Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

A Moment To Break The Silence

Sharaai's picture

Taking my time, scrolling through the many images that my classmates had posted, I found that I kept going back to the image that Jomaira posted. This image stuck with me, even while I looked through the others. When I look at the young girl, it feels like her silence is partially self-induced. Though she looks like the silence is taking a toll on her it seems as if she cannot do anything about it. She has lost control of her voice and of her freedom to speak.  But all at the same time, she is covering her mouth with her own hands. The power dynamic of control in this image can also be looked at through a different lense , it can also be a form of self-control; form that isn’t her primary option but one that she must choose.

When I think back and find moments in my life where I have felt silenced, it seems as though I took the option of silencing myself. They are times when I felt that my primary opinion on something would be too much or just excessive. When location comes into these moments, they are all connected to being home. When I am at Bryn Mawr, I feel like my opinion will always be listened to, even if my listener does not agree with me. This is a community where I have learned to not let myself feel silenced because my peers have learned to listen to new opinions and take them in and instead of ignore them. 

When I am home, my strong opinions can feel like they are being brushed off, which is where my moment of silencing comes into play. A moment in time, before I had ever stepped foot on Bryn Mawr’s campus has led me to silencing myself on many occasions.

When I began the journey of selecting a college, I was guided my high school teachers. They introduced me to Bryn Mawr through the Posse Foundation. Initially, looking into and researching Bryn Mawr, I wasn’t sure if it was the school for me but my teachers were convinced it would be perfect for me. When I was accepted, I was filled with mixed opinions, both of excitement and fear. When I shared the news with my brother, one of his first questions was “Are you going to become a feminist?” And though I answered with a shrug of my shoulders, I have realized that through that one question, I have consistently silenced my “feminist” opinions when around him. I have deliberately silenced myself.

Through this purposeful silencing, I do not feel like I am being silenced by my brother’s one time comment. Through my silence, I feel that my opinion becomes stronger, it makes more of an impact on my family. This was clearly demonstrated when I explained the concept of being sexist to a large portion of my family.

My brother had made a comment about a movie that was clearly negative towards the female protagonist in the film. And the moment I realized my brother had become aware of his feminist sister was when he turned to me, shocked at what he had said and asked “Was that sexist?!?” At first, I simply looked at him, pressed my eyes shut and nodded my head, silently. I  wasn’t sure whether I should break the silence and explain or let the moment pass. But he broke it when he proceeded to ask “Why is it?” I took the moment and took advantage of my chance to speak. My brother wanted to know why his comment was questionable, why he had made me squirm in my seat! Wow. I was so excited. I proceeded to explain to him how his comment could be degrading to a person’s character and why it could be a woman’s issue. As I rounded up my mini lecture, I was happy to see that a number of my family members were listening and at that, actively listening!

So in this moment, I felt that I would have normally silenced myself. I would have let it pass but the fact that my brother opened it up; I felt that my silence was no longer necessary. That is was needed in that moment. And since then, I haven’t had to silence myself with him. It is as though that moment opened up his eyes a little bit to the issues I find myself passionate about. The moment silenced him while he learned and listened to an opinion I would have kept to myself in any other situation. I was able to let my voice be heard and end the silencing, which brings me bac kto Jomaira’s image. The young girl is silencing herself but it makes me think that just maybe she needs the right moment to remove her hands from her face. A moment to let her voice  be heard like I was able to do with my family.




Anne Dalke's picture

On self-silencing

The first thing I realized, in "tracking" your postings on Serendip, is that you were enrolled in "Food for Thought," the ESem I co-taught w/ Peter Brodfuehrer a few years ago. That was a surprise! We'll have to compare notes @ some point...

The second is that you've really shifted focus, from your earlier image, of a reader lost in a library--where you describe "silence on the outside but the inner workings of the mind still seem to be hard at work"--to this one of a young girl silencing herself. (Your first image was also used, btw, as a stepping-off point by two of your classmates: be sure to check out the work of sdane and Dan, to see where they have taken your initial conception!)

My third observation is that you are one of four classmates who wrote about the powerful image Uninhibited selected; be sure to read the essays by her, Sasha, sara.gladwin and ishin, which are interestingly both like-and-different from your own.

What's most striking about yours (having set all these contexts, I'm ready now to talk about what you've actually written here!) is your highlighting the possibility that this young girl has CHOSEN silence, is self-silencing...and your using that action to describe the complex dance, over time, of your taking the option of silencing myself, a purposeful silencing that eventually made your opinion " stronger," giving it "more of an impact on your family" when you finally did speak. The temporal dimension is really important here; I like your saying that the young women in the picture, like you, "just maybe needs the right moment to remove her hands from her face. A moment to let her voice be heard." Silence can be prelude to strong speaking, as it is in your nice story. Thanks!

P.S. A technical suggestion--you have put up an image on your "public profile" (great!) but it's not showing up as your avatar, to accompany each of your postings. To make this happen, please log in, go to "My account" (top of every page) --> "Edit" --> "Upload picture," and follow the instructions there. I look forward soon to seeing you kissing a giraffe every time you post!