A couple of months ago, I taught my then-13-year-old daughter how to apply makeup. She’s plagued by the same type of acne I’ve had since about age ten, so that was where we started. Concealer, for the unevenness of the pimples and the flaky skin and the scabs and the scars. Then, the foundation, to smooth things out, and make the tone as uniform as possible. A few more dabs of concealer, on the various spots that still peeked through, then some loose powder to keep everything in its place. I explained to her that makeup wasn’t about changing her face, but about bringing out, enhancing, all the natural beauty, while covering up the things that made her feel unpleasantly conspicuous. About hiding the things she didn’t want to show, and playing up the pretty.
I’ve written, before, about how very good I am at putting a pretty face on things. In a couple of different ways. I’ve had a ton of practice, for over thirty years. I got remarkably skilled at covering up the ugly bits, and playing up the appealing ones. It became a habit so ingrained in my psyche, I didn’t usually even realize I was doing it. If I ever thought about it, it was only to quiet my conscience, or my sense of what was right and wrong. To soothe my outrage in the interests of that passive-aggressive cornerstone of being a good Southern lady — politeness. To sacrifice my justifiable sense of violation on the altar of being a good Christian, and turning the other cheek. To ‘kill them with kindness.’ Now, every one of those phrases makes my lip curl in disgust. My gut churns, and I taste bile.
Polite. Unless we’re talking about holding a door or having a tea party, it makes me want to vomit. Why? Because it’s not what it seems. It’s not about the simple courtesy we show one another, as human beings, in our day to day lives. It’s about makeup. (TW: DV) It’s about plastering a smile on your face, in the face of things that make you ethically uneasy. It’s about covering up the scabby, pimply real face of an issue with smooth, uniform complacency. It’s about ignoring the existence of the infectious pus that lives just underneath that pretty exterior, or allowing it to be discussed only when the tone is soft and quiet and as un-disturbing as possible, because talking about that infection makes us uncomfortable. And you know what? That is seriously defective. We feel more uncomfortable in the face of the tone of voice used in discussing abuse, rape, assault, consent violations, or any form of oppression or discrimination than we do when faced with the horror of the acts, themselves. That is legitimately sickening.
Domestic abuse happens, every day.
- Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
Psychological abuse happens, every day.
- 95% of men who physically abuse their intimate partners also psychologically abuse them.
- Having a physical disability increases a woman’s risk of psychological abuse by 83%.
Rape and sexual assault happen, every day.
- 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
- Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted.
Racial discrimination happens every day. In education:
- Racial minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience…
- the same racial and ethnic divide found in the nation’s K-12 schools is repeated in higher education…
- Blacks received worse care than Whites for 41% of quality measures.
- Asians and American Indians and Alaska Natives received worse care than Whites for about 30% of quality measures.
- Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for 39% of measures.
(There are SO many more facets to this, and my choosing to focus on these two does NOT mean there aren’t others which are just as important.) Hate crimes happen.
- 2012 saw the 4th highest murder rate of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people (LGBTQH) in history.
All of these things are, and should be, upsetting. They piss me off. I hope they piss you off. And I certainly hope they piss you off more than the tone in which the victims of such things choose to speak or write about them. I hope that you aren’t choosing to be more offended by the words of a victim than by that person being victimized in the first place. Because that would be shitty. Telling people who’ve been victimized and oppressed that they need to engage politely with the people who are denying the validity of their experience, or revictimizing them, or shaming, silencing, or further oppressing them, IS further victimizing and oppressing them. It’s silencing and shaming to police their tone. You do not get to dictate the level of discourse or the appropriateness of my tone, when we’re talking about me being abused or raped or victimized or oppressed. Also?
SHAME ON YOU, FOR TRYING.
It isn’t our job to make hearing or reading about our experiences more comfortable for you.