Taking Up Space

Photo by Kleigh Balugo

By Kleigh Balugo

There’s nothing that I envy more than people who can unapologetically take up time and space in the classroom.

In my freshman year of college I took a feminism theory class. I showed up on the first day with all my squeaky clean notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils, just to silently sit in the back of the class while everyone else discussed. When it was time to individually have meetings with the professor, she mentioned just that.

She told me that often women feel like they can’t participate in class and that although I may not think I have anything valuable to contribute, she still wanted me to speak up. She told me that women shouldn’t feel ashamed of being vocal in class, especially when men always do it so unapologetically. I may not remember all of the Judith Butler readings we did that semester, but what she told me stuck with me throughout college. 

I always wondered how white kids in class could have so much courage to say anything, and I mean anything in class. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that white kids have wasted many hours of my precious, and expensive, college education. Just filling the room with meaningless antidotes and pointless comments that add almost nothing to the discussion. Just because they like hearing the sound of their own voice. And unlike me, they’ll speak over anyone to hear it one more time.

I’m not implying that these white kids don’t have anything important to say in class. I’m sure they do, some of the time. But the fact is, they are so incredibly overconfident and assured of themselves that they don’t even hesitate to talk in class. 

You may think it’s a stupid thing to worry about. If you want to talk in class, do it, easy. But not for me. I always struggled with this, even before I came to college. Because it’s scary to put yourself out there and it’s easy to assume that even if you do have something valuable to add to the discussion, no one cares enough to listen anyways. I realized that’s not necessarily true though. 

The worst feeling is having a thought in your head and rather than saying it out loud, hearing the overly talkative kid get credit for it instead. 

It’s easy for me to feel invisible in white spaces like college. In high school, I was always the kid that people would bump into as they walked by, because they “didn’t even notice I was there.” College only amplified this experience for me, because now the room was full of upper middle class white kids who were confident enough to talk all class long because that’s what they’ve done their whole life. How ironic is it to hear a class full of white kids debate Asian hate crimes, while you, the only Asian around, sits idly by? Pretty damn ironic. 

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