**TRIGGER WARNING** This post briefly touches on subject matter of a violent and sexual nature
I very recently had a Facebook interaction with someone that I'm more commonly used to having in person. I don’t know what the intentions of this person were or why he was so triggered by a picture I posted. (You can check it out here: https://scontent-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/11079618_898068430256368_5968793295066056208_n.jpg?oh=3667709a0dd0fd2f51b3411c9bdfb0d1&oe=55A5CEEC).
In one of the very rare and tiny windows of spare time I had I checked my Facebook and saw this picture on another friend’s wall. It resonated with me on multiple levels, so I shared it on mine. As a side note, I am always happy for people to comment, I would actually love if there were more discussions taking place. It’s also fine if no one likes or comments on what I post. Facebook and social media for me, as I think for a lot of people, is just another and different vehicle for expressing yourself in whatever way you feel is right in that moment. I feel like I have also been extremely lucky when I have touched on really sensitive subjects. There have been some incredible, intelligent, validating, kind, and thought-provoking conversations between my peers and I’m really proud to know all of these people even as my degrees of closeness with them varies widely.
This particular conversation, however, was different. It was so judgmental from the get go. The person in question decided to take it upon himself to say in about two sentences that I was not championing the right people by posting this photo (speaking as if he already knew what my intentions in posting this photo were) as well as then speaking on behalf of the person in the photo (Audrey Hepburn: humanitarian and iconic film actor. Also has been dead since 1993) to say that she would want me to be good, graceful, humble, and quiet little girl and not post a picture of little ol’ her and her accomplishments. Real women are nurturing to everyone excluding themselves and suffer quietly (I’m paraphrasing based on my feelings that arose when looking at his actual words in front of me).
In a nutshell: I express myself. I am then told to shut up and do something else. Oh, and that I’m wrong. So, I’m not allowed to fight for my own voice, but expected to just do that for other people?? Not only that, but I’m just supposed to accept his opinion about me because he claims to be a feminist and an ally even though the only indication he gives of being one is that he knows how to use those two words in a sentence?
There are many, MANY problems with this, (white savior complex, taking ownership of another human being/s, inserting oneself out of sheer self-importance, whining when someone disagrees with you or doesn’t respond to you in the way you want them to then reasoning that person is a man-hater because why would anyone ever disagree with your highness, perpetuation of “it’s just a compliment” despite how it makes the person on the receiving end feel and completely ignoring the social constructs that make thinking so pervasive and hard to escape, perpetuation of “you asked for it” because it’s “a public forum” as an excuse to not take responsibility for oneself and be a dick, etc… all of which I won’t be able to touch on here but can always go back to in another post). The initial response from this guy indicated that I am not a good person, that I’m so blinded by my own privilege, that I’m so oblivious to all the suffering that exists in this world, and that I am not doing anything about it. Here’s the thing though.
There is an overwhelming amount of suffering and injustice in the world and so many voices that need lifting up, but I can’t make every issue my issue. I also can’t fight other people’s battles for them. There are some battles where “my help” will not even be wanted and it is not my place to insert myself. In those cases all I can do is step aside and create space for them. I’m doing everything that I can. Every. Day. And I’m the first person to beat myself up over whether I did enough or did the right thing in every single situation and interaction that happens throughout the day. When I got that comment it was at the end of another day of being up at 6am to have class from 8-1pm, an almost hour long train ride with major construction delays to get back home to feed my cat, feed myself and try and get some rest before having to leave for work at 2:45pm where I serve and make people bubble tea until 9pm but don’t leave until 9:30 because I still have to clean and close the shop. I was exhausted.
I am in school 5 days a week, work 2-3 days a week, I have voice lessons twice a week, therapy once a week, I have to eat, sleep, do homework, travel from points A to B, C, D, F, create. SURVIVE. I am constantly up against ingrained and institutionalized sexism and misogyny both personally and professionally. In the midst of living my life and attempting to accomplish the list above I’ve been chased down the street by men because I refused to accept their advances by setting boundaries. I’ve been called racist for doing the same thing. I was raped last year by a coworker and I am constantly going back and forth as to whether to go to the police and go through living that experience again. I was completely uprooted in all areas of my life because of that incident and after a year I have finally begun to process and get out of the dark hole it put me in.
I have a father who tells me that my boundaries are important and I should never apologize for setting them and standing up for myself. I have a mother who tells me I don’t have to be a martyr and that I’m never responsible for others especially if they are treating me in a way that is abusive, and hurtful. I’m grateful for my parents. And I’m grateful for the amazing friends, support groups and mentors that I have. Not many people are as lucky. I also know there are people in much worse situations than I am, and I’m grateful for where I am.
I try every single day. I try to better myself. I try to be better to myself.
It’s so hard to wake up every day knowing that the world expects you to be perfect. To be all of these contradictory things all at one time, not giving a fuck if those things have to do with you or any other real human at all. I want to be a hero. I want everyone to be happy and no longer oppressed. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fuck up big time. I also want to make a comfortable living doing what I love to do. I want to travel, have experiences, create memories and tell stories. I’m fighting every day figuring out how to manage everything. But I’m limited in time, energy, and support.
I’m not perfect. I’m just a person. And I’m trying. We all are. Sometimes all I have to inspire me in a day is a picture of Audrey Hepburn with short blurb about her story to keep me going on this path. Because there was someone I can point to who I can relate to and who came before me who did it, which means that I can too. I will never stop sharing my voice and I will never apologize for having one. I will not let assholes think that they know what a better use of MY time is when they have ZERO perspective into what I actually do and care about in MY life.
So, if an opinion is expressed does it need to be accepted just because it exists? The answer is no. And since no one can ever truly knows what another person is going through, withholding judgment can really go a long way.
I’ll leave it to one of my homeboys for the final word:
“I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.” -Voltaire