Sorry, Matt Walsh. You Don’t Get to Tell People How To Feel

Sorry, Matt Walsh. You don't get to tell people how to feel

I was a young teenager when I saw an episode of Touched by an Angel that addressed race. I remember the black male character saying, “You don’t know what it feels like to walk on a bus and see the women all hold their purses a little tighter.” And I remember thinking, Oh please. Racism is not a real problem anymore. Slavery had been long abolished, black people could vote and they even starred in TV shows like Family Matters which we watched every week. Obviously, racial equality had been achieved. The guy was just being sensitive.

That’s my first memory of my white privilege talking.

Years later I went to university to study literature. Let me tell you, in the humanities/art/social sciences, folks are kind of obsessed with talking about gender and race. It’s almost all they talk about anymore, and I got sick to death of it. It felt absurd, sitting around as a diverse student body and a diverse staff (in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation) to talk about discrimination and inequality. Does nobody notice how many women and people of colour there are here? I constantly thought. The head of the department is a woman! Obviously equality has been achieved here. We are so past this; can we talk about something else now? Like whether this book is actually any good?

I thought anyone in the university who still thought racism and sexism were still problems was being ridiculously oversensitive. (And what about this institution’s prejudice against Christianity? I wondered.)

A lot of the things Matt Walsh writes about these days remind me of the ways I used to think and feel.

* * *

I’m not sure when things started to change – when I started to become aware of the realities of race, gender, class, and sexual inequality.

It was definitely after I left the academy — having that stuff shoved down my throat every day by upper-middle-class elites hadn’t been very helpful.

I think it started when I began actually listening to the voices of people from marginalized groups. I started to listen to the stories of gay and black folks, of immigrants and people with disabilities. This was all still through the easy, sanitary media of books, blogs and magazines, but still: I heard stories I had never encountered before. About exclusion and violence and systematic oppression. People really did seem to be suffering from injustice due to their sex, skin colour, or physical appearance. In Canada and the U.S.! They weren’t just making it up. People of privilege really do systematically ignore, silence, insult, and marginalize minority groups, often without realizing it. And I realized that I’m one of those privileged people, who never has to worry about my race or sexuality working against me.

I also started thinking differently when I learned that the Church is still the most racially segregated institution in North America. So just because my all-white church can hold hands and sing kumbaya, it doesn’t mean we’ve achieved reconciliation with the rest the world.

Yes, we have made a lot of progress towards equality since government-sanctioned slavery was abolished and women got the right to vote. But just because we’re not allowed to own people doesn’t mean everything’s okay.

How do I know? Because members of marginalized groups are still saying they’re being discriminated against. And I’m going to go ahead and believe them.

* * *

Earlier this week, Matt Walsh published a post entitled, “Sorry, but it’s your fault if you’re offended all the time.” He begins, “I truly believe that we are the most whiney, sensitive, thin-skinned, easily offended society in the history of the world.” He makes fun of the concept of “microaggressions,” and makes a number of declarations like, “If it wasn’t intended to offend you, then you shouldn’t be offended,” and “Being offended is a choice you make. Nobody is responsible for that choice but you.”

Then Walsh lampoons ethnic minorities and transgender people who share experiences of microaggression on the internet.

As a straight white person like Walsh, I will never know or completely understand the experiences of the people he’s mocking. But instead of calling them names (overly-sensitive, thin-skinned, etc) I think it might be more helpful to actually listen to what they’re saying.

And here’s where I especially disagree with him: the speaker’s intent is NOT the only thing that matters. You are still responsible for hurting someone if you speak out of ignorance.

Because here’s the thing. I also know what it’s like to be alienated and insulted without the speaker’s intent. You probably do, too.

For example.

When we were having a hard time getting pregnant, people said a lot of things that hurt me. They didn’t mean to. They just didn’t know.

Once, in a group setting, a friend shared about another couple that was spending a lot of money on repeated fertility treatment. Another friend spoke up, remarking, “I don’t know why they don’t just adopt. It’s selfish to keep spending money on fertility treatments when there are so many babies that need families.”

That wasn’t meant to hurt me – we weren’t even talking about me, and I wasn’t even undergoing treatment – but I wept the entire way home that afternoon. It wounded me so deeply not only that she didn’t understand, but that she didn’t care to understand the unique pain that comes from infertility.

It would have been nice if she could have tried to hear their experience from their perspective.

* * *

I agree and understand that it is difficult to say anything without offending anyone. It can get really tiring, always rethinking what you’re going to say so as not to hurt anyone. Especially those of us in positions of privilege, who have never had to think about race and sexuality being a disadvantage to anyone. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be polite and sensitive at all times. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to apologize when we’ve unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings and try to learn from the experience.

I know I have and will continue to hurt people with my words, in part because my experience is incredibly limited. But instead of ridiculing and belittling people when they point it out, I want to actually hear their perspective, apologize, and try to be more sensitive next time.

And yes, part of maturing involves getting a tougher skin at times and not letting people’s words get to you. We don’t need to throw a tantrum every time someone says something that hurts our feelings. I agree with Walsh here, and am always trying to grow in that respect.

But at our core, we’re all dreadfully tender. We all ache to be loved and accepted. We all bleed at the slightest scratch if it hits the right spot. We just all have different tender spots. Haven’t we all been brought to our knees in agony by a glance, a word, a sneer, a phone call that never came? But instead of mocking people for their tenderness, we ought to try to be more gentle. Because we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

It’s easy and fun to make fun of people for being “sensitive” about things we’ve never had to deal with. Mockery shuts down the conversation quickly, so we never have to take responsibility for our ignorance.

But I’d rather go out of my way not to hurt my fellow bleeders. I owe it to them. And the best way to learn how to do this, I believe, is to listen. I’m going to try to keep my ears open and my judgey mouth shut as much as possible.

And definitely not tell them how they ought to feel.

Image courtesy of sciencesque.

What I’ve Been Up To (Instead of Blogging)

Man! It has been so busy around here! I thought I’d share a few pictures in lieu of a real blog post. So that you can see I’m not just being lazy.

Harvest from the garden . . .

onions1Onions curing in the sun!

squashLast year was lousy for squash, but we got a good haul this year!

pumpkinsAnd look at all these PUMPKINS! (And some spaghetti squash). These excite me to no end because we grew them from seeds I saved from a couple of heirloom pumpkins (red Cinderella and and gray Jarrahdale) I bought last year. I’d never saved seeds before. There’s something thrilling about watching two pumpkins turn into twenty. And look how gorgeous they are! They have thick, delicious flesh, too, which will be turned into pies and muffins throughout the winter.

Please note: I think some people are under the impression that I am doing this stuff all by myself. FAR FROM TRUE. I garden with my mom at her house. She’s been gardening for decades and has lots of excellent land to do it on. During spring and early summer, I go over there once a week to help plant, sow, weed, hoe, and pick a few things to take home. During the late summer and fall, I go over there two or three times a week to help harvest and preserve. It’s usually when we butcher, too. Last year we did hogs, because that’s what my parents raised; this year they raised meat chickens. I have to go back next week to do the last ten with my mom.

At our own home, we raise four hens for eggs and an herb garden. That’s it.

Anyway, we did all this canning this week:

tomatoesDiced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa. My mom’s been doing additional canning like a madwomen in the evenings when my sister and I are not there. She’s insane, and also awesome. We still want to put in another day or two.

Anyway, all this work is made a bit more taxing due to all this extra weight I’m carrying:

28 weeks

Yeepers! I still have three months to go! How huge am I going to get?! I’ve been huffing and puffing for weeks already, and my hips are starting to get achy. I was about this size at nine months when I gave birth to Lydia, so . . . this is uncharted territory for me. (Ben conveniently cropped out my badonkadonk, so you can’t see how much weight I have gained in the lower region of my body.)

And for fun, on the weekend the three of us went to see WALK OFF THE EARTH in concert!! (I went a little crazy talking about the band here.) They were playing at a venue less than an hour away, and we’re all huge fans, including Lydia. She knows all the members’ names and likes to imitate Sarah in Material Girl and drum on the hood of the van like the guys in Gang of Rhythm.

Walk Off the Earth concert

It was an outdoor concert, and we had a hard time finding a babysitter, and we really though Lydia would enjoy it. So we took a risk in taking her. It went great! She was a little overwhelmed by the volume and lights. This is how her face looked throughout most of it:

watchingAnd when they sent huge balloons out into the crowd, she cried because she couldn’t have one. Until someone handed her one! Then she was thrilled. It made her night.

balloon

familySo things have been busy, but good. So, so good. I’m overwhelmed with the blessings in my life right now. I hope you are doing well, too!

What I’m Into: August 2014

Lydia three years

harvesting honey

honey comb frames

harvesting honey 2

honey

canning tomatoes

August never fails to be a full month. It’s always the busiest time for harvesting and preserving.

Just in the last week, I was over at my parents’ house helping to harvest potatoes and onions, pick and can tomatoes, butcher meat chickens, and harvest honey. (We still have lots more canning to do.)

We also celebrated Lydia’s third birthday and our ninth anniversary this month. Oh, and I’ve reached the third trimester with this pregnancy! Entering the home stretch!

So much work! So much fun!

On to the Stuff I’ve Been Into!

Books

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story (Dan Harris).

I’ve been feeling for a while that meditation might be a key element that’s missing from many of our daily lives, which, if practiced, could vastly improve our physical and emotional health. (And, by the way, I believe it can be perfectly compatible with Christianity.)

So when my friend Rebecca practically begged me to read this book exploring meditation from a non-spiritual perspective, I thought I’d give it a try.

First thing to note about this book is that the writing is absolutely superb. So much so, that I couldn’t shake the suspicion it was ghost-written. I know professional writers who have had their work published for years who don’t write this well. Very absorbing and bitingly clever.

This book is more of a memoir than a self-help book. Harris traces his journey into meditation from cynic to awkward evangelist. I really valued the chapters exploring the science that is beginning to demonstrate meditation’s impressive power to transform the brain. The practice actually strengthens parts of the brain in ways that can be seen through brain scans, increasing an individual’s capacity for contentment and self-control. Cool stuff.

He gets a little into how-to’s, but I would really like to go deeper into how to practice meditation. Any recommendations? I’m also deeply interested in any books that might explore Christian meditation.

book

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (Mindy Kaling).

Ben and I kind of went on an obsessive spree watching The Mindy Project this month (more on that below), so I was eager to check out Kaling’s book and get to know the brain behind the show that had so captivated our attention.

This book is fun, quick, light reading. It’s terribly smart and funny, just like the author. I particularly enjoyed the early chapters about her childhood and how she got into comedy writing, eventually landing her job writing for The Office. Some of the essays later in the book are witty and illuminating, too, though a few of them kind of bored me.

I really wished that the book was more recent — at its writing, she hadn’t even begun The Mindy Project. I would have LOVED to learn more about the show and how it came to be. Regardless, it was very interesting to get a glimpse of the person behind the show. I think it really helped me to better understand what she’s trying to do with the story, too.

Television

As I mentioned, we got a little obsessed with The Mindy Project and binge-watched the second half of the first season and then the entire second season. It is so good, you guys. Absolutely hilarious. Especially the last episode of season two. It made me happy for a week.

And if you find yourself in the middle of season two thinking, “Man, there is a lot of sex in this show. Does anyone know how to have a relationship? Is this all this show is about? Why does everyone suck so much?” . . . I feel you. I felt the same way sometimes. But I really think Kaling is trying to do something that you’ll only really get once you’ve watched all the way through. Either way: the last episode makes it all worthwhile.

Movies

We scored some free movie tickets that expired this month, so we went out to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I love (almost) all the Marvel movies, and this one didn’t disappoint. The opening scene actually made me bawl like a baby, but I was quickly swept up by the humour, action, clever plot, and awesome special effects. And as usual, completely lovable characters. Even the green lady, the tree-man, and the raccoon. I loved them all.

And we’ve continued to occasionally watch classic romances I’ve never seen. This month it was When Harry Met Sally. It was all right. Funny and awkward and sweet. It really took me a while to warm up to both Harry and Sally, though.

With the Munchkin

Sandpaper letters

We’ve started to work with the sandpaper letters I made last month. As you can tell from the pictures, Lydia loves them! In stages, we’ve learned 8 different letters so far with their phonetic sounds, using the three-period lesson. Sometimes we practice writing them. Here, you can see her playing the little game I made up — I’ve drawn pictures of things that start with the letters on little sticky notes, and she matches them up with the right sound. She adores this game. Little nerd.

That’s what I’ve been up to! How about you?

As usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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