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What or who does it serve? How does it serve you?

One of the more bothersome dynamics I see when we have tension amongst us is the way people will invalidate others by telling them how they should feel about something or that there is something wrong with them if they are having the feelings they are having.

Can we please stop?

It is not a sign of "life imbalance" or emotional instability or lack of "fortitude" or whatever phrase you can think of to say, "I don't want to accept your feelings so I'm going to tell you why you shouldn't have them."

Once a person gets involved in anything, be it offline or online, that activity becomes a part of their life. It is entwined in their existence and a part of the experience of the life that is theirs, who they are. Everyone will have a different relationship to every interaction that happens and a million people could be involved in or witness an interaction and have a millions different feelings about it. Live with that. Let it be. Stop telling people how they should feel to meet your requirements for acknowledgement.

As a woman, I mostly note this behavior when it comes to women mentioning experiences of sexism. She might have had an emotion about a comment in a diary or a Facebook posting or an email or, gawds forbid - a KosMail!

Inevitably her sharing her experience will draw at least one response of "your life must be out of balance if you're having any emotions about a KosMail."

What's that about? The primary issue of sexism is erased because the REAL problem is this unbalanced woman who probably should just stay away from DailyKos. (What's the ratio of male to female members here? How many women have been sent packing because of this attitude?)

I mean, really, women probably just shouldn't be online because they don't have the  "fortitude"  to handle the vitriol. It's not that people who spew misogynist crap are the problem. It's the women who find it hurtful. Because "real grownups" don't ever get hurt by what someone writes about them. Who cares if it's a fairly permanent repository where there is infinite time for people to stumble upon that demeaning tripe via Google or social media or a random series of links? No one gets hurt. Words have no power. There is no such thing as defamation. Injustice has never been perpetuated by ignoring those trampled under it. Right?

Misogyny isn't the issue. It's all us "hypersensitive" women. I mean, we're probably just getting the vapors again. Damn this shortage of mental health care support in the US. There aren't enough beds for all those over-reactionary females.

I'm going to guess that anyone from any oppressed demographic is familiar with this dynamic. You note an example of the -ism which relentlessly poisons your life and some superior human being who is clearly far more enlightened than you - and just happens to be from a more privileged demographic - comes along to tell you how you're just being too sensitive and you really should take a break.

Only, we can't take a break from the oppression we live under. It's here with us every single day. From micro-aggressions to institutionalized obstacles against survival, we don't get a break. That relentless poisoning eats away at us. We swallow our hurt, don our armor and fight our way through every day. The battle is internal as well as external. We've received so much messaging about what our role in society is supposed to be, so many mixed signals about what makes us acceptable or not, so many inputs about how we are worth so much less than men, that we have to scrape our insides out to get back to our core sense of self and believe that we deserve better. We do that while those messages continue to pour in.

So, don't talk to us about "fortitude." It doesn't take much fortitude to get through a day when you're in the dominant demographic. When the fabric of society is cut for you, the fit is graceful and cozy. At the end of the day, the clothes glide right off and you rest in a peaceful slumber. When that fabric is cut for someone else, every movement chafes. At the end of the day, your entire skin is peeled raw as you wrench off those clothes and your night is restless from the pain of it.

So, yes, there can be moments when someone needs to let it out; to seek solidarity and witnessing. It may seem insignificant to you, but then you don't live that person's life. How does it serve you to tell them how they "should" feel? Or to imply that they are "imbalanced"? Or to ostracize them by telling them they should leave DailyKos if they can't take the misogyny?

I don't know how it serves you personally, but I can say that it serves the perpetuation of oppression. That's the single biggest role of invalidating another person's feelings. If you focus on invalidating that person, you then erase the need to address the oppression behind what they experienced. It's a classic misdirection. When you do that you support the oppression. Any time I see anyone belittling how someone else feels, I mark that person as an oppressor. Not someone to be counted on for the solidarity required to generate peace for all. They only care about peace for themselves.

It's not a safe environment when people treat each other that way. If the demographic of the users here is predominantly white and predominantly male, we need to look at why that's so. Given the supposed leanings of the political philosophy here - "progressive" and  about fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc - then it should attract a disproportionate percentage of the people in those demographics. You would think they'd appreciate the solidarity and want to support a strong political voice speaking for their interests.

But, that's not what we find here. Too often we find that people who speak out about their experiences of -isms right here amongst are own are then further offended by people telling them that they shouldn't have any feelings about these interactions. They should just ignore it. They should take a break. They should get more fortitude. Worse, that person they are reporting on is a "good person" so nothing she says can possibly be true or actually reflect on the person she refers to. It's really just about her.

it's patronizing. It's mansplaining - even if a woman is doing it. (Women can be misogynist, too.) Moreover, it repels women, people of color, non-heteronormative folks. We can't effect any change in the world if we're not walking the walk ourselves. I find any claim that this is an inclusive community fighting against oppression a fraud when I see this offensive behavior happening right here.

I don't care if it's your best friend, your child, your spouse or your grandparent. When someone has committed a sexist behavior, you need to stand against that behavior, full stop. You can still love the offender and disapprove of the behavior. Don't be trying to convince the rest of us that the offender is a "good person" or just had a "bad moment." That doubles the offense. You look like you don't care about oppression and that you're fine with your cohort's behavior. This signals that this is not a safe space for women. And we will all leave, eventually. Do the right thing and say, "Love that guy/gal, but he/she's totally off base here." Every. Single. Time.

Lastly, feelings are not a competitive matter. You can feel differently about something at the same time. Both feelings can co-exist. If you're telling someone how you feel, rather than empathizing with how they feel, please ask yourself if this is the moment for that. What does it serve? Did anyone ask you how you feel? Are you saying how you feel as a way of disputing the way the original speaker feels? If so, why? Do you feel better about yourself? If so, how useful was that to the community?

Please think about why you respond to someone in any way that doesn't acknowledge their feelings and support their need for solidarity and connection. Remember, some day it will be your turn. You will have an experience which upsets you and you will seek affirmation, connection and solidarity. If you've left people feeling abandoned, who will be left to be there for you?

5:55 PM PT: Apparently, I must spell out the differences between emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

Emotions and thoughts are internal activities. Emotions are in the moment. They are real time bodily responses of hormones and energy. Thoughts are happening inside the brain.

Each person has sovereignty/autonomy over their emotions and thoughts. A Person can choose whether or not to outwardly express thoughts and emotions, but it won't change the fact of them. With people who are abused or oppressed, they get taught to repress (or not express) their thoughts or emotions, but it doesn't mean they are not having them.

No one can be the arbiter of what I'm feeling or thinking, because no one else is inside my body feeling and thinking with me. So, if I say I feel something, there is no value to anyone else saying, "no, you don't feel that" or "you shouldn't feel that." If the person trying that has any power to impact my life they can wield that power and try to repress my expression, but that is abuse or oppression.

Behaviors are externally experienced. That is other people can witness or be subject to them. If other people experience my behavior as hurtful or destructive, it is their right to say so and to ask me to stop that behavior. A community may establish a list of unacceptable behaviors and the ramifications if one breaches the list. (Which could include conflict resolution and healing processes and/or punishment - not my favored option.) Continued membership may be contingent upon behaving acceptably.

Hence, in this diary and I am requesting that people change a behavior: telling people how to feel or that what they feel is wrong. That behavior is destructive and sows oppression.

I am not telling anyone what to feel or think. How would I even know what you feel or think? Think whatever sexist, racist, homophobic thoughts you have. What I can know is what you express and I can have a say about that.

On opinions: one can disagree with another's opinion. You can't make them change it. Opinions are a conclusion someone has reached based upon their own life experiences and data inputs. You may be able to influence someone's opinions by sharing your life experiences or offering new data.

Changed opinions may affect changed behaviors.

So, in the example of a racist, authoritative cop who says that they feel fear when they encounter any non-white person, I will not try to claim that they did not feel this. What I would challenge is their behavior in response to that feeling. Just because they feel it doesn't mean they have the right to beat or kill or illegally detain someone. That is an abuse of authority. As a citizen, I have the right to critique their behavior.

Hopefully, if the cultural norm is one of respectful behavior and that cop gets more information and gains experiences of non-violent encounters with non-white people his internal emotional landscape will shift. But, that isn't my concern. He can feel or think whatever happens to go on internally. But, he can't just behave any way he wants. We cannot allow him to maintain a position of such authority if he cannot treat all citizens justly and with respect.

Originally posted to UnaSpenser on Sat Aug 30, 2014 at 01:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges, Positive Intention and Lovingkindness, and White Privilege Working Group.

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