One of my feminist practices is disrupting problematic comments or behaviors. I disrupt by either describing what I am observing, asking for clarification, or asking questions. This is aligned with my guidelines of intentionality and transparency. Some barriers I have encountered as I continue to speak up are defensiveness in the form of emphasizing a lack of intent to cause harm or in the form of detailed justification for the problematic behavior; denial (ex: “No, it’s not racist to say X.”); and, what I find the most baffling, having my disruption be completely ignored.
When I encounter such a barrier, sometimes I repeat myself. Sometimes I say “What you are doing is wrong.” Sometimes I am silent. I cannot understate the necessity of having accomplices in the room when I disrupt. Yes, I appreciate it when people tell me privately afterwards that they agree with me, or that they too found something problematic; however, if you are in a position to do so, speak up as well.
When I disrupt, I am speaking even though my voice may be shaking. I am speaking, even though I may not have all of the information. I am speaking, even as I know that I may need to concede the space to other voices. I am speaking, even though I may need to rethink my position. I am speaking, even though I may need to apologize for overspeaking. I will continue to learn, and I will do better.
—Ariana Orozco, Penn State Behrend