The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. For a really long time, I thought that speaking up wasn’t important. I gave my power up. It’s not something I did on purpose, and it’s not something that happened over night. By taking a college class I learned that women give up their power by not speaking up but I also learned to speak up.
To understand how I gave up my power I have to tell you about my family. I have two brothers, and I am the middle child. Since I was the only girl my parents treated me differently. I was more sheltered and protected than my brothers ever were. It also didn’t help that my brothers as well were always protecting and sheltering me. I believe that this made me very shy. Through all of elementary school, my teachers always told my parents that I needed to talk more in class. I always thought that didn’t matter as long as I was doing well and learning that was all that mattered. Somehow that worked out until my first year of community college.
That first year I took a Latina Studies class. I took this class because I wanted to learn more about my culture, and the influence women have in the latino culture. I thought I would listen to the lectures, take notes, ace the tests and I’m done. Although I did learn a lot about my culture I learned something else that made me extremely sad and angry. Women with myself included did not speak up. The class was mostly women, but the men in the class were the ones who raised their hands to ask questions, it was the men who answered questions, and It was the men who participated in the discussions, discussions about Latinas. I started to pay attention to how women act in discussions in other classes. It was exactly the same. I started to question why this was.
I liked to believe that because I have two brothers I was tough and that I knew how to stand up for myself. And if I couldn’t I would just get one of them to stand up for me. But this wasn’t something they could help me with. I thought about why it was so hard and the answers came easily. I thought that what I had to say wasn’t important. I didn’t want to sound stupid. I didn’t want to offend someone or be rude. The overall answer was that I was scared. I wanted to speak up but it was extremely hard.
I wasn’t doing so well in the Latina Studies class because of my participation. I decided to talk to my professor and I opened up to her about how hard it was for me to speak in class. I tried to make excuses by telling her that maybe I wasn’t ready for college and she stopped me. She told me I had written an excellent paper on how women news reporters were objectified by the media, but that when we had that exact same discussion in class I hadn’t said anything. She told me that I have a lot to say but that I choose not to say it. And she also told me these words that I will never forget: command space.
That night I thought about what she had said. I realized that commanding space was a way to stand up for myself. By speaking in class I was not only commanding space but also standing up for my ideas. That was the day I decided to no longer be silent. That was the day I challenged myself to speak up. I am no longer that shy person. Women need to command space. We need to remind ourselves that we have power and that what we have to say is important. By not speaking up we give our power away. And I will not give my power away.