While listening to a speaker in class today I came upon a theory. Now this is based on my own personal experience but it seems to hold true in all of my experiences. I realized that of all my friends the ones who are deathly afraid of public speaking are women, of color or queer. As I contemplated this I realized the reason for this is because the whole of our Western society is about encouraging straight white men to speak while encouraging the rest of us to be silent.
You don’t talk about rape. You don’t talk about racism. You don’t come out. Most of the “don’t talks” in our society are aimed at marginalized groups. We are encouraged to be silent not just by society but by our parents and our experiences because what does speaking do? It gets you noticed. For some of us being noticed is a terrifying moment. Being noticed can lead to rape or beatings or death. Our parents want us to keep safe so they tell us to keep our head down. Some of us do… some of us don’t. Either way some on both sides end up getting hurt so the cycle continues. We are told by society to be silent, some of us speak up and are hurt and so the lesson is reinforced. Be Silent.
The only problem is that as Audre Lorde said “Your Silence will not protect you.” and it’s true. Those of us that keep silent are just as easily hurt as those of us who speak up so really what safety does silence afford.