The Value of Loudness (Or: A Straight White Guy’s Manifesto About Speaking Up)

Here’s the brief context:  A friend of mine said (I’m paraphrasing) that if you had an unpopular opinion, that you should speak up.  That it was your responsibility to say something.  I couldn’t agree – not all voices are the same loudness, to which he replied (again, paraphrasing) “speak louder”.1

I saved what I wrote in reply, because it really seems to sum up what my role as an “ally” is.  This is slightly edited for language and clarity, if you’re concerned.

Hard to speak louder when the response to you speaking up is that you get told you’re a [expurgated] for saying anything and threatened with being raped.  Or to shut up because of you don’t have as many degrees.  Or because you have a certain set of genitals.  Or because you dress differently, or look different, or weren’t born here, or all the other ways used to silence others.

So I speak.  Loudly.  And I tell others that the volume of their voice isn’t the same as the righteousness of their words.

It’s easy for us to speak up.  You’re a big, charismatic guy.  You’ve got a lot going for you.  I’m a big ass loudmouth, and can yell over most people when I have to.  Neither of us *really* has any reason to fear for our lives or person on a daily basis.  For us to say something “unpopular”?  Big deal.

For those without power?  For them to whisper is an act of bravery that we can only pretend at.

And so I speak, but only so that others can as well.

1For the record: I don’t think he’s a bad guy.  We disagree on this topic frequently, but I also remember when I was advocating exactly the same thing. So I push him the way I got pushed when I said the same stuff.

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