The first time I spoke up, it wasn’t because I had a political agenda. I was vaguely feminist, sure, but I wasn’t one of those over-sensitive types who whined about everything and said “privilege” a lot. It wasn’t because I wanted attention, either. As a matter of fact, it was because I didn’t want the attention in question. I wanted to define myself, including my experiences, my life, and my labels, on my own terms, not in response to inappropriate, ignorant, and/or callous individuals who didn’t know how to deal with a mouthy brown chick in their midst.
Despite the mouthiness, I was particularly polite, deferential, and utterly silent until the jerkface incidents piled up to the point where I couldn’t take them anymore. Naturally, despite what tone trolls would have you believe, my cautiousness and consideration didn’t matter.
I’ve never witnessed such things! No one else has had any problems with him. He doesn’t mean anything by it. Are you sure he said that? Have you tried talking to him?
I won’t fixate on how often well-meaning keepers of the peace basically gaslit me. I am instead going to single out one of the excuses: No one else has had any problems with him.
I used to attempt to reason with the denialists. After all, by pointing out that I was the only one with a problems with someone, they were telling me that my feelings on the matter were unimportant; all I had was cerebral, detached arguments. Nowadays, I don’t attempt to reason overmuch. If the person doesn’t care about my feelings and is willing to sacrifice me in the name of keeping a jerkface around, I’ll gladly leave. If they’re irrationally attached to their positive feelings for the jerkface, then they deserve what’s coming. And believe you me, something is coming.
I’m the first to admit that there are a lot of things about me that might infuriate people. A jerkface might get angry, irrational, and generally horrible as a human being in response to me and no one else, but that’s just the initial response. The mistake isn’t seeing that I am a potentially aggravating presence, the mistake is to think that I’m the end as well as the beginning of someone’s asshole potential.
The old saying goes that someone who is nice to you but not to the waiter is not a nice person. It’s usually said in the context of dinner dates, where the waiter is at a power disadvantage and the “someone” is trying to impress you. The idea is that if they are petty and mean to someone in a subordinate position, then they are betraying something very ugly about their character no matter how cool they are being to you.
If someone is being unreasonably horrible at me, ignoring the behavior is at the denialists’ own peril. The same goes for other people who are members of marginalized groups. In light of recent events involving a certain disgraced “male feminist,” I will point to their treatment of women of color in particular as indicators of someone’s true nature.
At this point, saying “I told you so” no longer provides the giddy rush it used to. As I no longer take any joy in the fact that I’ve been validated after being ignored over and over again, I’m quite done with making predictions. Unless someone wants to prove that they trust me by entrusting me with their money in exchange for my insight, I’m going to wash my hands of the whole mess. A Cassandra complex is not healthy for someone who doesn’t want to over-inflate their ego.