Your Emotions are YOURS

Published October 30, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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.

*BTW: Do read Marianne’s post, it’s good advice on keeping yourself emotionally healthy and strong in the face of fat hate.

12 comments on “Your Emotions are YOURS

  • I get alot of that in the woo-woo positivity motivational world. The idea is that we choose how to react and that we have no control over other people, only ourselves. But that approach has always led me to blame myself for not being tough enough. My anger makes me want to fight for justice in the world. I’m glad you wrote this post. It helps me to clarify my thoughts on the issue and to anger-up good and righteously!

    • I love “woo-woo positivity” as a temr Lisa, I know EXACTLY what you’re referring to.

      I actually firmly believe that we have to choose how we take our paths through life, but I don’t believe taking a positive path automatically cancels out pain, grief, hurt etc. In fact, you need those things to truly appreciate the positive. But when pain and hurt are caused by others, we need to make sure we’re not carrying it. I like to think of it as a steaming pile of shit that I simply hand back to the perpetrator.

      • As always you hit the nail on the head, Kath. I agree so much with choosing our path to take, but love the analogy (and the visual inside my mind hehe) of handing that steaming pile of shit back whence it came. Sticks and stones indeed…..

  • I like your image, in the preceding comment, of handing the offense back to the person who gave it. That *is* getting over it, but in a way that might be long-term productive, too. When people say, “don’t let it get to you,” they mean well, but I don’t think they understand that unacknowledged prejudice “gets to us” much more.

    For anti-fat prejudice that is *so* endemic that I have to live with it or give up popular culture, I rend to give the finger (a/k/a flip the bird) to the offending TV show, movie, or magazine piece. Here, I think that if I got as angry as the offense deserved, I really would go crazy. We should give “awards” for such egregious performances, though.

  • Well said, Kath! I have been thinking about this a lot this week for the obvious reason, but for personal ones, too. I suppose in the end it is up to each individual to choose how they should best conduct themselves within the context of each situation, but the basic respect/dignity must remain as a boundary to stay within. Certainly being verbally attacked with swear words and such and fighting it was the same won’t help anyone. It is an easier route, certainly, but no one heals that way, either. Thanks for this.

    • I find it helps to express my anger through fighting words, and definitely swearing. But I understand how that’s not everyone’s preference. I don’t feel the need to play polite with someone who is abusing me though.

  • I read Kirby’s blog and found yours thru it. I am so glad. To hear you young women speak so clearly and morally about standing up to “fat mongers”, gives me faith that I can be angry and not just “suck it up”. As a 57 yr old, that has been bigger than most of her peers throughout my life, I have been the target of hate-speech many times. I, now, am at a point where I will not take it silently! I will not hold in the anger and I will not dwell on it. I live a normal life; job, marriage, children and family/friends. I refuse to be treated like a fourth-class citizen!

  • I understand what you are saying if the advice is not asked for. But if someone asks me for my advice or input and I tell them something along the lines of “Don’t take it personally,” and they don’t like it, well that’s tough. Don’t ask for an opinion if you are only looking for a certain answer. Now I live by the line, “No one can hurt you unless you let them.” It works pretty well for me and I go unphased and unburdened by anyone’s malicious words, but I understand that not everyone cares to see it that way. To each their own.

    • Where are we asking for advice when we vent and show anger towards how people treat us badly, or demand to be treated better?

      I’m not entirely sure where the connection with “if someone asks me for advice” comes in with what I am saying in this article.

      Consider yourself very lucky that you are able to go unburdened by other’s hatred, but don’t minimise other people’s feelings if they are not able to do the same.

      • I wasn’t trying to say that you were asking for advice when talking about fat haters. I was just speaking in general. I was complaining about something negative that a co-worker said to my boyfriend the other day and more than one person offered the line, “Don’t let it get to you.” I didn’t really care to hear them say that but I felt like hey they have a right to say their opinion, and I definitely wasn’t going to try to make them apologize for saying that or take it back. I guess I have just grown up learning how to take criticism better than most. Now I am not justifying someome treating you bad or anyone else bad for their size. It’s unacceptable and you have a right to be pissed off and stand up for yourself.

      • I’m actually not just talking about me directly though. Again, this isn’t about someone actually asking advice on how to deal with haters – that’s not what this post is about at all. Thus my confusion as to your bringing it up.

        But even then – it’s not exactly the best advice. “Don’t let it get to you.” isn’t fixing the problem, it isn’t putting any responsibility onto the bully, and it doesn’t give anything constructive to the person who has been abused. It HAS got to them or they wouldn’t say so.

        Suggesting that by not sucking it up and ignoring it that someone doesn’t deal with criticism well is very dismissive. I find it incredibly patronising. Lots of us were taught to “take criticism well” as we grew up as a supposed coping mechanism. What I’m saying is that one shouldn’t have to when they are on the receiving end of abuse. Abuse is not mere criticism. Hatred, prejudice and bigotry are not things we should be teaching or advising anyone “learn to take well.”

        We as a culture have to radically change our thinking about how people are allowed to behave. Freedom of speech/a right to an opinion is one thing, but for too long there have been no responsibilities placed on that freedom/right. This is why a bullying culture has flourished.

        It’s uncomfortable to change our thinking of how we were brought up, but it’s the only way forward.

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