originally published September 2009 on What Tami Said
Teaching moments are wonderful, but I think that no marginalized person is obligated to swallow justified hurt and anger to better “teach” the privileged or “squash” the mess or racism. That people of color are nearly always asked to do so in the face of prejudice is spiritually wearying and a tyranny.
I’d say, “Aunt Mary, I know you didn’t mean that the way it came across, but that e-mail hurt my wife’s feelings and she felt it was kind of derogatory. I’d like you to meet my wife and son and be a part of our lives, but do you think you could not send us jokes like that or make comments like that?” The end. Give her the benefit of the doubt. She doesn’t know better, she didn’t mean to hurt you, and she is part of your family. If she keeps doing it, you can always limit contact.
I responded to this commenter that statements like “kind of derogatory,” “do you think you could…” soften what was an ugly offense. And she said:
In this situation, I’d give her a graceful way to save face while also letting her know that it offended the wife and would probably be offensive to other people. “I know you didn’t mean it that way, but this is the way my wife saw it …” If Aunt Mary has any sensitivity, that’s enough to make her think, “Boy. Maybe I SHOULDN’T make jokes like that. I’m so embarrassed.
She may have mental health problems and bad issues? Who knows? Suppose this interaction made her relapse or slip into depression?
It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history, she probably was sent as a potential angel that was looking for direction and love- this was probably her only way of establishing connection and conversation? Supposing she had never spoken to a “black” person before and this is her only contact. Perhaps a lesson was missed, she could have been enlightened with love and understanding?
We all possess amazing powers of compassion, fairness, judgement and forgiveness.” Read more…
…It’s a lot more fun to be the person uttering snide jabs (i.e. “So – Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober.”) than the one getting mad about them, and the allegation of humorlessness is a pretty hard one to defend against. Saying, “I do too have a sense of humor, just not about this” is pretty unfunny, and in my experience tends to prove my opponent’s point. Making feminism even harder to sell is the fact that it often attacks things that men are supposed to find hot — the pursuit of ever-younger partners, for instance, or surgically enhanced breasts, or mainstream pornography. I’ve had more than one depressing conversation with a man in which it’s clear that he thinks I’m “against” anything sexy. I turn into the fun police, and whatever I’m supposedly forbidding becomes taboo — and thus even more exciting.
In elementary school, I learned that the best way to deal with someone who’s bothering you is to ignore them. And indeed, some feminist-baiters, especially on the vast fringes of the Internet, are best left alone. But as Turner points out, silence is also implicit permission. And since many of the engines of misogyny aren’t individual people who depend on reactions for their continued existence, but big corporations with a stake in female insecurity, this is a big problem. Read more…