My sweetie – who, like so many people over the last several years, is done being pushed around – posted this Facebook over the weekend:
Why do they always say to grow a thicker skin? Don’t be so sensitive, don’t let the jerks get to you… shouldn’t we be encouraging people to not be assholes instead?
She’s right, of course. That’s what is supposed to happen.
Sadly, that’s not the way things are… yet.
The person being an inconsiderate jerk will almost certainly push back. They’ll claim they didn’t know, or that they have some kind of social disorder (like being autistic), or that you’re somehow oppressing them, or some other excuse.
The first three are simple to deal with. In order:
- They need to go find out how to do better, and act on that knowledge. It’s not the offended/upset person’s job to educate them.
- If it’s stated clearly and concretely, and they don’t apologize, they’re just being an asshole. (See my post from 2013. Though I use the now-discredited term “Asperger’s”, the rest applies.)
- Asking for civility and consideration is not oppressing anyone. Though that doesn’t stop people from claiming it (see “the war on Christmas” for a quick example).
But communicating those things – particularly to someone who doesn’t want to listen or change – is not always easy. And even if it is, it’s still energy that you may not want to expend.
So, my advice is twofold.
First, yes, do grow a thicker skin to the best of your ability.
The reason why is important.
The purpose is not to simply allow bigots and assholes to have free reign.
Instead, your thicker skin is armor. It is so that you are better able to fight against their bigotry. It is so their words and actions do not disrupt you and your life any more than you choose for it to. It is difficult to push back against bigotry when you’re actively upset in the moment.
Then do your best to make sure your support network, friends list, etc is full of other people doing the same thing. That way, if needed, you can make sure you’re not being gaslit or manipulated, or even have them tag you out as needed.
That’s especially true if you have people in your supportive circle who have more privilege than you. (Like my cishetwhitestraightmale self.) Let them (us) run interference for you whenever possible with bigots and fools so that you and yours can get on with your life. Let them (us) educate and explain and shame bigots so that your voices can be elevated and heard.
Again, it isn’t always that simple. It isn’t always that easy.
But it helps.