Debbie and Laurie say:
Hating/self-hating talk goes on all the time, in all sorts of venues. Recently the everyday quality of it has been getting to both of us.
Debbie is invited to a book club for women–the format is terrific, the women are bright, the books are interesting. It’s someone’s birthday, and what is she most concerned about? “Whatever you do, don’t ask me my age!” No one disagrees. The birthday (carrot) cake is declared to be “sinful” and “evil.”
Laurie goes to the doctor today, and wonders if the reason she’s due for a pneumonia vaccine is that she just turned 65. When she mentions it to the nurse, the nurse says, “Oh, are you retired?” (It took until tonight to formulate the Miss Manners answer: “No. Why do you ask?”)
We’ve had it easy. Here’s what some other people are seeing:
An acquaintance in Toronto got a much longer version of this in her work email. As she said, “It made me want to throw my sandals at my colleague’s head.”
As a member of the Cute Girl Sisterhood, I pledge to follow the Rules when wearing sandals and other open-toe shoes:
I promise to always wear sandals that fit. My toes will not hang over and touch the ground, nor will my heels spill over the backs. And the sides and tops of my feet will not pudge out between the straps.
I will go polish-free or vow to keep the polish fresh, intact and chip-free. I will not cheat and just touch up my big toe.
I will sand down any mounds of skin before they turn hard and yellow.
I will shave the hairs off my big toe.
I will take my toe ring off toward the end of the day if my toes swell and begin to look like Vienna sausages.
I will be brutally honest with my girlfriend/sister/coworker when she asks me if her feet are too ugly to wear sandals. Someone has to tell her that her toes are as long as my fingers and no sandal makes creepy feet look good.
Queer writer and activist Gina deVries gets fat-bashed on a San Francisco bus:
I got “fat-bashed” on a bus yesterday.
I got on the 22-Fillmore at 16th and Valencia, and sat down across from a woman in her fifties and her two daughters in their twenties. The woman said to me, very loudly, as I sat down, “Have a seat, FATTY.”
I was pretty shocked, and at first, I just tried to ignore her. She proceeded to continue yelling “FATTY” and “FAT” in my general direction. Her daughters were laughing with her. Several people shot me sympathetic looks, but it was still pretty scary for it to be three against one.
I finally looked her in the eye, and said, loudly: “Why are you trying to humiliate me? What are you getting out of this?” I don’t know if that was a smart or stupidly vulnerable thing to say. It was the first thing that popped into my head.
She responded: “Oh, I wasn’t talking to you, I said, ‘Have a seat, sweetie!’… FATTY. Oh, I’m just talking to my daughter, look at her, she’s fat.” (At which point the daughter stopped laughing at me with her, and started telling her to shut up.)
Then the “FATTY” comments started coming again. I rolled my eyes, looked away, and tried to ignore her. She kept yelling, throwing in a few choice but essentially non-threatening lines about how she was going to kick my fat ass. I got off the bus a stop early — the friend I was with (who was several seats away) motioned to me, and we split.
Gina’s right on target with her answer, “Why are you trying to humiliate me?” because “humiliate” is the exact right word.
We hear lots of people saying, “There’s too much of it out there; you can’t fight it all; you have to pick your battles,” et cetera. And to some extent that’s true. You can’t speak up every time, any more than you can feed every homeless person.
At the same time, every one of these experiences, and the tens of thousands of others like them, is personally destructive to the person who hears or reads it. If you don’t resist internally every time, whether or not you say something, then you take it in. Remember. sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can really hurt you. Resistance, internal and/or external, is the only defense against being overwhelmed by the hateful flood.
Resistance is not futile.