Thursday, August 6, 2009

META-POST: Do I Really Want To Hurt You? Do I Really Want To Make You Cry?

You know: it's been a weird week. A week in which I have been required to defend my murderously insensitive stances on a variety of topics, including Zooey Deschanel, divorce, and dead kittens. And, following the advice of some close personal friends, all of whom are probably sick of having conversations that begin with me stating, "THAT'S IT! I'M QUITTING THE INTERNET," I have decided that it is time to address matters. With shouting!

For starters, you may not be aware of this, but you are reading a blog called Tiger Beatdown. When I look up "Tiger Beatdown" on the Google, I often come across lines such as, "Tiger Beatdown is fucking venomous." And that is from a positive review. The less positive reviews tend to use the word "cunt" a lot. Which is to say: I have a sharp tone. If you don't watch out, you might cut yourself. Whoops.

Is this incompatible with maintaining a safe space? I would argue that it is not! Because here is the subject of this blog: structural oppressions and privileges. Lady issues more often than not, but also issues relating to race, class, sexuality, and transness. I want people to come here and see that stuff subverted and resisted, not reinforced. I maintain a "safe" space in that I don't want anyone to be devalued on the basis of what they are.

As for who they are: well, that's different. Each and every one of us is a special and unique snowflake, and some snowflakes happen to be more obnoxious and tiresome than others. This blog is about structural oppressions and privileges, yes. But here is what it is not about: your parents' relationship, your pet cat, your favorite movie stars, or your personal awesomeness in general. The blog also isn't about my personal awesomeness in general - if it were, the posts would be called things like, "Will I Put On Pants Today? Sources Say No!" - so this does not mean that I don't like you. I like pretty much every single person I've spoken with on or through this blog! I feel very lucky to have the readers that I do! But that's not what the blog itself is about.

What does this mean? It means that, if I fuck up on covering structural issues - if I say something that is racist, or sexist, or anti-trans, or anti-queer - you can and should call me out. If I say that Cheerios are the best breakfast cereal, and you prefer Frosted Mini-Wheats, and you feel tempted to write a multi-part screed on how I just don't care about people who love Frosted Mini-Wheats and, you know, you don't see enough coverage of Fruit Loops either... well, have you considered NOT doing that? You should. You really, really should.

I know, I know. HARSH. And this gets particularly sticky when we are talking about things that are close to people's hearts - like their pet cats, or their parents' relationship. I do, in fact, have compassion for people who are extremely sensitive about those things. And I want to tell you why I have this genuine compassion by telling you a little about myself.

Throughout my early twenties, I was a very fucked-up individual.* This is because I was dealing with a variety of things: several incidences of sexual assault, a relationship with a fairly toxic dynamic (which I played a big part in creating, being fucked-up and all), my abusive dad (who FAKED HIS OWN DEATH, basically, in the middle of my junior year of college: literally, there were two months during which we actually thought he had actually died, and then he showed up, and it's a long fucking story). It reached a peak somewhere in the middle of that junior year, wherein I literally would not stop talking about how horrible my life was, maybe just to be heard, maybe to get empathy, but probably just to get pity. Like, I took all of these non-fiction writing courses and EVERY SINGLE ASSIGNMENT turned into me writing some hyperbolic J.T. LeRoy shit about something awful that had happened to me and then we'd get to the "workshop" portion where everyone would read it and look at me with these "YIKES" faces and, basically, just focus on the grammar, because what else do you say?

I will tell you what else you say. Because, on the last day of junior year, this other woman with a very sharp tone noticed me about to launch into yet another story about how awful my life was, and she said this:

"You do know that everyone else goes through hard times too, don't you?"

And she also said this:

"I'm really tired of being held hostage to your personal breakdown."

This is an unflattering story, in case you haven't noticed! It is a story in which I am the villain! But I get the sense that a lot of people might be in the same place I was, years ago, and that is why I need to speak to you about this. Focus on the issues: sure, fine, great. The issues are often about people being hurt, so noting the existence of pain isn't taboo either. But, for the love of God, do not try to turn this public forum into a referendum on whether or not your pain matters. Because, basically, that is also a referendum on whether or not you matter. And you have to decide that question for yourself. Some woman you've never met who runs a blog can't answer that question for you. Nor can you resolve it by hosting a My Life Sucks party on the Internet, derailing an entire conversation to talk about whether or not you have worth as a person and how much pain you're in and doing that passive-aggressive codependent bullshit wherein if people don't immediately weigh in to talk about how much they pity you they're all terrible monsters so they'd better do it RIGHT AWAY. You can get all the pity in the world, but at the end of the day, it matters fuck-all, because you still feel like shit. All that matters is where you stand with yourself. And if you don't get that: let me tell you, you will be chasing the pity forever. You will always want more. There are just not enough people in the world to love and support and care about you, there's not enough attention, there's not enough praise, there's not enough consideration, ever, because deciding that you matter is your fucking job and everything else that is offered to you just gets sucked into the black hole that's where your self-respect should be and almost instantly disappears.

So, yeah. I get that your life might be tough right now. But don't make me the person who's supposed to fix it. Because I'm just writing about ladybusiness.

And, on a ladybusiness-related note: have you noticed that it's pretty infantilizing, this stuff? I mean, we've been demanding the right to be treated like adults, proclaiming our strength, clamoring about how we want to be full participants in society and democracy, for over a hundred years. But here's the thing: democracy means one person, one voice. It means everyone gets to participate equally, everyone gets to be heard, no-one is privileged based on what they are and no-one is denied access because of what they are. It's a noble goal. But "one person, one voice" does not ever mean that all of the voices are going to agree with you. You can lay out your arguments, you can discuss, you can converse, but making it all about your personal pain at being challenged or disagreed with: well, shit, if you can't handle that, why did you get out of bed this morning? You're not a child. Don't ask people to treat you like one. Because people can pat you on the head and treat you like a special little princess and continually protect your fragile being, but when the time comes to go to war, to stand up, to be a force to be reckoned with, you're going to be completely unequipped.

The world is fucked, kids. You know it. You've seen it. If you are basically anyone other than a thin able-bodied white dude who likes the ladies and makes truckloads of cash, a substantial portion of the world is convinced that you just do not matter. Wishing aloud that the world catered more specifically to your personal wishes and desires... well, that's not how it works. It's missing the point, actually. Because the point is not, and never has been, you. The point is everybody. So you get up every morning, and you put on your armor, and you make things change.

*UPDATE: An e-mail from a reader suggests that this post may be insensitive to people with depression or other forms of mental illness. Some of the behavior that I am describing is, in fact, common to people who are depressed. Here is the official Tiger Beatdown position on this: if you are depressed, or think you might be depressed, please go to the doctor. Seriously. If I could possess your body for 24 hours and drive you there and get you the prescription or the referral or whatever it's going to take for you to treat your potentially lethal illness, I would do that. But I cannot! Which is good, since I cannot actually drive and would wreck your car! So that is - as I said above - your job! It is really super self-destructive to seek help via derailing Internet conversations: it not only puts people in the position of having to provide help they're neither trained to provide nor capable of providing, it can - if used as a substitute for real treatment - actually endanger your health still further. People have, historically, tried a lot of substitutes for medical treatment of depression - Jesus, beer, Livejournal - and really, they don't ever work out well. So don't try to make this blog one of them.

27 comments:

  1. Gobbless you, Sady, I had a shit day today and that last paragraph was *exactly* what I needed to read. For srs. I suspect you of being psychic, it was so timely.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Haha, this totally reminds me of that time senior year in college, when I had to live with these freshman who were Unique Little Snowflakes, and I basically had to lay the smackdown on the worst of them because she wouldn't stop complaining about how "Parents Were So Unfair To Make Me Get An On-Campus Job And Also Not Give Me An Allowance." When I had worked my way through college working part-time and even sending some money home to help my folks?

    I totally snapped. Thankfully, the freshman avoided me for months after that.

    ...not to make this all about me or anything. But yeah, very annoying!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This reminds me of a post I just read: IBARW: feminism, feelings and privilege

    I must admit to having done the whole going into an online conversation between strangers and coopting it to try and deal with my Issues *thing* during a few difficult times. And then I got a livejournal, so now my angst is kept in one easy opt-in package :D

    (And of course my lj OpenID isn't working. DO YOU KNOW HOW THAT MAKES ME FEEL??)

    ReplyDelete
  4. And I'm not trying to be all "oppression Olympics" or "boo hoo I was so poor back then and I never complained". Cause I totally complained all the time. I just didn't go up to, like, people who were homeless or and complain about how much it costs to rent an apartment.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you so much. For this post, because it is SUCH AN AWESOME POST and something a lot of people (including myself, in all likelihood; at any rate, parts made me a bit uncomfortable, and that's a good indicator of Stuff You Need To Hear in certain circumstances) should be thinking about. But also for being your awesome, caustic self and blogging about ladybusiness one hilarious & thought-provoking post at a time.

    Shorter me: YAAAY SADYYYYY

    -Dorian

    ReplyDelete
  6. I do believe I just developed an enormous blog crush on you. This was fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was great. I keep thinking back to that freshman writing workshop I took and how one of my friends used every essay--no matter the assignment--to talk about her parents' marriage and what an asshole her Dad was but also basically how these traumatic experiences made her a much better person than any of the rest of us. Granted, her experiences were horrible and her pain was real, but every class more or less became a group therapy session for her, which made the rest of us really not like her so much.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Also, quick question: are there some totally shitastic navel-gazing deleted comments that you are hiding from us? I mean, the lunamorgan meltdown on the hipster thread was epic enough to warrant this, but I'm just curious and stuff...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sady, you win at the internets.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I must have missed the comment-fests where all this went down, but this post actually works even if you have no idea of the players involved.

    Sometimes a comment derail is kind of awesome and leads to an interesting conversation. Sometimes, not so much.

    ReplyDelete
  11. after I read this, I felt like turning around and shouting "Yeah!,what she said!"
    I may need to reiterate your point to my circle of people- "The point is not, and never has been, you." nor is it me...
    love it

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dude, I think you just described half my friendships in high school. So much drama. So much. Drama.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is painful to realize when you are still doing it (and I admit I still do this occasionally), but it is true! And I wish everyone would be open to realizing this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Christ, you really are NOT at all that harsh. Venomous? Come fucking on. This itself reeks of ladybusiness- this is girls are nice and made of sugar and spice crap. Male blogs get rough as hell, and no one goes whining to daddy and mommy and blogspot.

    This is clasic silencing b.s., and it angers me. Fuck that shit and carry on, pretty please.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You know what, I'm sure I've said it before, and so have everybody else, but god damn it Sady, I love you!

    This was a pretty hard post to get through. Lots of not so charming things to remember about myself and my writing. Lots of things to recognize and the harsh but honest truth. Oh and the last sentence, after all that, it's spot on and exactly what we need. Maybe the last three sentences.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "I'm really tired of being held hostage to your personal breakdown."

    I think this is one of the most true and important things ever. It's getting ever harder and more important for me to step outside of myself and observe my privileges and oppressions and their intersections and contradictions as I get older and more stubborn and set in my ways. The truth is that none of this is or is supposed to be flattering. I don't look good when I'm whining or kvetching, and it isn't good. It isn't useful or productive and it hurts other people.

    Thank you for writing this. I personally find your blog terrifically insightful and willing to engage on these intersections of classism and racism and sexism as the structures that they are. It helps that you are funny.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have no idea why I find the sentence, "The world is fucked, kids," so damn comforting, but I sure do. Thanks for that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. A pleasurable read... thanks. And I don't think the world is fucked, we just like to fuck it up. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've always thought your posts were quite sensible, Tiger. But I do hope you've at least put on some underpants!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love you I love you I love you. I try but I don't know if I ever fully express to you how much I love you. I had a similar moment once where my sister said to me "You are not the only one who's life is hard." Her friend was dying of cancer, I was having boy problems. I was never the same after that.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I just wanted to say I pretty much love you, forever and forever, for making this post.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Mental illness can be MANAGEABLE -- so thanks for not shying away from tough love, or apologizing for it. Someone who post this in EVERY HOUSE at my alma mater.

    PS: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/business/09intern.html this is about something that makes me really angry and caps-locky. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I was just recently introduced to FML, and am appaled by how much it serves to validate outrage over relatively incidental outrages, and how much it signals a society rife with un-acknowledged priviledge.
    This post is an excellent corrective to all of that. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sady: This weekend, I reminded my mom that she's not required to be held hostage to her little sister's (latest) breakdown, especially when said sister won't get therapy. Thanks for some helpful phrasing that let me say something in a way my mom would get it fast.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you for writing and sharing this! =D

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow, Sady. You are seven kinds of awesome. And like half the commenters, I'm totally smitten with you right now.

    You also make me realize English is missing a word. When confronted with something scary, like a snake, some people flinch. We also have the word unflinching, for people who don't twitch away. But we don't have a word for what you do here, which is to see the snake and reflexively leap toward it, whacking it a good one. TAKE THAT, SNAKE! That's a habit I've got to get a little more of.

    For what it's worth, I've never thought of you as vicious. You remind me of the saying: "love the sinner, hate the sin." I think you're without mercy in mocking sexism in thought and deed, but I never get the notion you think any individual is rotten at the core, condemned a priori. Even your future boyfriend, Tucker Max.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Sady--About your derailing pity-party commenters: if they want a place on the Internet to discuss their lives, their interests, et cetera, it's pretty simple: create their own blog. I used to have a blog that was essentially me complaining. Then it became half-political. Then I separated politics from my personal life making two blogs so that the politics could be taken seriously. Then I basically stopped writing the personal blog because I was over the "whine about everything online" phase of life. Could be helpful to these folks.

    Shrouta--Oh my God, you have perfectly articulated the very reason I greatly dislike FML! You're awesome!

    ReplyDelete