We live in a culture (English-speaking, Western) that encourages hiding our true opinions and never voicing them. This message is pushed on women aggressively, but also on men. We are bombarded by messages such as “It’s better to say nothing than to cause a fuss.”
“Don’t speak ill of the dead, no matter who they are.”
“Don’t rock the boat.”
“Don’t talk about [insert terrible thing that has happened to you] or your reputation will be ruined.”
“Gossip is bad.”
“If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.”
“Silence is golden.”
There has been some push-back to this, some attempt to encourage people to speak up, be heard, share your opinion! Especially online, where blogs (which are basically a vehicle for individual opinions on things to be read by anyone) are a pretty big thing. But even here, in our pixellated world of words and images there is an undercurrent of the message of silence. In writer circles, we are encouraged to speak no ill of any other writer, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. The comment sections of videos, blogs, even unmoderated/lightly moderated forums all sport vitriolic messages to the creator that their opinion, good or bad and regardless of subject, is not wanted.
Honestly, it can be a bit difficult to overcome this message of Shut Up. I’ve blogged before about trying to stop silencing myself on subjects I care about. I’ve certainly made progress in the 3 years since I wrote that post, both online and off. But I still internalize the message. I still second-guess myself, and type up posts or comments which never get posted out of a fear of being told to Sit Down and Shut Up. Sometimes, those never-posted comments, tweets and posts deserve to never see the light of day. But too often, they’re heartfelt opinions that I’ve stifled when I should have shouted them.
As I said, there’s been push-back against this subtle Silencing. People who refuse to Sit Down and Shut Up online or off, no matter how often they’re told to do so. People who should into the void regardless if anyone is listening, because they refuse to let their opinions and beliefs languish in Silence. But too many of us internalize the Silence and keep quiet.
The world needs healthy debate, not silencing, in order to become a better place. It needs passionate, thoughtful people to voice their thoughts and opinions so others might hear and read them. Ultimately, Silence is the enemy of Progress.