Lately, my fuse is a little bit on the short side. Maybe its the season (the grading is rolling in, I have my first cold, my students are getting stressed out, I have a budget meeting with the Dean). Then again, maybe it is something else. I find myself less able to hold my tongue or sugar-coat statements. Indeed, I find that most of the time I am ready to drop my gloves and fight for every inch of ideological space I am trying to inhabit in the institution and in my life. Got a problem with me? I’m going to set you straight. Make some sort of thinly-veiled sexist comment? I’m going to call you out on it. Acting like a bully? Holy cats, watch out. It is as though some manners-dam has been breached and I am incapable of letting foolishness go uncommented-upon. Forget the #nofilter apps on Instagram, I’ve got no filter when I speak!
Where is this coming from?
When I was a child my parents taught me never to interrupt, to wait until it was my turn to speak, and when I was speaking, they encouraged me to make my points clearly and succinctly and then let the other person respond. This training worked wonderfully well … at home, where my parents valued what I had to say as much as what the other adults in the room were discussing. In high school I attended cotillion, which is etiquette training class. It was a mix of ridiculous social etiquette lessons and some really valuable lessons. I know how to foxtrot, how to waltz, and how to get out of a car wearing heels and a short skirt. I also learned which fork to use at a formal dinner table, and, additionally, I learned how to facilitate conversation, and how to listen. There was a lot of emphasis placed on being a good listener. None of these things — having respect for others, being a good listener, recognizing and respecting rules — is inherently bad, unless of course there is a breach of conduct by another party. I mean seriously, if someone is being disrespectful there is a time, place, and way to address it. (Did I mention cotillion also taught me the Southern art of the cutting remark? To be wielded with caution.)
Here’s the thing: I am tired of the same kind of issues Margrit has written about here, Aimée has written about here, and I have written about here, here, and here. In short, I’m tired of how difficult the job market continues to be, how prevalent sexism continues to be, and how quietism seems to be the rule of the day. All that tiredness seems to be resulting in the loss of my filter.
Suffice to say, I haven’t always been so feisty, and I am not so sure it is wise for my career. But let me tell you, even if I wanted to tone it down, I’m not so sure I could! So the key becomes figuring out how to speak frankly while walking that fine line between respecting others and refusing to let lazy thinking go unaddressed. For me, right now, the filterless approach is working. For the future, I think I’ll return to Heather’s post on Tina Fey.