Opinion | To my fellow loud girls — don’t be afraid to share your opinion

By Talia Spillerman, Senior Staff Columnist

Growing up, many teachers told me that I would make a great lawyer someday. While I like to think this was because of my great interpersonal skills, since I was often described as loud and annoying, I fear that it was actually because I was a girl who couldn’t keep her opinions to herself. Clearly, I have not changed that much — I mean, I am an opinions columnist where sharing my opinions is the name of the job. 

I’m sure I am not the only girl who has had people call her out for sharing opinions in the same way as her male counterparts. When girls share their opinion, even in the most respectful manners, people call us out — referring to us as obnoxious and bossy just because we don’t meet their conception of a quiet, dignified woman. 

Even though I now feel confident contributing my opinion, I could have taken the easier route and let other people’s eye rolls and sighs after I spoke in class shame me into silence. But if I’ve learned one thing during my time at Pitt, it’s that loud girls should never shut up. 

My friends and family are probably shitting their pants right now. They’re thinking “how does Talia have a whole article justifying talking more? Does this mean we are never going to hear the end of her voice?” 

Let me clarify what I mean by “shutting up.” Shutting up is how society teaches women to conduct themselves. Explicitly and implicitly, we are taught to be “seen and not heard” and to “not speak unless spoken to.” These beliefs make it easier for women to remain quiet rather than speak up. By society’s standards, a woman sharing her opinion is an oxymoron. 

Shutting up is different from being quiet. We all must be quiet at various times in our life — on an airplane, when someone else is talking, in a movie theater or when we don’t have enough information to speak intelligently on a topic. Shutting up is acting afraid to share your opinions when the world needs them. Shutting up is feeling the conversation that you are an expert on doesn’t need your input. 

The university setting can be especially intimidating, making non-male presenting people feel like we have to shut up. In fact, the school system is set up in a way to foster male learning. It’s intimidating contributing to conversations when the whole class is listening to you or disagreeing with someone who seems to be more qualified than you. 

In these situations, I remember a quote by one of my favorite Tik Tokers, Eli Rallo, who’s writing an advice book at the age of 24. She says when she questions her own credibility to write a book, she says people are only qualified because we all believe it’s true. I use this same energy when contributing in class and imagine that other people believe in me even when I feel unqualified. 

It also helps me to remember that everyone, including smart people, say stupid or incorrect things. It’s not the absence of incorrect actions or statements that denotes a person as smart — rather, it’s seeing the greater picture in both successes and shortcomings. When someone informs us of our misunderstandings, we become one step closer to finding the better answer. That is what makes a smart person — a person who uses every opportunity to find a better answer. 

When sharing any opinion, loud individuals must also make sure our opinion is not silencing others. Even if you feel uncomfortable sharing your stance, there’s always someone even more uncomfortable. Women are more powerful when we lift up other voices that are often talked over. Women need to become a challenging force against the societal notions that encourage us to stay silent and uplift others. 

I’m not saying it’s easy. People have glared at me and laughed at me after I shared a thought. People will look at you like you are unqualified. You may feel like never speaking a word again. Especially in a world where spaces and norms are supposed to encourage women to shut up, it takes strength, guts and perseverance. 

One thing that has reaffirmed my belief that all people are meant to share their opinion is The Pitt News. I have a place to never shut up, which has shifted the way I see the world. When I realize a phenomenon or become invigorated by something in this world, I think, how can I craft this as an opinion? How can I share this viewpoint with the world? 

Contrary to how society portrays opinionated women, I don’t share my opinion because I believe that my thoughts are groundbreaking and deserve to be read by the whole world. Rather, after careful thoughts and research, I believe I have something to contribute to a conversation that will lead to the best solution. 

Through my time as a columnist, I have concluded that’s what an opinion is — not the only answer, but an important contribution to finding the best answer, which is why we need the opinions of people often left out of conversations. 

To the other women and girls who have opinions to share, my fellow loud girls, find your version of The Pitt News. Find a space where you feel encouraged to share your opinions. Then help clear a path for people who are even more uncomfortable to share their opinion. 

I’ll be forever grateful for my time writing opinions at The Pitt News and having a platform to share my opinions. Even if I have had three readers — hi Mom, Dad and Grandmom — I feel so lucky to have had the space to gain confidence sharing my opinions. 

Thank you to The Pitt News for truly letting me write about anything and everything. 

Talia Spillerman writes about anything and everything. Write to her at [email protected]