Domineering Brutish Communication

Is rampant on social media…

Makes me want to cry when I’m pre-menstrual…

Is extremely common in privileged and dominant culture circles…

Is not BDSM.

I am not saying kinky people communicate better than non-kinky people (oh, so very far from it in many cases, let me tell you), but I am saying that there is something about having privilege in your lived experience which frequently leads to less finely honed tools in the toolkit concerning those subjects. Without a certain amount or type of struggle in one’s life, blunter brute force often rears its head over a practiced grace like listening, not personalizing, and questioning the space between what you are hearing and the intentions and/or blindsightedness of the other speaker (and when I say speaker I frequently mean typer).

Is it really so hard to find those places within ourselves where we pause and question what someone is saying, rather than treating them as though they are inherently the enemy because we’re uncomfortable being pointed out as incorrect or less than perfectly evolved in our communicative efforts? Can we really not imagine that we are the bad guy? I’ve fucked up so many times in my life it’s, well, normal. If I didn’t face my fuck-ups though, I would still be that jerk making the same mistakes over and over again, winning the hearts and minds of precisely no one who isn’t exactly like me.

Truth: when someone hurts my feelings somewhere deep down inside (or superficially, clearly, and longingly), I want them to hurt too. I want them to feel pain and apologize for mine and do things which will comfort me and make me feel better and take away my pain. This is a very normal basic instinct. It is, though, not the best model for behavior, connecting with others, or having friendships last past our first conflict. Why are so many (often online) battles stuck in this space of reaction and attack? Why is it so hard to say “I’m feeling hurt”, and “I’m also feeling hurt” or “I’m afraid you’re mad at me or think I’m a horrible person for doing/saying something which hurt you” or “I’m sorry, what am I missing here”?

What makes us name call instead of question?

What inside us settles upon sarcasm and demeaning language instead of concern?

Two of the best pieces of advice I was ever told were:

  • Trust minorities. Believe them when they tell you things.
  • “Like”, support, and work to amplify the voices of minority people.

The reason these ideas are important is because people who have struggled know more about their struggles from personal and frequently institutional, educational, and communal sources. Someone who can tell you what it’s like to be X, probably also knows more about the subjects concerning X’s oppression than people who aren’t X. So if you care about X people, or even just want to know one X person better, or don’t want to piss X people off it’s a really good practice to listen to what X people say about Xness, and let them know you value their voices in your world.

This means a LOT of men, a lot of white people, a lot of straight people, a lot of cis people, a lot of nondisabled people, a lot of middle and upper class people, and a lot of institutionally well educated people need to learn to listen when someone who is not those things tells them that what they are saying hurts them. This is an opportunity for empathetic or sympathetic response rather than brutish debate strategy. There are always really legitimate reasons we have the blind spots we have in our language, in our logic patterns, in our communication attempts, and in our belief systems, but those blind spots being upheld as legitimate points of view isn’t the point if human connection is the ultimate goal… This means that the more privileged I am in a room, the more I listen and the less I talk. It means when I do talk, I try to speak through asking questions — legitimate questions, not leading ones trying to take back control of a personally uncomfortable narrative.

If you want to get in my pants I actually need to trust you care for the whole reality of the me that is actually living in these pants. Politics surrounding various identities are not truths applying to everyone’s life, but they’re great guidelines for understanding the struggles groups of people face. No one is their identities, but by connecting to and naming our identities, we have unique opportunities to find compassion for ourselves and others. Through exploring identity we are granted new horizons for considering intersectional realities which can help us not put our feet in our mouths frequently around people we want to figure out how to connect to and play with.

This is a lot, yet seemingly necessary, to simply state: play nice (even/especially if you need to be taught how to by the person you’re playing with because they’ve struggled institutionally and/or personally in ways you haven’t).

Play On My Friends,
~ Karin

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~Thank you.

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