Once, I was with my older brother and a couple of his friends. One of them was talking about this girl that he had an on/off relationship with. Apparently, it was one of those “off” times, and he went on and on about how she was “so annoying”, one of those “tumblr girls” who wears flower crowns and posts snapchat selfies with the puppy dog filter. He never really talked about their relationship, just how “basic” and “superficial” she was based off her social media preferences. He was bashing on her really hard, and it actually was making me angry, even though I didn’t know this girl at all. I wanted to say something–I should have said something, changed the subject, anything–but I didn’t.
It’s been more than a year since that night, but I still feel guilty for my silence. At first, I tried to justify it in someway. I told myself that since he wasn’t making gross comments about her body or anything, it wasn’t really my place to speak up. Since he wasn’t actually saying anything directly to her, I would be out of line to say anything. When that didn’t work, I told myself that I was just too awkward to say anything to this guy I barely knew, and that it wasn’t my fault. I was just shy, and that was all. But while I did feel an incredible amount of social awkwardness that night (for various reasons), it still didn’t seem like a valid excuse.
Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s been a while since it happened, but I’m now more able to sit with the guilt I feel over what happened, and understand it a little better. I think the reason why I said nothing was because I was afraid of my brother’s friends turning on me, or dismissing me as the petulant little sister. I didn’t want to be perceived as haughty or holier-than-thou. And if I had a legitimate reason for why I didn’t say anything, then why did I feel guilty the moment I decided to say nothing and hope he finished his rant quickly? I chose to not stand up for my values, which include standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves. And really, now that I think about it, I do this all the time without even realizing. When someone in my family makes a comment I know is homophobic, sexist, racist, you name it, I don’t want to start trouble, so I say nothing. And maybe I don’t even necessarily have to call them on the carpet about it, maybe I could just say what I think about the topic, just to give them another perspective, but I say nothing. I am afraid, so I say nothing.
I don’t want to hold my tongue anymore, just so I don’t “rock the boat”. I want to speak up when I see something wrong. I will speak up.
Thanks for reading.