Thought Infecting

by Ashley Weeks Cart

Yesterday morning I received the following email from a fellow Eph and total rockstar and boss of a woman:

Currently on my mind: women. rape. rape culture. sexual assault. language (and abuses there of.)

Why? I recently saw a picture on Pinterest of George Takei overlaid with a quotation that read, “You know, when you hear of a man being raped you never hear about what he was wearing.” Thought. provoking. Actually…it was more like thought infecting, because I can’t stop thinking about that. So simple, and yet so very profound.

So, with this worm of a concept that has been in my brain, I was so very primed to audibly cringe in spin class yesterday when our instructor asked “So what do you think? Should we do another hill? Crank it up to level 18?!?” and in response to our breathless silence he creepily whispered into his microphone “silence is consent.” 

Now this is an instructor I adore. His was the last spin class I took at 34 weeks pregnant and the first class I took at 7 weeks post partum. He is encouraging and empowering. He is one of the only people I have ever encountered who makes me feel like it’s ok to fail — in that dark little room, on that darn bike, I push myself to failure most mornings a week and I truly believe that I’m able to do it because this man has created this very safe space in which I feel comfortable pushing my comfort zone.

But then he whispered silence is consent and I cringed. I wanted to get off the bike. I wanted to leave. I couldn’t believe I had just heard that phrase. And I couldn’t believe I sat blithely by. I should have said something after class….but I didn’t.

So all this has me wondering about language and the manner in which we use it and respond to it. We all bear the responsibility to mind our mouths, speak with kindness and respect, listen with patience and empathy. (I fail at this daily.) But what are our responsibilities when we hear others fail at this?

She gave me permission to post her email here so we could open up a dialogue about this. We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. I’ll paste my response to her in the comments below, and hope you’ll continue the conversation…