To assist you in identifying and resisting dominant and unequal power relationships in your life, we’ve compiled a list of common phrases people in historically dominant roles have been conditioned to and may use to try to silence oppressed others, particularly when they perceive their dominance to be challenged.
The quotations below were used by men against women and are thus patriarchal; however, one could expect to find similar strategic dismissals and silencing of the accounts and concerns of people of color, working class and poor people, queer and LGBTQI people, young people, fat people, disabled people, and other marginalized folks in the discourses of those who discriminate against them. The simultaneous and intersecting nature of oppression is also considered here.
These strategies, and others we may have missed, can be found in any order, but from our experiences attempts to silence us commonly go something like this:
Question your knowledge/judgment
Delegitimize your response
Enforce dominant point of view
Shut down debate or conversation
Strategy: Assert authority.
1. No, but…
2. You’re wrong.
3. You’ve been wrong before.
4. That’s not true.
5. Are you sure? I’m going to Google it.
6. Really? I don’t believe it.
7. That’s never happened to me / anyone I know.
8. I’ve never seen / heard of that.
Strategy: Question your knowledge/judgment.
9. You don’t know that for sure.
10. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
11. That doesn’t count.
12. This is a completely different situation.
13. You’re making it about (structural oppression goes here) when it’s not.
Strategy: Delegitimize your response.
14. You’re overreacting.
15. You’re blowing it out of proportion.
16. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?
17. Stop getting so emotional.
18. Don’t tell me you’re upset about this.
19. You’re getting angry /raising your voice / shouting again.
20. Not everything is about…(structural oppression goes here).
21. Stop trying to make it about…(structural oppression goes here).
22. You always say that.
23. I knew you’d do this.
24. Can’t we talk about something else?
Strategy: Delegitimize you.
25. (Rude laughter)
26. (to someone else) She’s crazy. Don’t listen to her.
27. Why can’t you just relax?
28. Can’t you take a joke?
29. I’m just joking.
30. You’re so serious all the time.
31. You’re so angry all the time.
32. You have no sense of humour.
Strategy: Enforce the dominant point of view.
33. You have to accept that…
34. You must agree that…
35. It’s obvious that…
36. You must be stupid to think that…
37. Everybody knows…
Strategy: Shut down debate or conversation.
38. This is a stupid / irrelevant / useless conversation.
39. Why are we still having this conversation?
40. It’s not important.
41. Not everything is a campaign.
42. You’re making it worse by talking about it.
43. Why don’t you just give it up already?
44. I’m done.
45. Are we done?
46. Are you happy now?
47. I’m gonna hang up.
48. I don’t debate on this topic.
49. I’m not having this conversation.
50. I said I was sorry! Isn’t that enough?