Microaggressions

All posts in the Microaggressions category

On Being an Argumentative Killjoy

Published March 13, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So I read this piece on Tumblr recently:

You know, the “PC” one? Who “has a problem with every little thing”? And “Doesn’t have a sense of humor” and “doesn’t get that it’s just a word,” etc.? Her? Yeah. I hate being her. I mean, I’d rather be straight up hated, really, than perceived as a nuisance and cause for avoidance and eye rolls and resented and thought of as someone who thinks she’s better than everyone else.

I mean, if you’ve been That Person, you know The Look. The one that everyone gets on their face when you start to take issue with something fucked up they’ve said AGAIN, and the way they all look at each other like “Oh. Her. There she goes again, being all ‘political’! Sigh. Is she done yet?”

I don’t know why that look terrifies me so much. It’s a lot worse than a snarl and a combative stance, to me. I can yell back and argue with the best of them, if I want to. But that sense that I am just a giant pain in the ass and it’s best to just ignore me and why can’t I shut up and stop making everyone uncomfortable already … just inevitably makes me feel so small.

That means I’m often bad at saying something when I want to. Fear of that look. Even online — no, especially online, because where The Look happens in real life or not, I won’t know, and so will just assume that it has happened anyway. And then, inevitably, I end up hating myself for it.

by Cara aka Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies

I totally understand where Cara is coming from.  I too have been That Person.  No, not have been, I AM That Person.  I’m the one that people consider a killjoy because I call them on what they say.  Even when they are “just making a joke”.

I understand The Look.  The eye rolls, the sighs, the face like you’ve taken a shit on their dining table in the middle of dinner.  I’ve heard all the lines too:

“Calm down, he/she was just making a joke!”
“Why do you always have to start arguments?”
“Why are you picking on me?  Why are you making me look so bad?”
“You’re so ANGRY all of the time.”
“You’re making something out of nothing.”
“Stop being so political.”
“Nobody can have fun when you’re around.”

Sigh.

The onus is always back on those of us who call it out.  Like we’re the ones with something wrong with us, like we’re the ones who are behaving in a way that harms people.  When the fact is, making a comment or joke that is at the expense of others is just plain shitty behaviour.  The only person causing friction, the only person making something out of nothing, the only person stopping the fun, the only person making anyone look bad, is the person who is saying the inappropriate thing, be it joke or not.

Like Cara, there are times that I think to myself that perhaps it would be just easier to shut up and go away.   That it would be easier for myself, not just other people, if I wouldn’t point out when people are saying something that is at the expense of someone else, joke or not.

But I can’t.

I can’t live with myself when I just shut up and go away.  I can’t let go of the feeling that it was wrong of me to just sit there and not say anything.  I can’t carry that on my conscience, because I know that when I just shut up, and don’t say anything, people think I AGREE with them.  They think that I feel like they do, that it’s OK to make jokes or statements at the expense of others.  When I “let it slide”, I feel like I’m sanctioning that racist comment, that joke at someone’s body shape/size, the sexist statement, the classist jibe.  And those who are suffering at the expense of those comments/jokes, are hurt by my silence too.

Just like I’ve been hurt when someone has made a fat joke or sizeist statement in front of me, and everyone has sat there silent, even though they clearly know it was the wrong thing to say.

I read the Tumblr blog Microaggressions every day.  It serves to remind me just how little comments, a “bit of a joke” hurts people every single day.  It reminds me that the reason I do speak up, the reason I risk The Look or any of those jibes about being humourless/argumentative/angry/political etc is because these little comments and jokes hurt people.  And they permeate our culture so thoroughly, that people think it’s ok to behave and think like that.

It is NOT OK, it’s not funny, nor is it acceptable, to make jokes, assumptions or comments at the expense of ANY other human beings.  Ever.  Don’t fucking do it.  Think about what is coming out of your yap before you open it.  The same goes for things you post online.

It doesn’t make you a killjoy to think before you make a joke.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a laugh, or be silly.  It just means using your damn brain before you open your mouth.  You can still have a wicked sense of humour, you can still laugh at the absurdity of human behaviour, you can still make fun of yourself.  But when it comes to making jokes about other people, are you making a joke about how someone looks?  The colour of their skin?  Their religion?  The shape of their body?  Their gender, sex or sexuality?  Their race?  The clothes they choose to wear?  Their health, physical abilities or mental state?  If the answer is yes to these (or anything else about a person’s general state of being), then don’t fucking do it.

As for any other statements, think about what you’re saying/writing.  Are you using language that belittles someone or a group of people?  Are you perpetuating a stereotype that harms someone?  Are you making assumptions about someone based on their state of being?  Then don’t fucking do it.

But most of all, when you do screw up, and yes, we ALL do it, own it.  Take responsibility for how your words affect other people.  If you don’t know the correct way to talk about something, say so.  Use the best language you know how, in the most respectful way you can and if someone gives you advice on how to do it, then learn from it.  We’re all learning, finding our way.  I look back across things I used to say and think, and cringe at how ignorant I could be.  I know I have a long way to go.  We’re all learning about how other people experience the world we’re in, and we can’t get it 100% of the time but we can all put the bloody effort in.  Anything else is willful ignorance.

If that makes me somehow unpleasant to be around, an inconvenience to little jokes and conversations, if it makes someone feel uncomfortable, then tough.  I’d rather be known as an argumentative killjoy than sit back while others say things that hurt others.