I had written about a woman interrupting my workout to point out that my shirt had rolled up and that my belly was showing, even though the shirt hadn’t rolled up high enough to expose any skin. I had said that people intrude into my life because they see me and my weight as invitation to speak, interrupt or pull my attention towards them and their thoughts.
The comments made essentially said that she was probably like that everywhere with everyone. That I was reaching when I tagged her behaviour with my disability and difference. That it probably was personality, not prejudice. That I needed to start to take a more positive view of situations. That I needed to take a look at the larger picture rather than being so focused on my own experience.
In essence I was lectured.
I understand every single comment. I think that most people were attempting to be helpful, even uplifting, even if that’s not how I felt about them.
One of the problems that minorities have, in my opinion, is that when they give an example of the subtle racism or sexism or homophobia lived with daily, people can brush it off saying, well that happens to me sometimes, so it can’t be evidence of prejudice. Then they walk away assured that we all are exaggerating and their own sense of privilege goes unchallenged.
Here’s the problem, we who live with difference or disability understand that our experiences of, say people stopping to comment on my body, on my weight, on my disability, is constant, not a one time incident. There is a pattern of behaviour, a frequency of behaviour, an intensity to the interactions that tell us the PREJUDICE IS THE BIG PICTURE. I don’t hear non-disabled people or people without differences talking about the everydayness, the several times a dayness of public intrusion, of public reaction, of stares and of fearful glances.
So please realize that when I give an example, don’t work so hard to explain to me that what it means to me, what it means in my life experience, goes far beyond what happened in that moment. It’s another social kick with the power to bruise and bruise and bruise again.
It feels like dismissal.
It feels like a proclamation that prejudice exists in my mind only.
And I know it doesn’t.