To Speak or Not to Speak: Your Capacity to Act in the Face of Authority



I believe that power relations exist everywhere. Our lives as university students are riddled with them. Profs, parents, bosses, friends—our relationships with these people question our beliefs and what power we hold every day.

Personally, I can be short -tempered. Little things that people say, although I smile on the outside, can completely set me off on the inside.

Perhaps your beliefs are being questioned, or perhaps an authority figure in your life said something offensive, but if you’ve ever had an instance where your mind is screaming, “That’s unfair!” or, “That’s wrong!” or, “What did she just say?!”, you’ve probably experienced being set off too.

But when your prof or your mom or your boss or any figure holding authority in your life offends you, what should you do? If you speak up, what if the prof holds a grudge, or your mom doesn’t speak to you, or your boss fires you? All thoughts that rush through my head. And all manageable.

But it depends on the situation.

When a prof made me feel ridiculous in front of my entire class last semester for asking a simple question, I responded by writing a blog post, and even pasted the link to the post into my comments during course evaluations.

When one of my managers told me that I broke a speaker that I actually didn’t touch, I made a sarcastic comment.

On the contrary, when my mom tells me to clean the house… Well, I clean the house.

In my experience, we can speak out against situations that anger or offend us. I usually ask myself two general questions before voicing my opinion:

1) Is it worth it?

2) What’s the worst that could happen, realistically?

If you can’t handle the worst, you probably aren’t ready to handle the situation. I suggest taking a deep breath, and re-evaluating the situation. To comply or not to comply, to speak or not to speak—a moment’s thought can change how you respond to being offended, and how you respond reflects a little bit of you. What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be?

We are all being shaped as people in our university experience. Our compliance is tested through how we interact with authority in our lives.

More often than not, I choose to stand up for my beliefs.

What situation will elicit a voice from you?