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What has silence cost you?

| Wednesday, November 9, 2016

This election year has proved particularly polarizing on salient issues of difference; civility and discourse around challenging topics no longer seems to be a priority. Often we are left wondering, can we still talk? Or is it better to remain silent?

While it might be more comfortable to not talk about issues of diversity and inclusion, it hurts all of us.

The harm done by silence can be more than interpersonal — it can make an entire campus indifferent. Whether the silence has been driven by stigma or a fear of shame, it is more important than ever to confront it. Race, gender, class, religious identities, sexual assault, mental health, socioeconomic status, disability: these easily become absorbed by negative fields of silence. We should strive to cultivate a culture that opens up spaces for vulnerability and difficult, albeit oh so necessary, conversations.

That is why this year, Show Some Skin, a student-run production that combines the arts of personal storytelling and performance to give voice to unspoken stories, asks: what has silence cost you?

Show Some Skin’s story collecting process centers around encouraging members of the Notre Dame community to step out of the safe zones, to encourage and nurture people being okay with uncomfortable conversations. The show encourages us to proudly step into the spotlight as the most honest versions of ourselves. To stand in that spotlight, and celebrate something we are so quick to shy away from: vulnerability. The stories that are told through Show Some Skin are without barriers, and the name of the show itself instructs us to lay bare the thing we are most afraid to share.

Everyone has a story, yet so many go untold. Why? Perhaps it’s because you are trained to convince yourself that there’s always someone who has it worse than you. Or maybe you feel ashamed of the story you have to tell. Or maybe you don’t think anyone will care enough to listen. Maybe you think you aren’t justifed in feeling what you feel. But your story is valuable, and don’t do yourself a disservice by thinking otherwise. Our emotions embody judgments about the world; the significance in the role they play in each of our lives should not be neglected.

The stories you have trusted us with, Notre Dame community, have been hilarious, alarming, poetic, full of pain, full of hope, and above all, honest. They are filled with fighting words. When we read your monologues, above all, we are honored you trusted us and our show with them. We can only hope to do them justice. Without your stories, there is no show.

Even now, six years after the show’s creation, we are continually in awe of the impact Show Some Skin has had in our community and how much room we still have for growth. We hope to continue to support and expand the mission is to be a catalyst for the campus community’s discovery and appreciation of Notre Dame’s true diversity. Discovery and appreciation are words that describe the process by which we absorb the world around us, and grow into it ourselves. A world full of people and perspectives entirely different from ourselves. So when we fail to talk and listen, we are building a wall around ourselves.

We challenge you to break the silence. To engage in conversation. To find the balance between listening and sharing. The goal of a conversation is not to bicker, not to prove, nor to win. It is with this in mind that we ask you, members of the Notre Dame community, to start by sharing your story.

Let’s build conversations, not walls.


Leah Jacob and Natasha Reifenberg

Show Some Skin

Executive co-producers

Nov. 7

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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