I Make People Uncomfortable

I recognize that I have an imposing stature. I am 5’11” (1.80 m) tall and was, up until a year ago, fairly overweight. Outside my family, I grew up surrounded by people who were smaller than me. Between my size and my love of school, I became a social outcast at a very young age. I had friends, but I never really felt accepted. I didn’t find a group of people who I connected with until my junior year of high school and I am still very close with them to this day. Unfortunately, my social awkwardness has never gone away.

I don’t mean to, but I intimidate people. I cannot hide my size, I maintain an athletic physique, and I don’t hide my intelligence. Growing up, it wasn’t cool to be smart, especially for girls. I tried to hide my intelligence for a short while but quickly realized I would never be “cool”, so I moved on and did my own thing. I, like most people growing up, tried to change things about myself to be more likable. It wasn’t until the past couple years that I truly embraced my awkwardness, focusing my energy on becoming person I wanted to be, rather than who everyone else wanted me to be.

I am not good at small talk. I find it to be an inefficient form of communication. However, I recognize that it is necessary for general social interactions, so I deal with it for as short a time as possible. I love talking to people, I just prefer to have meaningful conversations because I find those foster the interpersonal connections that lead to genuine, lasting friendships.

As a result, I have very little hesitation about bringing up topics that have made other people uncomfortable. These topics commonly include politics, religion, philosophy, morals, and personal information. I share my perspective for every topic I bring up, so it is never a one-sided conversation, nor do I every want it to feel like I’m interrogating the person I’m speaking with.

Recently, the conversation topics that make people visibly clench are feminism, women’s rights, and sexual assault. Not that those topics were regularly discussed before, but their presence in the news has people extremely on edge. That hasn’t stopped me. I want to know what people think. I want to know who in my life is paying attention to it and who is choosing to stay out of it. For the latter, I want know why those people don’t want to be informed or have an opinion.

I recognize that there’s a lot to keep up with, but I think it’s incredibly important to stay informed and have an opinion that can be defended.

No matter how difficult the conversation, I want people to know that they can talk to me about anything. I do my best to express my opinion without judgement or accusation, but my perspective is relative to my own experiences. More importantly, I respect that others have had different experiences from me.

The more people are willing to have uncomfortable conversations, the more normalized those topics become. Maybe if these topics were normalized, people wouldn’t be afraid to express their opinions, tell their truths, or share their stories.

People Over Politics

I have never been sexually assaulted or raped. I have been harassed, stalked, and patronized, but nothing that has given me nightmares; just the nature of being female.

There are probably many reasons why I haven’t been the target of a sexual predator (anyone who commits assault/rape is a predator), but any justification of my good fortune, I feel, removes responsibility from the attacker. For too long, it’s been the victim’s fault for putting themselves in a potentially harmful situation, rather than the predator’s fault for committing the act.

While I don’t have first-hand knowledge of such trauma, I have watched the toll its taken on close friends. I have done my best to help them, in the seemingly feeble ways I could: I listened, I supported, and most importantly, I believed them.

It’s been strange for me to watch everything unfold since the Harvey Weinstein scandal and resulting #metoo movement because I don’t understand why so many people don’t believe the victims. What’s worse is the backlash victims face when they do have the strength to come forward and seek justice. I can’t fathom how anyone can witness the aftermath of sexual violence/trauma on the victims and not believe them, let alone ridicule or threaten them for coming forward.

My issues with specific people’s reaction to and treatment of victims has reached a new level of concern when watching how politicians have reacted to and treated the accuser(s) of Brett Kavanaugh. Responses have ranged from refusing to believe them, patronizing the victim(s) by suggesting they must be confused or “mixed up”, to wholy ignoring the accusation(s) for the sake of politics.

All of this leaves me wondering about where we, as a society stand. Where is the moral/ethical line in the sand about how we treat people and what behavior will we permit, and what accusations/actions cannot be ignored? At what point does someone’s character and actions outside the job preclude their ability to do or warrant their removal from said job?

I am choosing not to discuss the legal/justice system’s role and responsibility to treat victims fairly and respectfully, because that, as it exists, is a different kind of disappointment.

I am addressing my concerns to politicians, political pundits, and members of the public who are prioritizing politics over people. What will it take for victims to be taken seriously, recognized respectfully, and treated fairly?