My daughter teaches me something about life just about every day. Right now, she is dealing with having a boy saying unkind things to her in front of her friend. She is upset that her friend does not stand up for her and tell the boy to stop it. I asked her, “Did you ask the boy to stop?” She felt awkward facing the boy in front of her friend, who likes this boy. I told her she has to learn to stand up for herself at the moment that the sleight is given. It’s so easy to dispense advice, isn’t it?
Telling others to stand up for themselves, say “No!” and advise them to put their hands on their hips and put their chin out and be fearless is easy enough. “Just do it!”
Not That Easy
I can’t say that I have done a very good job of standing up for myself in all aspects of my life. I am learning from doing. And thank goodness I have a few friends who model for me what standing up looks like. Of course, some of my strong female friends advocate throwing in a few choice swear words to make their point crystal clear, but my mom taught me that “you don’t do that in polite company.” She also, sadly, taught me to “shush.” I found out recently that she was taught to shush from her own mom, who was taught to shush, too. That would make three generations of women being taught to stand down. If you don’t have a role model for standing up, standing out, making noise, and stopping the abuse, you have a tendency to just take it. And now I have learned, if another person sees that you are willing to “take it”, it emboldens them to keep up the abuse.
Lately, I have been reading about imperialism, colonialism and the subjugation of cultures from Canada to Hawaii to South Africa. Whole cultures who weren’t able to fight off the aggressors were then taught to stand down and take it. My daughter, who is studying apartheid, shared with me that the South Africans had had enough and were able to take back their lands and their freedom. In Hawaii, the resurgence of the Hawaiian culture, teaching the language and sharing of sacred traditions has brought pride to the island nation, and it started by a few standing up for the many. But for some cultures, like the First Nation people of Canada, the subjugation included taking children away from their parents and indoctrinating the children with European values and culture. When they returned home to their parents, after years of abuse, not only did they no longer speak the language, but their spirits had been broken. They still suffer.
Since the election, there definitely seems to be a spirit of standing up and speaking out for everything from women’s rights to environmentalism. It is heartening to see people standing up for the elderly, the poor, the children, the environment and for each other. When we see people standing up to bullies, we cheer for them and wish we had those kinds of balls and sometimes, we say, “That could be me, too, standing up like that.” We gather strength from the fearless. The people who are willing to say, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
My women friends in Hawaii are a fearless bunch. They stand firm when they say, “We won’t be shushed!” “No shushing!” I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to be a victim anymore, but it has taken years of worrying about other people’s feelings, wondering if they would still like me if I told them how I felt, or if they still would employ me. I did a few things in the past few months that I was afraid to do (like blocking some toxic people on Facebook) but when I did it, my confidence soared. I realized that it felt better to do something to save my soul than it did in considering my bully’s feelings.
I want my daughter and son to see that I can stand up for myself, so they know what it looks like. And in doing so, give them permission to do it for themselves and show their friends what it looks like, as well. When we stand up, not only are we doing it for ourselves, but we are examples to others and we give them the ripple effect of strength, too. And that..can change the world. #NoMoreShushing