Thursday, September 11, 2014

Words Do What Words Do

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."


Glee said...

Wow Dave my mouth literally dropped open!!! At all of that.

Words can hurt. I am glad you see the real truth. That, it is their shit.

An illustration: you move thru life and people throw shit at you. It just hits you. So you get covered in shit. You end up owning that shit.

But if you knock that shit down on the ground into the dirt as you move on, then flowers can grow. A useful place for shit. :)

Colleen said...

Wow, Dave. Just wow! there is real power in what you wrote.

Last post about "girly boy" I posted a comment. And I have been thinking since that I do not want to give the impression that I know what it might have been like to be a boy who is realizing he is gay and to be called that. I know what it is to be called names. I don't know what it is to be gay in a world that rejects and brutalizes gay.

What Glee said too.


FunMumX3 said...

Wow the power of words. And shame to the woman who sent you that comment. Words do matter.

Kinda off topic..just heard from Ms9 this morning about a child in her new school who is a girl but identifies fully as a boy. She was very curious to understand her observations, that the child is called by a gender neutral nickname, is referred to as "he" and dresses/plays like a boy (whatever that means :). Wonderfully, the school is 100% supportive and respectful, and the teacher tells me that this child is actually very popular and feels like his normal is accepted. So Ms 9 and I had quite the discussion on the power of words and what words to choose when talking about difference. Not exactly related to your topic but it's all over my mind and wanted to share. It is a good news story for diversity!

Anonymous said...

Oh Dave,

and you wonder why you have so much people who are impressed by your gentleness.

You are a great guy and I am glad you got to terms with your pain management.

Hugs Julia

Louise said...

"Words do what words do". So please, don't call yourself a sissy. It doesn't sound like you find that an empowering word.
You are a man who has been strong enough to admit that being in pain is a good reason for seeking professional support (and I hope your doctor was able to give it).
You teach people to not feel shame for what was done to them. Please don't collude with anyone who tries to shame you. Be angry! And use words for yourself which are both strong and gentle.

Janielle said...

I wish there was some sort of challenge to raise money for Cerebral Palsy. I myself have it and it's nice that ALS got all this money, but what about the people that have cerebral palsy?

wendy said...

I'm so sorry some people are so horrible, Dave.

Belinda said...

The very fact that you speak up when many of us would silently but safely suffer words or stares, shows that you have great courage, because look at what it draws out of people--more abuse and violence.

Thank you for bravely and kindly enlightening others when they make unwitting blunders that hurt.

Glee said...

what Louise said absolutely

Bite Two said...

You're one of my favourite sissies, Dave. Perhaps the world needs more of them...

Ruti said...

Thank you for speaking up about this.