Trying desperately to take the mantle of Most Insufferable Corporate Panderer from Gillette, Calvin Klein recently unveiled a new ad campaign featuring obese people in their underpants. A massive, 4,000-square foot billboard erected in Manhattan shows one such model with the message: “I speak my truth #InMyCalvins.”
This is just the latest and largest iteration of the “speak my truth” slogan, which is repeated incessantly in our culture — especially since Oprah identified “speaking your truth” as “the most powerful tool we have.” And we can do more than just speak our truth. According to Tomi Lahren, we can also stand in our truth.
Of course, the problem with this mantra is the possessive pronoun sandwiched conspicuously in-between “speak” and “truth.” Truth is great and speaking it is admirable. It might even be good to stand in it, on occasion, if you’re wearing the proper foot attire. But you cannot speak or stand in or do anything at all with “your” truth because there is no such thing. There is only truth and untruth. There is reality and unreality. There is correct and incorrect. Every statement or assertion will fall into one category or the other — or a combination of the two.
The “speak your truth” idiom tries to create a third category in addition to truth and untruth: My truth. But if my truth is the same as the truth, then it isn’t mine at all. It isn’t my truth that sharks have dorsal fins, even if I assert the truth and express my agreement with it. It isn’t even the shark’s truth. It is, rather, a universal truth that stands apart from and beyond and over myself, and the shark, and everyone else. It just is, and all a rational person can do is accept it.
However, if my truth contradicts the truth, then it is indeed mine but it isn’t actually truth. If I say that my truth is that I have a dorsal fin, I am simply mistaken or lying or hallucinating. It may be my impression or my belief or my conviction or my desire that I have a dorsal fin, but it isn’t my truth. It isn’t any kind of truth at all. In this case, “my truth” is just another way of saying “falsehood.”
It might be argued that “speak your truth” really means something closer to “speak your mind” or “share your story.” If that’s what’s meant, then that’s what should be said instead. It’s clear, however, that many people who use the phrase do actually mean it literally. We are raising an entire generation to believe that they can invent their own truths, which will be just as legitimate as, if not more legitimate than, the truth. The rash of creative new “gender identities” is just one example of this. If a man says he is a woman, or if a woman says she isn’t a woman but she’s still a lesbian, or if a dude in a terrifying Dalmatian costume says he is a dog, then we are supposed to accept and affirm these claims as the unique and valid “truths” of these individuals.
This is all nonsense, of course, and a symptom of our collective madness. The truth cannot be changed according to our whims and desires. And it cannot be owned by anyone. All we can do with the truth is acknowledge it, deny it, assert it, or allege it. Though I suppose “speak your assertion of alleged truth” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.