Trouble was brewing for a couple of weeks and I was entirely unaware. I woke this morning to an email signed by 52 people. The list of signatures was L - O - N - G - E - R than the message that was sent. I have to admit that I had to think, really hard, about the issue that was being raised in order to remember precisely the situation they were talking about. I finally did.
Here's the scoop. A picture was posted on Facebook by someone who's linked to me, I know that Facebook calls everyone who is linked to me there a 'friend' but in truth I know very few of those linked to me personally, most are there because we are connected through the disability community. The picture was one of those that villify fat people, usually women but sometimes men, that is supposed to make people LOL, or ROTFL, or maybe even LMFAO. I hate these kind of pictures and see them as a violent attack against fat people. I am fat, if anyone wants to remember, and I protest this kind of imagery as I protest all cruel humour.
In fact on April 30th of last year, I posted this note on my page: To my
friends, my family, my fellow facebookers. I know I am really fat. I
know that being fat means being reviled. I somehow, maybe mistakenly,
believed that if you requested to be 'friends' or if you accepted my
request to be 'friends' that would mean that I could expect a kindly and
friendly atmosphere. For the most part that is true, and I thank you
for that. However in the last few days I've been
seeing pictures of people used as targets for hatred and vitriol.
Pictures of fat women with a large pizza, pictures of a fat woman in a
wheelchair eating a block of cheese, pictures of fat men on scooters -
these are accompanied by comments about how disgusting, how ugly, how
horrifying these people are. I ask of you a favour. If this is how you
feel about fat people, please 'defriend' me. I won't be offended, I'll
be thankful. I don't need to come here to be reminded that you, and
those like you, think that me, and those like me, are sub-human beings.
I'd rather gather around me, here on Facebook, like minded, fair minded,
kind minded people. I believe in community and I believe we should
strive to make community wherever we find ourselves. I wish a safe
community, if you can't respect me, please respect that and move along.
Here is what happened: Someone, by his profile picture I'd guess a man in his thirties, put up a HaHaHa picture which I found particularly repugnant. I'm not even going to describe it to you, I don't want to put myself through writing it down AND I don't want to put the image into your head. So, let me just guess that you've seen these kind of things and know what I'm talking about. My reaction? Anger mixed with hurt mixed with outrage. How is it that cruelty is seen as really, really funny? More troublesome still were the comments to the picture. Most saying that it was really funny, disgusting, ugly and several suggesting that the person in the picture should just go away and die rather than be seen in public. All comments, every single one, reacted with either laughter or revulsion to the picture.
I have been the lone voice before.
I left a comment stating that I thought it was offensive. I was strong and clear in what I had to say. I'm used to doing this now because I don't let a single one pass. In fact I wrote a similar protest to a similar picture YESTERDAY. I was blunt, I didn't mince words. It was offensive. It was hateful. The comments were full of bigotry and prejudice. My comment was about the 'behaviour' of posting the picture not the 'character' of the person who posted it.
Here's what's came of that. I did not know, and frankly don't care, that the person who posted the picture was someone with an intellectual disability. A group of people, not the person who posted the picture, who support this individual and some of this individual's family, sent me an email telling me that I had hurt his feelings and that he was upset by my comments. I was chastised because I present myself as someone who cares about people with disabilities and here I was attacking someone with a disability. I owed THEM and apology.
Let's leave aside, for the purposes of this blog post, the horrible fact that they did this without him, his name wasn't in the list and he was spoken about as if he wasn't in the room when this was done. Let's also leave aside that if I attacked anything it was the picture and the behaviour of posting the picture, I didn't, and don't, directly attack the person posting the picture.
I sent an email back and said that they could read my blog for my response.
Here it is.
I do not apologize.
My response to him was the same response I would have given to any one else. I did not know he had a disability and even if I did I would have done the same thing. People have no right to be purposely cruel to people. There are no exemptions. Read that line again. THERE ARE NO EXEMPTIONS. Purposeful cruelty is wrong. When someone with a disability teases or bullies another person with a disability, what they are doing is wrong. It requries comment. When someone with a disability teases or bullies anyone else, what they are doing is wrong. It requires comment. I suggest that instead of writing me asking for an apology you might want to spend your energy speaking with him, involving him in a discussion about why some people might not find that picture funny. Maybe, he's been teased or made fun of, maybe that experience will help him understand why doing that to others is wrong.
I do not apologize.
Not even a tiny little bit.