If you read my last post about my issues with the blogging community, or my post about whether or not bloggers should be political (spoiler alert: the answer is yes, they should be!), you’ll know I have little patience for people who have no opinions beyond ‘I like that lipstick’. Or rather, I have little to no patience for people with platforms that refuse to speak out about issues – whether it’s feminism, politics, racism, or any of other other things that are wrong with the world.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why this is. About why half my social media feed (okay, less than half – I follow pretty fantastic and outspoken people) is silent about the rise of fascism and the deportation of immigrants and the racist nature of the beauty industry and all the other terrible things happening at the moment. And I think there are three possible answers:
These people genuinely are so privileged that they’ve not noticed the world falling apart around them.
They are aware, but they just don’t care. Either because it doesn’t affect them, or because they’re secretly white supremacists (unlikely, but you never know these days).
They’re terrified of making mistakes online.
I’m hoping – really, truly, hoping – that it’s the third option. That people are silent not because they don’t know or don’t care about what’s going on, but because they’re terrified of saying the wrong thing. Of offending their followers. Or accidentally being racist or spreading misinformation or generally being a bit ignorant.
I get it, I do. The internet can be a scary place if you have opinions. It can be particularly scary if you’re a woman with opinions. It can be scarier still if you’re still growing and learning and are a bit unsure of your world view (obviously, we’re all growing and learning – but some people are more secure in their beliefs than others).
Nobody wants to be the victim of call out culture (although, conveniently, here’s a guide of what to do if you are called out…). And in the age of the internet, where something you say in the heat of the moment can be screenshotted and used against you for years to come, it’s no wonder people are terrified of putting a foot wrong.
You see it all the time. Careers advisers tell young people to be careful of what they post on social media in case their employers say it. Hell, at my last job I was warned about being too feisty and political online, in case I change my mind in years to come.
But whilst thinking carefully about what you say – particularly on forums where it can be preserved – is important, I think too much emphasis is being placed on being perfect online.
This has been talked about before, with regards to unrealistic Instagram feeds and the like, but I think it also applies to our opinions. Sometimes on social media it can seem like you’re either a saint or a sinner, with no in-between. That there are no grey areas, and that if you put a foot wrong that’s it, you’re condemned for life, forever beholden to your social media ‘receipts’.
Well, it’s time to call bullshit on that.
As humans, we are imperfect, and we are (hopefully, if we’re decent human beings who take the time to listen to others) constantly growing and changing and becoming better, more compassionate people. Nobody is perfect – there is not one single person who is perfectly ‘woke’ all the time. So let’s stop waiting until we know everything to start expressing our opinions.
Personally, I’ve never been afraid of putting my opinions out there. My whole blogging ‘brand’ is built on being a lil bit controversial, and being loud and angry with my opinions. I literally have ‘Angry-Shouty Feminist’ in my social media bios, that’s how proud I am to be opinionated. Of course, that is partly due to my intense privilege as a white, straight, middle class, able-bodied woman. Expressing my opinions is unlikely to get me killed, or damage my career, or get me kicked out of my living situation. But it’s also just because I’ve learned to be proud of my voice.
Am I always right? Of course I’m not. Do I look back on things I tweeted 5 years ago think ‘Why the fuck did I write that?’. Of course I do – hell, I look back at stuff I wrote last week and think ‘Damn Liv, you shoulda been more nuanced, less angry, more informed, less ignorant’. But am I going to stop sharing my opinions because they might one day change? Absolutely fucking not.
See, as a woman, I’ve been told to shut up quite a lot. My ex-boyfriend literally told me off once for being ‘too angry and shouty’ (that’s where my identity as an angry-shouty feminist comes from FYI, so shout out to that dick for inspiring my personal brand). So now that I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I’m confident in my voice and my opinions, I’m gonna scream them from the roof top.
That’s not to say you – or I – should offer opinions on everything. As a white woman, I have no place writing a think-piece on Beyonce (alas, other white women have not realised this). As a middle-class woman, I have no place writing about the working class and poverty. There are literally thousands upon thousands of instances where my opinion is neither wanted, appropriate, or necessary.
But when it’s my time, you’re damn right I’m gonna use my voice. Sure, I might make a tit of myself. Yeah, I’m probably gonna offend someone. My words are gonna be misconstrued, and you can bet your bottom dollar that my opinions are gonna change; that I’m gonna look back at some of the things I’ve written here in 5 year’s time and cringe.
But you know what? At least I’m gonna be able to look back on my life and think ‘YES. I used my voice. I said my piece. I did my bit to try and change the world.’