An experiment in confrontation

Who are people more likely to listen to: someone who confronts everyone about everything or someone who doesn’t confront anyone at all? There is a complicated balance to be found between putting your foot down too often over things that don’t really matter and becoming the human version of a doormat. I have recently been attempting to toe this line. When you’re a quiet person who is extremely easily panicked, confrontation and actually standing up for yourself becomes very hard. In my 16 years of life, I have managed to get into only a handful of arguments (not including family) but I wouldn’t say that I have been angry and irritated by people any less than someone who argues with one person a day, I just internalise a lot more.

Rather egotistically, I used to see it as this great strength because I thought I was this peaceful person who loved everything and never upset anyone but really I was just someone who had become so used to walking on eggshells that they didn’t even notice they were there anymore. I wasn’t any more peaceful than anyone else and it didn’t mean anyone liked me any more for it, I put up with a lot from people in school that I shouldn’t have, I stood by while those same people upset others in ways they shouldn’t have and my ‘peace-loving’-self did nothing about it. But then, on the other hand, I had friends who would pick a fight over anything, who couldn’t help but get involved and would sometimes throw in irrelevant things to an argument.  For example, there was a group of girls in my school when I was younger who would constantly upset other students and put them down; they would yell and make so much noise in class that they completely distracted people from their education and a friend of mine (note again, not me) confronted them on it, putting forward those points. Mid-argument, another friend of mine, who often got herself into fights, threw in that one of the girls had bad hair or something along those lines and it just took away from the whole thing. We had the moral high ground but by stooping down to their level we lost it. So that begs the question, should she have got involved? What if it was just her way of showing support? I still don’t know what I think on that.

But let’s drag it to a bigger scale, there have been many revolutions and movements in history, many even in the last 100 years, take the women’s movement from the 60s onward, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement. As a species we reach change through confrontation and for these revolutions to be taken seriously, we have to have solid points rather than attacking too many points and places at once, causing people to lose track or in some cases  taking it ‘too far’. For example, the women’s movement in the 60s was incredible and managed to achieve so much important social change like getting women into sectors of work they couldn’t have dreamed of a decade or so prior but it could be argued that there were parts that went too far like not allowing women to bring their male children to meetings. These steps ‘too far’ or more off the path entirely were largely ignored and could have even caused some people to lose faith. So my point is that by confronting problems that aren’t there or becoming too much like the oppressor, you are fighting against your own goals.

Now taking it back to the matter at hand, to the individual, we need to remember to choose our battles of course, but if we ever want people to hear us and to see the problems and therefore make the change then we need to say something. Despite being a quiet child, there are certain things I have always stood up for. When I was 10, I confronted a boy who told an Asian girl in my school to ‘go back to her country’, when I was 11 I confronted a boy who was branding a girl ‘a slut’, when I was 12 I yelled so much at someone who flippantly told me that an entire race should be removed from the country that they cried and stormed home away from me. Even though I am quiet, there have always been occasions when I have been loud and I have been angry and I have acted on it. But, in all honesty I don’t think I do that enough; I am still constantly letting things slide and letting other people struggle alone when I think the same as them. I too often allowed other people to be my mouthpiece rather than speaking myself.

Every day, I am still trying to call people out on things more, to appear like less of a doormat. I am trying to use my voice to tell people what I think needs to be changed on an individual and a global level. So what I want to encourage is this: I encourage you to stand up for what you believe in, loudly and boldly, to stand up for yourself and make people see you for what you are- a force to be reckoned with. I encourage you to avoid the unnecessary arguments and the pettiness and that when you do confront it, get straight to the heart of it and make sure the change you want is clear because even though it would be handy sometimes, people are not mind readers and they need to know what you have a problem with because they might not be able to see it on their own. Where you see people’s perspective, where you can see their injustice and you can see it isn’t being fixed, don’t speak for them, just hand them a microphone, be that microphone even. Even though it isn’t the 60s or 70s anymore, even if we forget that the injustice is there, believe me when I say it is still alive and kicking, sometimes it’s being concealed and sometimes, let’s be honest here, it’s stood in plain sight. So please don’t stop fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and the thousands of other injustices because there are too many cases of them all today, please don’t stop speaking up.