Recently, I sat down and watched the movie “We Bought a Zoo.” One of the best quotes that came from the film was used by Matt Damon’s character, and it’s stuck with me since. I find it applicable to so many situations in both personal and professional life. Damon’s character states, “All you need is just 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something good will come of it.”
Some of you took your 20 seconds telling family or friends that you were coming to Slippery Rock University; signing up for that club, organization, or team that you were not sure you would be a good fit for; in your dorm, your apartment, or in the classroom standing up for something you believe in. Unfortunately, some of you have yet to step out of your comfort zone and do something completely courageous, even if just for twenty seconds.
For us in the Women’s Center, we encourage bravery. We encourage you to ask for the pay that you deserve in your careers. We encourage you to explore the idea that perhaps you are a feminist, even if everyone around you is telling you that you should not be. We encourage you to talk about the tough subjects – such as consensual sex – and not just assuming that assuming is okay. We encourage at least 20 seconds of courage. It is courageous to walk into a potential boss’s office and negotiate the terms of your employment, and not settle for less because, “hey, it’s better than nothing.” It is courageous to protect a friend at a party who is in immediate danger of sexual assault or rape, and step up when your gut is telling you that something just does not feel right. Furthermore, it is courageous to stand up against rape culture through opposition of its rules that dictate how to act, what to wear, what to think and assert that none of those decisions mean “asking for it.” It is courageous to label yourself as a feminist, especially with all of the negativity that swirls around an elaborate term that really just means the support of equality.
As courageous people, will we always be admired by everyone, soaring on the shoulders of our peers for standing up against the norm? Is that the good that will always follow the act? I cannot promise that. However, what I can promise is that even changing the mindset of one individual makes a difference. You make a difference. I can promise that there is at least one person in the world who notices what you do and say, and change begins with one person who says no more. Are you going to be the person that turns the other cheek, or thinks but does not say, and misses out on twenty seconds of insane courage? Or are you going to be the one that does something good?