Repeat after me:


“This is not ok”

“This is unacceptable.” 

You don’t have to scream it — though you might do just that–but your voice needs to be stern). Say it like you mean it.
Now say it again. And start practicing it everyday.

I tell you this because the first thing that deserts you in a confrontation is your voice. When someone is harassing you or berating you in front of others, you tend to shut down even as your blood pressure rises and your hands shake and your breath comes fast and shallow. You will find that the fast-rising rage is an insufficient enabler in helping you fight back because you’ve never counted on the heaviness and immobilizing force of the shame and embarrassment that overcomes you in these moments.

Yesterday, my International Political Economy professor started yelling at me in class.
Him: spends 30 min trying to explain to us how “identity” factors affect people’s economic choices. Uses the women’s march as an example. Says: you know they didn’t really have a purpose or a point for marching. Tries to link this to verification of our identities as women. Says things like: it was for FB likes and they just put in pussy hats and showed up with no purpose etc 

Me: the Women’s March has a published platform with stated purpose and desires.
Him: no, not really. They just have a bunch of stuff but they’re not focusing on one thing.

Other female student: it literally says it in one sentence (reads sentence out loud).

Him: still in denial continues to dismiss what we are saying 

Me: maybe you should read the platform.
Him: (raises voice) and maybe YOU should assume that I DID read it.

Me: If you had read it, i don’t think you could make an argument that there wasn’t a purpose.

Him: loses his shit and goes ballistic with yelling YOU NEED TO BACK OFF AND JUST STAND DOWN!!! continues yelling.

This took place in my master’s class at Troy University yesterday, There were only four of us in the class (all military students). And even though I knew that I was right about what I’d said and right about challenging him, the shame and embarrassment still descended. Because someone screaming at you in public while other people look on feels very much like *you* are the problem and the cause of all of this unleashed emotion. Likewise, the hesitancy to “talk back” to “authority” figured is engrained in almost all of us. And thus shutting down is often the response to this type of behavior.
My reply was:


“This is not ok”

“This is unacceptable.”

It’s a script you see. I have this script because this scene, where a man (always a man) is berating me in public, has played out every year of my life since I was 19. And so I am intimately familiar with how such situations work to shut you down. 

Which is why you’ve got to practice before you get into such situations. Which is why I’m always asking about your praxis or what you will do in these situations. Which is why you’ve got to have a script ready and know what you’re going to say –for when it happens to you or in front of you. Words will fail you. I cannot stress that enough.

I loathe these situations, but I share them because strength and fortitude and “doing the right thing” aren’t a given. I don’t always speak out when I should because I’m scared and I don’t want conflict and I need a job just like everyone else. But Praxis is required to do this. So is trial and error. My hands still shake, my heartbeat goes awry, and my voice quavers despite my years of experience with this very thing. Speaking up is costly and difficult EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. But you’ll never do it if you don’t start now. 

So repeat after me:

“This is not ok”

“This is unacceptable.”

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