Have you ever been afraid to speak your mind because your opinions are in the minority?
For me this is a familiar feeling since it seems that I am always in the minority, seemingly on the fringes of what society allows into discourse. I am afraid to speak out because I care what certain people think of me, I care about the relationships that I must maintain (e.g. with coworkers and beloved family members), and I’m afraid of how I will react to their responses. Where does this fear come from?
Honestly, I hate confrontation, and confrontation is what happens when you simply voice a minority opinion. Even some of the most intelligent people will jump to the defense of the established “truth” with or without evidence or reason. Your conversation partner’s mind next typically employs extreme strategies to shut out logic, science, and even persuasion in order to protect the status quo. When this happens to me, I become overcome with emotion. The conversant is never willing to consider that they could be ignorant or misinformed on the question or that I could have put in countless hours of study to come to such a conclusion. Similarly, they never consider the possibility that their majority opinion amounts to an attack on me personally.
As a fat woman (morbidly obese, my ass), the majority opinion on fat people is an attack on me personally. Each day, I take time reaffirm my fat liberation mantra, to praise my body, and to love myself; I do this to counteract the constantly replayed message that fat people are disgusting, lazy, unhealthy, and worth less than nothing.
Thankfully I don’t watch TV commercials, so I can tune out many of cultural messages. Unfortunately, though, people at my workplace are doing academic research aimed at combating the “obesity epidemic” and intervening to end “childhood obesity.” I don’t want to reveal too much, but I will say that their research has nothing to do with the natural sciences, so they are relying on the prevailing theory that fatties are fat because they eat too many calories. It is part of my job to publicize this research, and it just makes me cry inside to be helping with anything that targets fat people like me and especially fat children, who already have it so tough.
I am especially afraid to broach my opinion (about Health at Every Size) with these colleagues. They are the ones with Ph.D.s, they have put in extensive research into these topics (although probably not into whether reducing calories or “bad nutrients” will actually make you thin), and they have so much invested and riding on the status quo. I just can’t imagine any good coming of such a conversation, although a part of me is desperate to try.
What else am I afraid to talk about? Well, everyone knows not to talk about politics or religion. I am a long time supporter of the ‘president of the Internet’ Dr. Ron Paul. I could give a hundred reasons why, but let’s save that for a future post. Campaigning for Dr. Paul among friends and family in 2008 was a very painful experience. Although they agreed with him on so many important issues (e.g. ending the wars and the police state, restoring our 4th and 5th amendment rights, and reducing the massive power of the executive branch), most would not oblige my requests to do some research and consider voting for him in the primary (the primary!). Why was this painful? Dr. Paul’s liberty message was incredibly important to me, and I devoted hundreds of hours to the campaign. I had asked my beloved ones to do so very little, but most refused.
So, why speak out? The reason is more than just self-gratification. It’s about changing our world for the better, which means changing some minds. Liberty-minded activists must walk somewhat of a fine line, because we must stand up for others’ right to voice their opinions, be they hurtful, baseless, or just plain wrong. That doesn’t mean that we have to acknowledge them as equally valid. We must be courageous and risk being shouted down by the crowd.
For me courage is a process, and this blog is a step towards it. Thanks for listening.