I’m taking a big risk now, so let me begin with this: Women, I know you have been objectified and abused in a patriarchal world, and I applaud your coming out about having been violated. Racial minorities: I know you face everyday forms of oppression, including threats of violence, that I don’t. People with physical limitations: I know the rest of us say and do hurtful things that often exclude you.
And I guess you can tell there’s a “but” coming. Here it is:
None of us knows the pain, or lack thereof, experienced by another. And none of us knows the intentions behind a hurtful act.
One of the kindest, most generous young woman I know is a serious beauty pageant contestant, and winner. Coming from a background with limited resources, she enters the pageants to open doors through which she seeks a route to do more good in the world. She perceives wolf whistles and uninvited come-ons as acts of perhaps misguided men that she doesn’t take personally. That doesn’t invalidate the pain felt by other woman, but it does suggest that we’re all individuals, with out own set of triggers. What triggers my beauty-queen friend is belittling of her morals. She told me she’s the same person, speaking her truths, in pageants as well as outside them. The only difference is the make-up and gown.
I have been called many things over my adult life, and especially over the last six months or so. They didn’t offend me until they they came from the staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association. But I was around 5 when another 5-year-old called me a “fat slob.” I ran into my home crying, “Larry called me a fat slob. I’m not fat, am I, Mommy?” As she answered in the negative, my attention was on the full-length mirror, and I saw a fat boy.
So I’ve always identified as fat, even over long periods when I was not. And today, at age 71, I’m down almost 30 pounds from my fattest but am still clearly overweight. So what triggers my pain is all the well-intended news pieces about the obesity epidemic, and the talking heads who declare that, because of his weight, Chris Christie lacks the self-control to be President. Are they micro-aggression against fat people like me?
While I don’t mind discussions about my weight, if someone calls me fat or tells me about my large belly, I feel as though it’s a slur against who I am, a condition that didn’t change even when I was objectively thin. Let’s recognize that no one has a monopoly on pain.
I don’t know what the N word feels like to a black person or the F word to a gay person or the B word to a women, but I imagine it’s similar. So…
— Mel Harkrader Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2017 © Mel Harkrader Pine