Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Who thought up that little gem of a lie?
I don’t know about you, but some of the worst scars I carry are internal – sharpshooter-aimed insults and criticisms so cruelly delivered as to fund my therapist’s Mediterranean vacations well into my retirement years. Then again, I really didn’t engage in a lot of extreme sports…I was more the “read and pretend” type…but whatever.
Not the point!
The point is that words just may be the most effective (brutally, devastatingly effective) form of warfare we have.
When you hear the words “defund Planned Parenthood”, and “abortion”, chances are you feel some pretty intense things…and those pretty intense feelings, whether ‘for’ or ‘against’ the topic, shape how you act. Tan Shi Huai’s defeat of both the Huns and Hans is the ideal example of this (to my nerdy little brain, at least), showing how insults and bullying of the wrong person can topple a dynasty.
Beware Friendly Fire
I remember being called lazy after very obviously working my tail off, and being called “Fatty Four-Eyes”…but I think one of the worst things I’ve ever heard – something that ultimately started me down 12 years of depression, five dangerous diets, two suicide attempts, and drastic weight-loss surgery – was when a friend tried to console me. The boy I was seeing (I can’t use the term “dating” because, well, you’d have to actually do more than just have sex. So, we’ll just call him “D”) seemed to be avoiding me in public, even around our friends, but would call or text me to come over almost every night. Older, wiser me now knows that “hanging out” should have been swapped out for “booty call”, but hey – my naiveté was adorable. My friend, who happened to be “D’s” best friend, took me aside after one particularly hurtful evening and tried to explain his buddy’s behavior by quoting a line from a movie, word-for-word:
Fat girls are like mopeds. They are fun to ride every once in a while, but never let your friends see you on one. – Summer Catch
Almost worse than knowing that he and “D” were talking about me that way is knowing that he thought he was helping me…that he thought I would understand, and forgive his friend – my “first” – for publicly ignoring me because, well, shoot…of course! I’m fat!
Somehow, being fat means that you should just know that you’re meant to be hidden.
To be ashamed of.
To be less.
I felt stupid for not “knowing” that, for thinking that I had a shot at an actual relationship with “D”.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am, now, that my attempts at suicide were unsuccessful.
Choosing Proper Ammunition
By now, everyone should be familiar with Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based solely on her religious beliefs. I won’t get into the issue, but suffice to say her story is well-known and evokes many, many emotions on both sides of the issue. It’s pretty well known, also, that when a woman is disliked, it is her appearance that is attacked first and foremost, and at an alarming fast, vile rate. Such has been the case with Kim Davis, across a slew of media:
Sure, yes, a thousand times YES, her behavior has been reprehensible no matter which way you slice it, but where is the need to attack her appearance? It wasn’t her hair, clothes, or lack of makeup that refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples, or forbade her employees from doing so, and yet that’s a lot of where the focus has been.
Honestly? It’s a use of inappropriate tactics that, frankly, make each person who uses them look stupid. If the problem is bigotry and illegality, what does name calling and harsh criticism of her appearance do? It does nothing to fix the problem, or address the issue…but it does manage to perpetuate the “Well, at least I’m not fat / super short / too tall / smelly / ugly / bald” method of arguing, which just leads nowhere we want to go.
Flak Jacket Sizing – Now in XS!
We teach our children not to hit, and we admonish them to never, ever bring weapons to school…but what is being done about the words they use? We aren’t truly fighting fair if we use the very being of someone against them, but that’s what happens from our time on the playground (“Fatty Four-Eyes!”) into adulthood. Younger and younger, we’re telling children to grow thicker skin and to shrug-off attempts at bullying and name-calling, saying that we’re becoming “too PC”. I have to wonder if that’s truly the case, or if there’s just so many of us who have had to don our Kevlar jackets from earlier and earlier ages that we’ve become desensitized to how it feels, in the moment, as a child under attack.
After the War: PTSD
Remember “Gamergate”, and the harassment, trolling, and threats against Anita Sarkeesian? In just one week, she received “…157 abusive tweets, 15 were death threats and 13 threatened rape. A further 31 were explicitly violent in nature, including inducements to suicide, wishes for her death (expressing the hope that she will die, as opposed to direct death threats) and general sexual violence (distinct from direct rape threats)”. So many people told her to grow thicker skin, to shrug it off and stop whining…and that can be just as damaging to read as the initial threats; it essentially amounts to gaslighting.
I don’t think anyone wants to be hit with sticks or stones, but neither do we want to be insulted, ridiculed or verbally abused for how we look. Our visual representation shouldn’t be a target for someone’s verbal attack. Did someone resort to insulting your looks? Knowing that they’re too stupid to properly voice their actual criticism (you received the promotion they wanted, they’re offended (somehow) by your sexuality, they find fat people to be distasteful, you’re dating their ex, whatever) may not help take the sting out of their words immediately, but try to remind yourself of that little fact.
Keep on keepin’ on, and know that you’re worthy of love. Regardless.