Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Speaking up

There was a trend happening on my Twitter feed, but I didn't realize it early enough, and now I can only find references to one of the stories.

One thing that seems worth mentioning is that asking someone a question about their movie, at a place for asking questions, is not really an attack. It is reasonable to believe that if the questions were answered honestly, it would reveal some things the director should have thought about more, and maybe managed differently, but calling that an attack displays a terrible fragility.

What struck me - because this was the first of the incidents that I read - was how hard it was for Bianca to say that, and how much Amirpour made it worse. The crowd cheers would have worsened that, but the later hugs and thanks in the lobby show that the question was important and worth being considered seriously.

If some of those people who approached Bianca later had cheered for her, or somehow registered their support more vocally then, well, Amirpour probably would have felt even more attacked, but it could still do some good.

Let me recount the other two threads and we will try and get somewhere with this.

First of all, Bianca's story reminds me of the story of the ramekins, and how everyone who had been silent before was supportive later after one person spoke up.

This next story does take place in retail, with a woman at a store. There were many customers, and one line was moving at regular speed, but the other was stalled by an online shopper. Having used a coupon to purchase two items online, she was returning one in store. That was not a problem. She wanted the discount to only apply to the other item, so that she could get a full refund on the one she was returning. That was a problem. There was no problem with her getting back the amount she had spent on that item, but in her efforts to be refunded more she was getting pretty abusive to the workers, who were young women of color.

The woman telling the story had worked retail, and also she was older with more experience and not employed by the store. It was easy for her to tell the complainer - which was an interruption - that she was being ridiculous. I am sure that woman was angry with the interference, but she was also rightly embarrassed and dropped the matter.

The workers were not angry with the interference and thanked her profusely. I relate. I worked retail for a long time. It wasn't always even that people truly wanted impossible things; sometimes they just wanted to pick on someone who couldn't fight back. It could have helped if someone else told them they were awful.

The final story was another Q&A session after a table read. Initially no one spoke, but one person asked if it was intentional that all of the women were either sexualized or someone's mother.

It would have been very easy for the creators to be offended here, like Amirpour, and like Ridley about Guerilla. Instead they ended up having a good discussion, and made some changes. Some people can handle it.

Despite those last two stories having positive conclusions, at least one of them described a level of discomfort similar to Bianca's in the first story. It is not easy being the naysayer, especially when you can't tell how many others are thinking "nay". Someone has to go first.

Just Sunday, on a different blog, I was writing about how necessary it is to accept discomfort; ignoring the issues makes things worse in so many ways.

In my younger days, I would have said that you just have to go ahead and be the one to speak up. I still think that is true for myself, and not just for bad things. I delivered a late compliment not too long ago, which I know seemed weird. The reason I had not paid it when I first thought of it was that it didn't seem important, and she might not even see it (it was via Twitter). However, seeing her take some abuse for something else, I realized that she might see it, and if there is positivity I can put out there, I better do it. (So if a lot of the things I say seem pointless, I get that, but I have to say them anyway, because what if they aren't?)

While I am pretty convinced that I need to speak up no matter what, I do not have the right to demand that of everyone else. Some people have a lot going on and are tired. Some people will be open to a lot more abuse once attention is drawn to them. Bianca has gotten support, but that is not all she has gotten. Sometimes you step in to stop verbal abuse and the abuser brings out a knife. I can't tell anyone else their responsibility.

There are still things anyone can do. The support offered afterward means something. Not cheering the shutting down of someone making a point means something. At least stopping and thinking about criticisms you hear, and being willing to consider that a racist hierarchy reinforced for centuries might subconsciously come through in the things you do matters.

And I do have another way of thinking of it thanks to a friend.

My friend Jennie is very conscientious. She always seemed very sure of herself to me when we were growing up, so I was surprised to learn the depth of her understanding of what it is like to be unsure. When she has had discussions with her children about kindness and bullying and all of those things, she told me that she tells them if you don't want to be a leader you can still look for good people to follow. A lot of kids just end up following the strongest (or the loudest), but her children will be empowered to make better choices than that, and choices that work for multiple levels of confidence and strength. I appreciate that.

We all have ways we can contribute, and we can do a lot of good. It starts with thinking about it.

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