"Fleury sucks, right? Fuck your mothers."
I saw this from one of my new Twitter connections; one that was made during the traffic from my last post on homophobic tweets by hockey fans. So I was a little startled. It didn't make sense; someone that bothered to make a connection after reading my piece about homophobia threw out an obviously misogynist hockey tweet? Huh?
I waffled for a few minutes as to whether I should say something. I decided to respond. (More about this shortly.)
"Dude... isn't a comment like that rather misogynist?"
I braced myself for defensiveness, possibly with a side of name-calling. Or maybe the classic "don't you have anything better to worry about?"
Instead, I got an admission that he was aware he fucked up, and a thank you for calling him out on it.
This made me insanely happy. I was bordering on giddy.
Sounds strange, right? I mean, I shouldn't be happy that this happened at all.
Let's go back to my waffling. It seems strange (even to me) that a few days ago I could go on a long rant about homophobic comments on Twitter (which ~1,700 people read), and then hesitate to call out one person on one comment. But the thing is, this felt more threatening. As soon as I responded, I psychologically braced myself for a reply that was abusive and/or threatening.
I don't think I'm alone in feeling like it is dangerous, if not physically, then at least emotionally and psychologically, to call people out on bad behaviour. Partly because it happens so darn much, and I think a lot of us have been socialized to focus on the negative feedback we get from people, and give it much more weight than the positive. The feedback I've received from the blog about homophobic tweets have been overwhelmingly positive; yet its the few negative responses I've received that I've spent a disproportional amount of time being bothered by. (When I think about it rationally, those criticisms don't make a lot of sense, and indicate that the readers missed the whole damn point anyways... so why should I care? Yet I do.)
There gets to a point when one's engagement with social justice makes it impossible to turn another part of yourself off. There was a time when I could stand up against a homophobic comment but still stay silent when a sexist one was thrown out there. Or fight for gender equality while at the same time using fatphobic language. But when you engage with these issues, eventually you figure out that they're all interrelated; that to participate in one form of hate holds you back from fighting against another. It's like the red pill of social activism kicks in, and you can never go back to living in ignorance.
The problem is, there's no way to tell who's there already. So when I called this person out, I was bracing for the worst: that even though he was someone who'd take a stand against homophobia, he could still buy into many other forms of hate.
The best part about this story though: is he didn't. He got it. He didn't even need for me to tell him he fucked up. He knew before I responded; he admitted it out loud (er, out Twitter?), and in public (uh, Twitter public).
And as a result, I feel safer to call out bad behaviour in the future. Certainly, there will be those who respond abusively; but this set a precedence that gives me hope. Sometimes, when you call someone out on something, it can actually show you that there's hope for change.
Ironically, I'm pretty sure that even as I type these words, he's beating himself up over his comment. Before he signed off for the night, he said that he hated how this one horrible thing he said defined him tonight.
Dude. That's not true. Yes, there was that one nasty tweet. But then there were the dozen that followed where you owned up to it, tried to make sense of what happened (without making excuses), and demonstrated, by example, to everyone who follows you on Twitter that even nice people say nasty shit, but the difference between the good and the bad is that you admitted you should have known better, and accepted full responsibility. To me, it was the follow-up statements that defined who you were tonight.
So to you, and to all those in the Twitterverse who shared my blog, thank you. You've restored my faith that my words have power; that it is worth it to put my thoughts out there, and that there are other similarly-minded people. That speaking out, while sometimes may result in shit and abuse, can also result in connecting with a community of people who share my frustration about the state of the world, and that makes me feel less alone.
May we all be more forgiving of ourselves when we fuck up.
And may we all feel safer to speak up against all that's wrong in the world.
Good night. It's time to eat ice cream. :)