“Sit down, Be Silent, and Look Pretty” the list repeating itself as my right-hand remains raised above the ideas igniting inside of my millennial brain. His glasses are framing his already intimidating eyes, staring straight at me, shaking his head no.
My blue eyes wander across the room, watching the other girls snicker at the denial for me to verbalize my thoughts. The invalidation creeps up my spine and captures my soul, ringing me out like a towel and hanging me out to dry.
“Sit down, Be Silent, and Look Pretty” — the agenda archived in my central nervous system, haunts my soul, and causes my snickering female peers to lead their contributions with “I am sorry,” as if their ideas are not as valuable as anyone else’s. I feel as if every time my arms form a ninety-degree angle parallel to my ideas, I have failed my peers. I am turned down, and they feel my invalidation permeate the classroom, taint their brilliance, and deem every young woman’s objective inestimable.
Is it my fault, however? I lead by example, I have never prefaced a contribution to a classroom discussion with “I am sorry,” yet my instructor will impede on my thoughts mid-sentence, and there is nothing I can do, but sit down, shut-up, and look pretty — what kind of example is that? It is an example of the men who carry the ideology that ironically juxtaposes that of my instructor.
I find myself deep in bewilderment that this man with the power to silence my ideas has a daughter, who I am sure is welcomed with amenable attention to speak fluidly about her position. To a young woman whose purpose is to learn from this man with a daughter, he approaches her with disdain and a blazing irrational notion that because she does not fear his predetermined denouement, he can continue. I have news for him — I will persist.
It was not until recently, however, that I finally stumbled upon my validation. It happened on February 7, 2017, when an esteemed woman was told to sit down, be silent, and look pretty. As I watched, I became haunted by my past, and an adrenaline rush triggered the recollection of the young women whom I stole validation.
The following day, there was no mention of the public figures’ censorship within our classroom. Though he knew that my proudly political mind would allude to the headlining if he refused to call on me — so out of angst that I would invalidate his political affiliation — he let me fill the silence.
My classic millennial classroom was flabbergasted that I would get to speak. One young man stated, “Wow, you must’ve broken him.” I did not make any attempt to break my streak of silence in his classroom, but rather, a woman he respects did.
When you are silenced, you do not have to conquer with the boundaries set by others to confine your discourse to their agenda. Your voice is a powerful tool, so use it, make yourself heard, and let them interpret your ignition of ideas. Know they are just as valuable and worthwhile as anyone else’s — think about it — every successful, lucrative contributor to our world spoke up and filled the silence at one point in their life.
Watching an esteemed woman silenced in front of her peers offered a reflection of myself, but this time without having to look in the mirror. I, at eighteen years old, found that my perseverance to earn the privilege to speak for myself and share my ideas was not a waste of time. In fact, it was crucial in my power to influence the validation of the young women who sit beside me and see me as an ally. To every woman, we stand together, and nevertheless, shall persist.
Originally published at medium.com