So I was watching Glee yesterday. Yeah yeah, I know, lots of you hate Glee. I’ve heard it, I’ve watched the show, and made my own choices. If you hate Glee, and can’t bear someone else talking about something that was spurred by an episode, you can skip this post.
But I want to use a moment I saw in the show to illustrate something.
So, I was watching Glee yesterday. It was the episode where the boys are using mental images of Coach Beiste (played by the wonderful Dot Jones) to, ahem… cool their mood, when things are getting heated while making out. Mr Schuester finds out about it, and tells the guys off for being jerks, because it’s a really hateful thing to do. He actually says something to the boys about “How do you think Coach Beiste would feel if she found out.” Shortly after she actually confronts Mr Schue and asks what is going on, and rather stupidly I thought, he tells her. He tries to be sensitive about it, but he tells her this horrible thing the boys have been doing.
When she is visibly upset, he tells her to “Not take it personally, they’re just being kids.” to which she responds quietly and tearfully “I do take it personally Will. I take it very, very personally.” and leaves. It soon transpires that she is quitting her job at the school because of this.
Will confronts her as she is packing and she tells him “I know I can be a little intimidating at times, but deep down inside, where no-one can see, I’m just a girl. Am I nuts that I just want to be reminded of that sometimes?”
I can tell you, I was in floods of tears at that moment. Absolute floods. Because I can totally identify with it.
As a proud fat activist, it’s often assumed that being ballsy enough to call out fat hatred, to speak up when others aren’t able to, and to live one’s life large despite the fat hatred that is just rampant in our culture, means that we’re strong and confident and impervious to the bullshit that gets flung our way. As an extroverted woman, who has made a conscious decision not to buy into the cultural ideal that women should confirm to a certain look, that we should be meek and dainty and not do anything to make ourselves look different to the “norm”, it’s assumed that I am able to just ignore the hatred that comes my way for being different (and I know I’m not the only woman who feels this way).
Those of us who step out of the stream, who rock the boat, who accept ourselves for who we are in the face of vitriol, bullying and shaming, are assumed to be these confident warrior women, who can just shrug off all the negativity that is hurled our way. And boy do we get it hurled our way. Usually because people just assume we can “handle it”
Friends, family, online followers and all kinds of people in our lives say “But you’re so confident! You’re so ballsy! You take no shit!” This may be absolutely true, but that doesn’t mean that we are made of steel. It doesn’t mean that nothing hurts us, that we are unfeeling to pain, hurt, shame, sorrow or any other negative emotion.
I can tell you that pretty much every time I have ever tried to express hurt, or shame, or sorrow and so on, the person I’ve been trying to express it to says something like “But you’re so confident! You don’t listen to that shit!” or “You’re a strong woman Kath, why would you let that get to you?”
The answer is, for the same reasons that anyone else does. Because sometimes, the things people say and do are hurtful. Because we are human beings. And because like every other human being, we just want love, and kindness, and care, and respect.
To have that negated by the “But you’re so confident!” response can actually make the hurt cut twice as deep. It’s almost like we’re not allowed to express pain, that we have to keep “being strong”.
The truth is, like anyone else, even the most confident, extroverted, outgoing person has feelings.
I’ve really experienced it this past week. Yeah, I shaved all my hair off and got a big fat positive tattoo. Pretty out there things to do. But that has needed some processing on my part. I look in the mirror and I look different. People react to me differently. Yes, I chose to do this because, well firstly to raise some money, but secondly to challenge people’s attitudes about a woman’s appearance. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to carefully process the changes myself, and that I don’t feel when people are hurtful about it. However, when I did need a little bit of processing time, and then fell over a bit emotionally, triggered by another event, it was a great shock to people in my life, and several of them were quite incredulous that I should need my self esteem boosted a bit to give me a push, or that I should need a bit of tenderness when I am hurt.
No matter who the person is; be it your extroverted, confident friend, a rad fatty that you admire on the interwebs, or anyone else who you think is strong, confident, extroverted, awesome… remember that they are still a person. That sometimes that extroversion and confidence is the face they give to the world to protect the soft stuff underneath. That they sometimes need some tenderness shown to them, a moment of acknowledgement of their feelings, or some time to process what they’ve just done when it comes to an act of defiance. Unlike Superwoman, they’re not made of steel.
Just like Coach Beiste said in Glee…
“I know I can be a little intimidating at times, but deep down inside, where no-one can see, I’m just a girl. Am I nuts that I just want to be reminded of that sometimes?”