My friend and Cyster Jenn reposted something I said on Facebook as her status update last night, and while of course I was very honoured, I took the statement I had made away for awhile and have been rolling it around in my mind, thinking about what it means to me and how best to expand upon it. I guess the best way to start is by sharing it here:
It’s not about allowing people to hurt you, it’s about your right as a human being to be treated with basic respect, dignity and fairness. We need to stop blaming the victim with the attitude of “they only hurt you because you allow them to” and put the onus back on to the perpetrator.
What I keep hearing, over and over, as a response to anyone who complains or calls out bigoted behaviour towards fat people are statements like:
“Don’t take it so personally.”
“They only hurt you if you allow them to.”
“Why are you always so angry?”
“Don’t let it get to you.”
“Just laugh at them.”
“Just let it go. Get over it.”
And many other similar pieces of “advice”.
I really need to express my objection to this kind of attitude. People who are harmed by others, be it physically or emotionally, have every right to be angry, hurt, dismayed, feel violated and any other way they happen to feel about the harm that has been laid at their feet. They also have the right to expect that the perpetrator has to be the one to take responsibility for their behaviour, not them as the victims.
For too long, we’ve been practicing the old “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” attitude. The truth is, words DO hurt people, and it is NOT acceptable to just say whatever one likes about others without taking the responsibility of the results of making those statements.
I also saw people responding with things like “Well it depends on the case…” suggesting that there are some kind of rankings for violation/abuse. We need to let go of that attitude that there is some kind of gradient that means we should shut up for some things and speak up for others. Yes, abuse is varying in it’s degrees, but that doesn’t mean we should just let the small stuff go. Because what happens? The big stuff gets bigger and more and more gets swept under the carpet. Instead, put it back on the heads of the perpetrator. The responsibility is with them and the level of repercussion is theirs to bear, not ours. Violation is violation and there have to be repercussions for all of it, not just the worst end of the spectrum.
Yes, pick your battles, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide that you are hurt by the violation if it isn’t as violent as another violation.
You don’t have to pretend that their words don’t hurt. When people tell you to just get over it or to not allow others words to hurt you, what they are doing is minimising your feelings, effectively telling you to be quiet and not complain. They’re also minimising the responsibility of the person who has hurt you.
You can be angry. I’m not saying that you should be letting anger consume you, or other people’s behaviour from stopping you living your life to how YOU want to live it, but you have every right to feel anger and hurt and to express that. As Marianne Kirby says in her recent post:
How dare people try to stifle our hard-won anger? Especially when we have every right to BE angry in the first place. You DO have every right to be angry. It is not wrong for you to feel that way. It’s important to find constructive ways of dealing with that anger but the anger itself is not usually the problem, okay? You are right to be angry at the people who want to abuse fatties.
She’s right on the nail. With anger, I can fuel a whole lot of things. That doesn’t mean that the anger controls me in any way, quite the opposite. Anger is not the problem, the abuse is the problem. Make the abuse go away, and off the anger goes with it.
In reference to the Marie Claire debacle of this week, the amazing Marilyn Wann tweeted yesterday:
Marie Claire says: “The opinion was that of a blogger, not the magazine. She posted an apology…We consider this matter closed.” Nuh-UH!
The prejudice-monger (Marie Claire) doesn’t decide when we’re prejudice-free. The prejudice isn’t gone until the FAT LADY says it’s gone!
Oh how I love how Marilyn can get right to the nitty gritty and say it so succinctly. The perpetrator doesn’t get to choose how people react to their behaviour. They also don’t get to choose when they’ve fully taken responsibility for that. The person/people they have wronged do.
Don’t let anyone diminish how you feel. Don’t let anyone tell you to just “get over it”. How dare they? Are they the ones harmed by the behaviour? Even if they are, they choose how THEY react to it, and how they feel about it, not how anyone else does. Your emotions are YOURS, and nobody has any right to minimise them.