Self-Censorship of My Words

By Aish Subramanian

Talking to people every day takes a lot out of me. I usually enjoy my interactions, but lately I’ve realized that what makes them draining is how much time I invest in vetting and censoring myself. Some of this vetting revolves around me ensuring that whatever I say is sensitive and conducive to creating a safe and engaging environment – but most of it revolves around me being afraid to come across as a “bitch” or worrying whether my tone might be misconstrued and interpreted, god forbid, as “rude.”

As I’ve gone through college and learned about gendered language, I’ve been able to catch myself doing this and try to consciously remove my verbal censorship. But much of it still remains—a reflex that I haven’t quite been able to get rid of. Interestingly however, I have also noticed that while part of my self-inflicted censorship may arise from a desire to maintain certain gender expectations, my vernacular affects my personality. Over time, my belief that others’ might perceive my speech in a certain manner has resulted in censorship of my thoughts as well. To remedy this, I tried to consciously remove some of my editing and filtering of my words.

I started with the obvious – I attempted to insert a few curse words in my vernacular. Needless to say, some people were shocked. A few commented on the apparent bizarre incongruity between the words I had uttered and my supposed personality. While I didn’t want to suddenly pepper all of my conversations with curses, I realized how far my fear of being judged for my language had affected my supposed personality.

The next thing I focused on was attempting to be more direct in situations where disagreements arose rather than passive-aggressively trying to avoid conflict for fear of being labeled as “bossy” or disagreeable. It was liberating but at the same time terrifying; it felt weird being able to express myself without attempting to couch my terms in words that were “safe” and “non-threatening.” I highly recommend it.

While my ‘experiment’ is still ongoing, I can say that being aware of how we (particularly women) police our language and by extension our personalities can be insightful and the key to allowing ourselves (or at least me) to enjoy meaningful conversations with people without feeling like I’m doing a mentally draining social dance that involves me monitoring all of my words.