My 15 year old daughter started a blog. A blog to encourage and empower teens based on her experiences and views of the world. Her second post is titled, “…like a girl.” In it, she talks about the negative impact the statement “like a girl” has on girls, and that girls are just as “strong and capable of anything as males are.” It was a positive message of self-worth.
And yet, within an hour of sharing it on my Facebook page, it was attacked. In one comment, she was told that “men are stronger than women and she should face the facts of biology.” Other, similar comments followed.
The dominant male voice was, ironically, reinforcing my daughter’s point: “Together as women, we are intelligent, beautiful, and powerful human beings that shouldn’t be trampled on by derogatory expressions.” His messages, even when couched in conciliatory statements like “Don’t get me wrong, great intent…” sought to silence a young girl sharing her voice of empowerment by asserting superiority.
One thing I have learned from the voices rising up after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting is that there are people who assume power comes hand-in-hand with freedom, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to silence any oppositional voice.
Our society defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” That’s the biggest paradox of freedom: if nothing restraints how each person behaves, it will be absolute chaos. The bully would be free to enslave the meek. It will eventually mean that only those at the top are free, and those at the bottom — the weak — are not.
–Freedom is Not About Speaking Up but Choosing to be Silent
Our mission, as educators, is to build empathy and facilitate student voice and agency so they can positively advance the world. We want them to be, we need them to be, good humans. Better humans. Empathetic humans.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela