I would like to tell you today for Blog Action Day 2015‘s theme of #RaiseYourVoice that I am courageous, brave and strong in my ability to share my views online and off. But I am not.
I want to shout out to the world about causes I support and issues I feel strongly about, but instead I think twice before blasting an opinion online or sharing a link to something I feel strongly about. Because I’m scared.
Today for Blog Action Day 2015 as I contemplate, and celebrate, those who are raising their voices, I am also confessing that putting myself out there, and publicly stating my views, is getting riskier and riskier.
There are the cruel online trolls lurking and ready to pounce with vicious, hurtful comments, there are the cyber-bullies, who prey on women in particular, and there are even the real-life associates I have who may not agree with my views, and not behave very nicely when our opinion’s clash.
As the years go on, I find I’ve got to keep my mouth shut, and my mind’s meanderings to myself. Fearing putting myself at risk to attack, or alienating someone.
I approach my freedom of expression with fear, because I have spoken out – have shared much, and have suffered the consequences of doing so. There was the time I championed a whole variety of causes and even called myself an activist for a while. I:
- Defended the Adirondacks from open pit mining
- Fought against having my local pub demolished – to be replaced with luxury flats
- Signed many online petitions for various causes
With each action, there was a reaction. And enough of the response was cruel, nasty and misplaced.
There was also that time when I raised my voice at a man for riding his bike on the sidewalk. He punched me in the eye, poking my eye so badly that doctors told me that I was very lucky not to have become blind in the eye. I developed a terrible black eye from the injury, and was traumatized about leaving the house for many weeks afterwards.
So while I perhaps should be encouraging others to rasie their voices on this blog action day 2015 – I am, instead, sending a cautious warning that even in countries where freedom of expression is protected, danger lurks.
It is very sad that my small voice, and those who shout out louder than me run the risk of being attacked. Bullying on and offline is on the increase, and is a very real fear. Take a look at what’s gone down for some women online such as Channel 4 newscaster Cathy Newman who was stalked on Twitter with more than 100,000 tweets, and journalist Suzanne Moore who was challenged viciously on Twitter. No one is immune to the culture of meanness and while a cruel tweet, a threatening email or a nasty comment may not physically harm you, it can take an emotional toll.
What do we do though? Do we hide away and not champion the causes and issues we support openly, letting the bullies win? Do we stop going on protests, blogging or tweeting about the things that matter to us? Do we not raise our voices? No we don’t let the haters win.
We have to keep thinking in public, talking with each other, expressing our views and rasing our voices. Don’t worry, just because I am revealing to you my cowardly retreat on some things, there are so many that are bravely and confidently putting their valuable ideas into the world. Here’s a few that are not afraid:
It is them, and many others famous, and not so famous, that give me courage to raise my voice on topics I care about. I’m not shutting up entirely. These days, I am trying to be careful with what I am sharing and I try to really pick my battles of where I want to devote my energy and my online influence. I will not stop defending the environment, and sharing my views about climate change. I will not stop championing women, especially those in the technology field, and I will not let important local issues (like Save Lea Marshes) go unnoticed.
I am someone living in a safe environment with no real physical threat – for those that are in very dangerous, unsafe, places, I feel for you and understand why you are scared to raise your voice. Hopefully, some of those that are truly able to shout out on important topics will be defending your concerns and speaking out when you cannot. While you may not be able to raise your voice loudly, publicly, maybe – you can whisper to someone who will give you a kind and caring ear and then go off and make your concerns known?
I want to say that everyone should be raising their voice, but instead, I know, that it is just not possible for many of us on Earth. To live in fear to express yourself, is probably one of the most crippling and depressing situations – and I hope for a future where all voices can be heard, accepted and allowed to flourish.
Please stay safe out there when you #RaiseYourVoice