If something discriminatory happens to me or someone I know, I’m going to speak up about it. It’s cathartic, raises awareness and creates results if I speak up on social media (I have had a difficult time getting what I need on my upcoming flights – even speaking to someone in the special handling departments has been doffiuclt, and social media seems the only way I get results.) It’s standing up for what’s right.
And there’s this.
There are standards I won’t accept. I will say something if a friend is racist. I will say something if the R word is used. I will politely speak up if it’s a friend, family member, colleague, relative or, if it’s safe to do so, a stranger. I will raise awareness about things that matter to reduce discrimination.
I do wonder (not worry) about what people think of me when I advocate for equality, call out prejudice or openly make a complaint about discrimination. But then I remember, it is making a difference in some way. It’s showing strength and integrity.
And it might even lead to people talking about my activism.
(Julie McKay who is the director of UN Women Australia told me: “Carly – we are at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in NY. It’s the UN’s policy forum on gender issues. Your blog/ work was mentioned in a side event on media/ access to information. Really global!”)
It’s easier not to speak up on occasion. Reasoning can be tiring. But I’d always wish I had have said something in hindsight.
Do you speak up against injustice? How do people react? Is there a time you wish you hadn’t?