Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Does It?

I don't want to offend anyone, and I'm not pointing out any specific person. I want to comment on comments that I've received about yesterday's post. Comments made to me personally by readers, comments made in written form and, as per usually, a pretty strong set of comments sent through email.

I had written about a woman interrupting my workout to point out that my shirt had rolled up and that my belly was showing, even though the shirt hadn't rolled up high enough to expose any skin. I had said that people intrude into my life because they see me and my weight as invitation to speak, interrupt or pull my attention towards them and their thoughts.

The comments made essentially said that she was probably like that everywhere with everyone. That I was reaching when I tagged her behaviour with my disability and difference. That it probably was personality, not prejudice. That I needed to start to take a more positive view of situations. That I needed to take a look at the larger picture rather than being so focused on my own experience.

In essence I was lectured.

I understand every single comment. I think that most people were attempting to be helpful, even uplifting, even if that's not how I felt about them.

One of the problems that minorities have, in my opinion, is that when they give an example of the subtle racism or sexism or homophobia lived with daily, people can brush it off saying, well that happens to me sometimes, so it can't be evidence of prejudice. Then they walk away assured that we all are exaggerating and their own sense of privilege goes unchallenged.

Here's the problem, we who live with difference or disability understand that our experiences of, say people stopping to comment on my body, on my weight, on my disability, is constant, not a one time incident. There is a pattern of behaviour, a frequency of behaviour, an intensity to the interactions that tell us the PREJUDICE IS THE BIG PICTURE. I don't hear non-disabled people or people without differences talking about the everydayness, the several times a dayness of public intrusion, of public reaction, of stares and of fearful glances.

So please realize that when I give an example, don't work so hard to explain to me that what it means to me, what it means in my life experience, goes far beyond what happened in that moment. It's another social kick with the power to bruise and bruise and bruise again.

It feels like dismissal.

It feels like a proclamation that prejudice exists in my mind only.

And I know it doesn't.

Does it?

7 comments:

MaLa G said...

What you've described - this pattern of comments/looks that others dismiss or explain away as NOT ableism - is called "microaggressions" in my field (sociology/anthropology). I've told tales similar to yours to my colleagues and to a one, in order to make me feel better I guess, they try to explain what happened in ways that take out the bigotry. Surprising to me given that we all work in a social justice discipline and can see it in Other People but not among ourselves. So frustrating!!! Microaggressions are very real, are all about discrimination, and accumulate to make the victim (me anyway) feel lower than low because then our friends and associates say it's all in our head.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

You're just brave enough to tag the behavior for what it is": bigotry and prejudice.

After reading your blog for a while now, I can't believe all you have to take. I'm disabled, but don't leave the house much. Mostly I get ignored rather than talked down to.

You're out and about and trying to live your life, and keep having to face/deal with/put up with this crap. And if you talk back, the reaction isn't an apology, but someone taking umbrage. I am so sorry - and can think of nothing positive to DO.

If one 'normal/able' person did that to another, sparks would fly.

I guess all you can do is to stand up for your rights whenever it is safe. It must be exhausting.

Jenni said...

It is our privilege that you share your lived experiences with us, strangers on the internet. We as readers can say in response to your experiences 'I've had that happen to me too' or 'I've not had that happen to me (yet)'. But what we can't say, as people who weren't there with you at the time and who haven't had your specific lived experience of repeated bigotry associated with visibly identifiable difference, is 'that's not how it happened, you must have got that wrong.'

Yay, Dave!

Sandra Fleming said...

Totally understand how the comparisons or minimizing the situation happen and how maddening it can be. I have had it with grief and wish sometimes I could just hit someone upside the head. I am on a different path from you but acknowledge and recognize my feelings in the situation. I am not asking to have it "made better" or explained away or anything - just acknowledge my feeling.
Glad you keep putting it out there so we can examine our own situations and reactions.

Ann said...

You were there. You know how you were treated. And more, you know all the ways you are treated that never make it onto this blog because you do not owe anyone a blow-by-blow of your personal life.

I'm sorry people don't believe your experiences. I know how that feels, because it happens to women a lot. (Those symptoms you are describing to your doctor aren't real, that assault was just a misunderstanding, that gender pay gap is because the man is more qualified, etc.) I suppose it's easy to do it to anyone who is seen as lesser. But it's especially awful when it happens in your own space.

I believe you. In case you needed a stranger to say it.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I think some people want to assume the best of others and have trouble grappling with the idea that some people are bigoted.

And I think some people also assume that because THEY haven't ever seen or experienced people do a thing, that it surely cannot actually be happening to others.

Some people need to learn to get over themselves and recognize that different people do have different experiences with how other people treat them. People need to recognize that things that might never be done to some people (like them), might be done to other people on a regular basis.

Having had more experience with people who say and do certain things to you because of your weight (or disability or sexuality) means you have more experience recognizing when weight might be -- or might not be -- a factor.

That's not to say that those of us with experience recognizing bigotry are never wrong. Maybe we are -- some of the time. Maybe you are too -- some of the time. But there are still PATTERNS in how other people respond to us based on our personal characteristics, and we're still capable of recognizing when an incident fits into that overall pattern. Incidents that fit in with the pattern of bigotry are still going to be upsetting no matter whether the people perpetuating these patterns actually have bigoted attitudes (which many/most do) or not. I wish more people would recognize this and stay focused on empathizing with how it feels to be subjected to a relentless pattern of microaggressions or other acts of prejudice.

I think trying to minimize or dismiss these kinds of complaints are themselves a form of microaggression. The people may be acting with good intent, but it's still a form of invalidation, and that's still going to hurt.

wheeliecrone said...

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy.

Dismissing the lived experience of anyone, whether or not you think you have had a similar experience, is a way of dismissing the person, in my opinion. And dismissing reality for the purpose of drawing another person's attention away from their work is childish in the extreme.

It's a way of saying, "What I think is more important than your reality."

She may be a lovely person in many ways and very good to her mother, but she was a bitch when she spoke to you. A small-minded, carping bitch. I think that you let her off quite lightly.