I had a bucket of cold water thrown in my face the other day, and it was only partly because of an 'ALS' ice bucket challenge. I have watched a number of these and find them alternately funny, creative and moving. This one began with someone I know making a joke, wording approximate, about how someone had suggested he was a 'girly man' and that he was going to prove that he wasn't a 'girly man'. I stopped watching there. I grew up in a small mining town and tended towards what was called 'sissy' behaviour. I didn't like sports. I didn't like trucks. I didn't like rough and tumble play. I was called a 'girly boy' for several years and it is a term that, now I see, is offensive both to women and to gay men.
I left a comment, in the comment section, saying this. I felt it was a fair comment. After all the term was used, it was acknowledged that it was a negative term and there was clear need to prove that that term did not apply to the man in the video. Now, I know this guy, I know he would never intentionally hurt anyone, I know he doesn't have a homophobic nature, I know all those things. But. Words are words and words do what words do.
He was a total gentleman, and I mean that in the literal compound parts of the word - gentle man - about it. He called me up and apologized. Said he had no intent to hurt or to use terms that hurt. The next day the post was taken down. Simple.
Not so simple.
I have gotten, and still continue to get, messages on Facebook, where I saw the video, from people telling me to apologize and to ask for the videos return. I've politely said, 'no' and firmly said, 'no,' and am moving to an angrier, 'no.' I have been called thin skinned, I have been told that I'm over reacting, I've been told that I attacked this man and should apologize humbly and publicly and ask his forgiveness. No.
I told the fellow who made the video about this and he said that he was pleased to have had the comment and that he learned from it.
Well, clearly, others didn't.
What surprises me and disheartens me is that the people who are after me about this would be the same people who would be writing and commenting positively if I stood up to someone who used the 'r word' or someone who used a racial epithet. The same people. The very same people.
The same people who, if someone said, 'oh he didn't mean it that way,' about a star who used the 'r word' would not accept that as an acceptable reason for using the word. They know, in a different context, that words are words and words do what words do.
Why can't they simply see that it doesn't matter who a word hurts, it just matters that a word hurts?
It seems simple to me.
But, like a bucket of cold water in the face, I realized that for many, it's just not simple.
This all is especially sensitive to me right now, as I've written about, because I've had to see my doctor about ongoing pain that results because of my disability. As I wrote, a couple of days ago, all the 'girly boy' stuff has come back to haunt me and taunt me just for admitting publicly that I can no longer deal with the pain on my own, I need help. This morning, I received a message on Facebook about the incident with the video. I was a bit surprised because it's died down quite a bit and I thought it might be over.
Here is the text of the message: "Hey girly boy, where's the apology?"
Now this comes from someone, a professional woman, who does this without the cloak of anonymity. That's how deep the anger was towards me for having spoken up, and more probably because I spoke up to a particular person.
The intent of the message was to hurt me.
I am surprised to say, it didn't. It shocked me. It appalled me. It annoyed me. But it didn't hurt me. Over the last weeks dealing with physical pain, dealing with my own history of being taught that men don't feel or admit to pain, of being taught that only sissies need help.
Well, this sissy needed help, this sissy asked for help, and this sissy says, "sling your shit at someone else, cause you can't hurt me any more."