My life has brought me to a point where I the experiences I am having personally, internally, are echoed by what is happening externally. It is, frankly, a little terrifying. But I see the themes.One of them is the refusal of others to accept information about how I feel and what I experience. On a personal level, I am married to a man who didn’t learn good conflict management skills in his childhood. I can see why; his family is always looking to call you out as wrong, so he learned to admit no fault. This is problematic when I say, “What you just said hurt my feelings” and he gets stuck in a place of fury where he denies that my feelings have even been hurt, and much less that he did anything to cause that.
I have spent a lot of time explaining that he is missing the point. You don’t get to decide if MY feelings are hurt. You have no control over that. You have control over how you respond to my hurt feelings, but the place where the disagreement is located is not whether or not my feelings were hurt in the first place. You can say you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, you can ask what happened that hurt me, you can explain that you had no intention of hurting my feelings, but you cannot say that my feelings weren’t hurt. Unfortunately, he gets stuck in that defensive place and it is expressed as a withdrawal of love and affection because I have had the audacity to wrongfully accuse him. We’re working on it.
This is the exact same experience many women, LGBTQ folks, minorities, etc have when they try to speak of their realities. A male relative has told me on Facebook that my response of fear about increased violence against those people Trump has targeted is invalid. Again, he locates the argument in the wrong place. He has no control over how I respond to the world in which I live, and he has no ability to even understand the world in which I live. He is a white male. He cannot say that I am “over-reacting” by carrying pepper spray. A true exchange of ideas might include, “Why do you feel so fearful?” I could then explain and make a list of all the reasons. And he could certainly respond that he doesn’t think those are good reasons, but he can’t control how I feel. We could argue all day about whether or not a man pulling up in a car next to a female pedestrian and jerking off as he cruises by is good or bad or indifferent, but there is no argument about how it feels to me to experience it (which, by the way, is threatening and predatory and it makes me wish I carried concealed).
Women’s realities remain their realities whether someone else believes them or not. The experiences of the disenfranchised are theirs, and not open to denial, because they are real. The question that can’t be answered is, “Why, if I say to you that I am hurt/scared/fearful/anxious about this situation, is your response to that to be angry with me?” Are you saying that you want me to have these feelings? That I deserve them? Because they are real, and the way forward is for you say, “I love you, and I don’t want you to feel this way, what can I do?”
For some reason, that admission is terribly threatening. That’s the part that needs fixed before we can even begin to have a realistic conversation. That’s where the problem is; not with me voicing my reality.