People tend to love me or hate me on social media.
I don’t usually elicit a “meh” response.
This is the thing—I’m not “nice”.
People often wish they were something other than what they are. On Downton Abby, Baxter the gentle quiet *nice* maid wishes she was more like Barrow who is not nice and doesn’t care what people think. But Barrow does care about what people think about him and he envies Baxtor’s ability to get people to like her.
Scarlett O’Hara is not nice. But she often compares herself to her cousin Melanie who is nice. On the other hand, Melanie admires Scarlett’s boldness.
This is the thing. Baxter’s niceness ended her up in prison taking the fall for a man who took advantage of her. Melanie was alive because Scarlett wasn’t nice.
My father wasn’t nice. He was a union organizer for the railroad workers. It got him beat up. He didn’t help change lives by being nice.
My mother wasn’t nice.
She was a single mother and having had me at age 43, was too old for this shit. I didn’t keep my room clean and every few weeks she would take out her frustrations by trashing my room, throwing things at me, screaming at me and telling me how worthless I was. When I was little, I was nice. I would cower and beg “Please stop, Mommy” She didn’t stop.
When I reached puberty I stopped being nice.
Most of us do. I stood calmly, coldly watching her throw things, ducking. Then I said “Do you feel better now?” in a very snotty way. She smacked me hard across the face. I didn’t flinch. And she never trashed my room again.
(If you are interested in how *that* relationship turned out, see Saying Good Bye (or not) to Mom)
All of this background is to help you understand why some guy I don’t know calling a c**t in a Facebook group is neither going upset me or shut me up.
It all started with a suggestion that maybe white men over 35 could try just listening to younger clergy, people of color and women for a week. And some men just can’t do that.
One, in particular, had what I thought was a temper tantrum, complete with bad language and references to his penis.
And I couldn’t leave it alone. I poked him. He struck back. I poked him again.
And he responded with this:
"Joelle Colville-Hanson (He tags me so there is no question who this remark for) It gives women a bad name when a few are condescending c**ts and demeaning bitches"
And a little voice in my head thought “maybe I shouldn’t have poked him”
I told that voice to shut up.
And I called him out on it.
And the wrath of the community came down upon him. The C word is over the line. I mean had he just called me a bitch I would have thanked him.
People who know me know that in private I curse like a sailor. But I never use that word. To me, it is very close to the n-word. It is a violent, ugly word that is used by men who want to put a woman in her place, on her knees under his control.
And I’m glad that most people in the group were outraged. I’m also glad they saw how little it can take for some men to go there.
I’m sure it was very shocking to see that word used towards a white middle-class clergywoman. In public.
What I don’t think everyone gets is how often it is used to demean and subjugate women of color, women who are in service positions, girlfriends, wives, women in bars, women on the street, women and girls who are trafficked.
I hope that the outrage at me being insulted is outrage at all women being reduced to a body part. And a commitment to fight any effort to reduce a woman to a vagina or a uterus.
It all started with an idea to do some work in intersectionality.
As a white woman clergy who is churchwide and synod staff, I have an enormous amount of privilege. But it didn’t stop some guy from publicly calling me a c**t.
And I really am glad it happened. So we can talk about it.
And talk about why it’s not okay for other men to tell me I need to forgive him. Nor it is appropriate to say “sorry this happened to you but you know, not all men….” And it’s not okay to make stupid jokes because you feel like you have to say something and you have nothing to say but if you make joke and I don’t think it’s funny then I’m the one with the problem. Those were some responses to this event. And honestly some of the responses bothered me more than being called a name.
But all of this coming out in the open and having the discussion is a good thing I think. And makes me feel better about not being *nice*.