I had a revelation a few days ago, about a conversation I’ve seen happening online and in person where someone asks for a little more sensitivity around an issue like racism or sexism, and the other party says, “I don’t think so. I don’t want to have to walk on eggshells.”
Understandable. We all want to be able to be our authentic selves, and not have to edit our personhood for someone else. But something happened that really helped me understand how “walking on eggshells” keeps people small.
I participate in a mixed-gender group, and in one recent meeting a number of men were being very vocal about what they wanted to see happen in the group, making jokes and taking up a lot of airspace.
One of the women brought to the attention of the group that she was aware of how much the men in the room were speaking, and how she wanted to move into the rest of our meeting with a little more balance.
Calmly, a man responded that he had been really working on trying to speak up more when things were bothering him, and that he didn’t want to have to walk on eggshells or be inauthentic inside of the meeting.
I find this to be one of the biggest responses that men have to being aware of how they might be enacting racism or sexism: they want to be themselves. They want to be authentic. They don’t want to have to edit who they are in fear that someone might be offended.
What I said to the group was, I really understand having this desire to be authentic and be able to be yourself, and not feel like you have to walk on eggshells. However, I really want to be hanging out with people, and specifically men, who are willing to integrate into their authentic self an awareness of inclusion. That their authentic self would include a desire to have everyone be able to share and have a voice, and have an awareness of how much space they’re taking up. That’s authentically who they are, thinking about other people as well as themselves.
Put succinctly: you can be yourself while also being aware of your impact in a group, and those things do not have to be in opposition to each other.
There’s a common idea that being in groups that are too PC and being too PC is one of the reasons why the liberal movement is not moving forward. The pushback against “PC culture” has been swift, especially in this particular political climate with a president whose campaign was won on the back of “telling it like it is.”
But there is something different between being politically correct (and all the rhetoric that comes along with it) and being aware of your impact on groups of people, especially groups of people who are different from yourself.
Oppression has been happening for thousands of years, and hundreds in the U.S, and so that has integrated into our learned language, mannerisms, and thoughts. But, that’s the best part — you learned these things. You were not born with these oppressive behaviors, so you can unlearn them. It’s not like your authentic self was born being mean or dismissive of others.
You can integrate into your authentic self and unlearn patterns of oppression, which includes being aware of your impact on a group of other people.