Speaking Out and Standing Up

Bella Abzug at a Women Strike for Peace Protest.

Courtesy of Dorothy Marder.

If you had asked me two years ago if I thought of myself as a rebel, I would have been completely taken aback. I also would have said “no!” in a shocked tone, and ask you what on earth had led to that conclusion. I’ve always thought of rebels as people who resist authority or control and honestly, I don’t resist. I mean sure, there are moments (quite a few, actually) where I resist doing my homework, cleaning my room, or getting out of bed so early in the morning. Oh, and there was that one time where I wouldn’t respond to anything but “Katniss” at camp a few years ago. But I wouldn’t classify those as moments of real rebellion; instead, just me being lethargic and stubborn. So no, I wouldn’t have said I was a rebel.

But that was two years ago. And in two years, a lot has changed. I’m not in a motorcycle gang and I don’t sneak out of my house every night or anything like that. But there’s a flame of rebellion within me now. It's small, but it can ignite and spread at a second's notice, turning me into a fighter. Now, I fight. I change. I resist. And my weapon of choice? 


Take, for example, the other day, when someone in my class remarked that Janay Rice, the wife of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and victim of domestic abuse “is probably staying with him because she’s a gold digger.” Not only is this an incredibly misogynistic comment, but it minimizes and re-victimizes Janay. You may not agree with her choice to stay with Ray, but it’s her choice to make and we, as outsiders, have no right to judge her, the victim, on this decision.

Too many times a day, I hear and see sexist and unfair comments and actions. This was not going to be one of those days. 

I fought him. I challenged him. I taught him.

I was met with silence and a few uncomfortable giggles. So no, I guess in that moment I didn’t win the war against sexism. But I had stood my ground, and fought for something I believed him. So maybe I won that small battle.

We’re taught from a very young age what to see and believe. It’s hard not to follow the status quo, trust me. Standing up for what you believe in is petrifying, especially when you're going against the masses. All too often, we use our voices to fit in rather than challenge or improve. But a voice is a sacred weapon, one capable of changing the hearts of the enemy. Unlike other weapons, a voice can offer an invitation to join a conversation, simply because of its tone. That’s why it’s so important to use yours.  

The one change I would make to the definition of a “rebel” is that instead of focusing on who a rebel is fighting against, it should be focused on who a rebel is fighting for. I’m fighting for women viewed as objects to take ownership of their humanity. I’m challenging for the women who are catcalled so often that it feels normal (note: catcalling should never feel normal). I’m resisting for women who make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, simply because he was born male and she was born female. I’m rising up for victims of rape, silenced and ashamed. I’m rebelling for my future daughter and her friends, hoping and praying that one day they live in a world that is more accepting of their rights and their bodies. 

This war may be long and intimidating, but we will continue to fight and challenge and resist and revolt and rebel until we’ve won it. Which we will. So yeah, I guess you could call me a bit of a rebel.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism
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How to cite this page

Kahn, Ellie. "Speaking Out and Standing Up ." 20 January 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/speaking-out-and-standing-up>.