Bitching and Complaining

DefendOne of the ways that people derail activism, whether intentionally or accidentally, is to suggest that the person who is pointing out what they feel is an example of stigma, oppression, bullying etc is just “too sensitive,” is “overreacting” etc.

This is sticky because there can be a lot of disagreement about what does and doesn’t constitute bigotry, stigma and oppression.  To me it’s not about if we disagree, but rather about how we deal with the disagreement.  Someone says that something feels oppressive/stigmatizing/bullying etc.  Someone else disagrees.  So far so good.

The person who disagrees now has options, some of which are:

a.  Note their disagreement and choose not to sign the petition, e-mail the business, etc.

b.  Open a discussion asking if the person is interested in discussing it more.

c.  Write the person a nasty e-mail telling them that their experience is invalid and their belief is wrong.

We are all the boss of our underpants and we can all make any of those choices, I would ask that we really consider if choice c is the one we want to make, especially within our community.  We don’t have to agree with each other, I’m not suggesting that we need to support something we disagree with, I’m just suggesting that we take a pass on tearing down people who speak up by suggesting that we are somehow the Authority on oppression and stigma and that our opinion is the only correct one, or that if it’s good enough for me then it should be good enough for everyone.  I believe that we can have respectful dialog about these disagreements without tearing each other down, and that it would be awesome if we would do that.

If you are the person who is dealing with this, know that you are not alone.  I doubt that anybody who has ever fought against oppression has avoided this type of criticism.  Sometimes the person doing the criticizing is well meaning but has an over exaggerated sense of self-importance.  Sometimes they can’t tell the difference between their opinion and actual fact.  Some people just like to criticize.

If this is happening to you know that you have a right to your opinion and to be a witness to your experience.  One thing I have learned is that the only way to avoid criticism is to do absolutely nothing, so sometimes it helps me to remember that if I’m being criticized, it is proof that I’m doing something.

Somebody left this quote in one of my posts a while ago and I thought it was perfect for this post as well:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

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Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:43 am  Comments (13)  

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thanks! I appreciate what you do! I’m sure you see a BUNCH of hate that you keep away from your readers. I’m sorry you have to read the garbage. I appreciate how thoughtful & researched the info you post is & that you take time to this. So for all that hate mail-this is the unhate mail! 🙂

  2. I have recently left a couple of activist communities because of this very issue. I was finding that whenever I, or others, voiced a different opinion for the sake of opening a dialogue or simply to express an opinion, I was told that without a doubt I was not considering all sides or that my idea of the situation clearly wasn’t what was really happening. Apparently because I wasn’t as offended by certain things as another person, my thoughts on the matter were invalid.

    I was saddened to find this within the size acceptance community as this is one of the things that we fight so hard against. Usually, I let it roll off of my back, but the continued judgment against individual experiences made it hard for me to want to stay.

    Thanks for writing this, Ragen.

  3. It’s so easy to sit back and kibitz; so hard to put yourself out there and do the work. Thank you for so consistently choosing the harder path.

  4. Yes, this is true everywhere. People really do mistake their opinions for fact and will fight tooth and nail for them. Religious convictions, political leanings and how to live one’s life are all opinions. There is no place that says what is right except within that particular circle… and that is exactly what an opinion is. It’s always great to be reminded of this too. I make it a point never to argue my opinion, only facts. Agreeing to disagree doesn’t always work but it can help avoid a huge blowup that is mostly unnecessary. We don’t change people’s opinions by telling them they are wrong. We can only change their opinions by showing them other possibilities.

  5. It’s really annoying how many ways there are to shut down a legitimate discussion now, about any topic. In addition to the “overreacting” argument, there’s “you’re just jealous” (e.g. that other people are thin), there’s “you’re making excuses”, there’s even “you’re trying to bully people into giving you special rights” (The right to be treated like anyone else is special? Huh?) I think we’ve pretty much lost the capacity to have rational discourse anymore.

  6. The “oversensitive” argument often has to do with microaggressions, which makes it tricky. The thing about microaggressions: yeah, they’re “little things”. Kind of says so in the name. For the person who’s saying something slightly inappropriate it’s probably no big deal, they didn’t mean any offense and can’t fathom why someone would get so upset about it. But for the person receiving such microaggressions for the fifth/hundreth time that day… that shit cumulates.

    • Yep. I’d add that some people purposefully commit *only microaggressions specifically to avoid responsibility and criticism.

  7. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    When you’ve been the victim of stigmatizing and ostracizing and you haven’t even done anything wrong, you just don’t fit society’s narrow definition of pretty, you’ve got every right to pitch a bitch, I say.

  8. What really gets me is the claim that for fat people to think they’re healthy, they must be delusional. Now, this isn’t just insulting regarding fat people, it’s extremely insulting if you have a mental illness. Even worse, if you are someone who has been a victim of, or prone to easily being gaslighted. It’s a way of them saying, “Who are you to say anything, you don’t even know what reality is.”

    Recently I got in a row with a fitness person, who kept posting about their struggles with carbs. I told them maybe if they didn’t deprive themselves of carbs, they wouldn’t feel the need to eat so many later. I then tried explaining HAES, I have a bit of a reputation for arguing for fat acceptance, which I think is kind of cool. Like I’m a badass fatty rebel like Penn Jillette, okay I could never be as cool as him. So I later went to Derailing for Dummies, the official site is down, but there’s a mirror if you search for it on Google. They used at least 5 derailment tactics against me. It goes to show you how they are desperate to believe their sacrifice is worthwhile, as well as needing to keep fat people in their place, so they can feel superior to them.

    I don’t know why, but being able to frustrate them to a point where they tried almost every derailment tactic at their arsenal, made me feel better. It made me feel like, I can stand up to fat haters, and they won’t keep me down. It’s helped me be a lot less anxious about dealing with them too.

    I’ve also been called too sensitive plenty of times. I like to say in response, “Society’s problems tend to not be because of people who are oversensitive, but because of people who are insensitive.” then I’m told I’m being insensitive or “passive-aggressive”. I think passive-aggressive is the code word fat haters or bullies use for, “I thought they were an easy target, but suddenly they are resistant to my tactics! I know, I’ll shame them for not being a compliant victim!” I’ve had people tell me to get a thicker skin, and I have. Then there are people upset they can no longer use me to their advantage. You can’t please everyone, and there’s no point in trying to please people who’s agenda runs against yours.

    Like fitspo people, they’ll act like they’re being bullied, when the moment they’re questioned about their efforts in being thin, they throw out the obesity hysteria as a reason for it. They honestly think that being thin at any cost is reasonable, even damaging their health. I feel pity for them more than anything, spending their lives on the hamster wheel instead of enjoying things. Now, some people would say “That’s awfully condescending of you.” However, when you deal with those type of people day in, day out, using your body as an example of why they need to stay fit, yeah I’m going to be a tad condescending. My existence as a fat person, shouldn’t be a reason someone needs to stay fit. Then turning around and crying, “But but, you’re shaming me, for how I take care of my body!” after they’ve shown concern trolling, claiming you have a false consciousness, and claiming they know you’re unhealthy despite not being a doctor. All because you were pointing out, maybe restricting carbs to a point where you feel you need to binge on them later is not healthy.

    Oh, but it must be healthy, because they’re thin. That is their logic, that’s the logic of society at large. Considering this person decided to publicly whine about how they need to restrict carbs, for pats on the back, and reassurance they’re being a good healthy person by sacrificing a dietary item they need for energy. By the way, this person also was going on about how they had no energy later, which had me wanting to hit my head on my desk repeatedly for the obviousness of that meaning something is wrong.

    I think that fit people are frightened that fat people can have better self esteem than they do. It frightens them, because it makes them have to face that perhaps all that time on the hamster wheel was pointless. That while they’re complimented all the time, they realize they need to be constantly approved of. Nothing scares fat haters more than the idea that someone can have a fat body, and have better confidence than they do in their fit or thin body. It means not only are they facing someone who isn’t going to be impressed by their self-imposed sacrifice, it means they’re facing someone who can see through their desperation to hold on to the idea that their body is under their full control. That if other people aren’t in full control of their bodies like them, they must be lesser than them. They need to hold on to this belief system like a religion, because the minute they realize, all their efforts were for nothing. That their being fit is just a method of covering up their insecurity, and inability to live as a fat person securely, everything will come crashing down.

    They might be physically stronger, but they’re not as strong as those who face adversity head on rather than run from it at any cost. I want fat people to remember this. It takes more strength to live as a outcast of society, than it does to put yourself on the hamster wheel of attempting to gain approval. Just think of all the constant reassuring fit people need, to remind them they’re on the right path. Hearing a fat person not only doesn’t need that, but could care less that others approve of them. It’s like hearing that their whole life has been a lie. That’s why I feel they’re deserving of our pity, not our scorn.

    • I see a lot of what you are talking about too. I actually had one of my fitspo “friends” (she isn’t anymore after becoming offended by what we did) come with me to a health clinic to have some blood drawn since my clinic wasn’t open. So she started going on and on to the doctor how he sould be advising me to lose weight and so on and so forth, the doctor asked her to do a little experiment with him, she agreed.

      I had two viles of blood taken and she had one. I got the lab results I needed for my doctor and the other vile was used to compaire her health markers against mine, we also had blood pressure and pulse taken.

      My blood test results, blood pressure and resting pulse rate was much better then her’s. She had proof right there in her face for her to read and she got so offended over the fact a fatty is healthier then her she hasn’t talked to me since.

  9. I’m not sure exactly who the title of this post is aimed at. I totally agree with the content. I really dislike the term “bitch” both because of its misogynistic implications, and also because it serves the same function of “oversensitive” in your examples – critiques and grievances are legitimate, while these oversensitive whosamawhatses are just “bitching.”


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