Ever had one of those situations where something felt just a bit off? That guy in the parking lot was walking a little too close to you, or your boss made a joke that was just a little off color, or your professor was just a little too friendly? Then you tell someone about it later…maybe your brother or your husband or your dad or a boyfriend, and they kept saying ‘well, did you ever think maybe he didn’t mean anything? like maybe you’re overreacting? are you being just a little too sensitive? is there any chance you misinterpreted the whole thing? what if you’re wrong…best not to make a scene?’
And you are very damn sure you’re not overreacting at all. You know full well something was weird about that interaction. But now someone is coming along and telling you it isn’t a big deal and to calm down and maybe you misunderstood…and that sucks.
And I flat out promise creepy folks count on those dismissive reactions to help them get away with bad behavior. And it works! We let people get away with an awful lot in the interest of giving them the benefit of the doubt and not being a bother and not making a fuss. Not believing to people when they say ‘hey, that thing? it’s inappropriate. it’s scary. it needs to stop’ is really harmful.
And it’s happening in a big way in knitting circles right now. People are tearing themselves open saying ‘we’ve got huge problems’ and way too many people are saying ‘um, are you sure? maybe you’re just imagining it?’ And that’s so very very gross.
So here’s what I want you to try. If someone whose life makes them more of an expert on a particular type of lousy situation than you are says ‘this thing is a problem,’ believe them. That means if you’re white, and someone who isn’t says ‘hey, that’s kinda racist,’ believe them. If you’re a guy, and someone who isn’t says ‘hey, that’s kinda sexist,’ believe them. If you’re straight or cis, and someone who isn’t says ‘hey, that’s kinda homophobic or transphobic,’ believe them. If you’re able bodied, and someone who isn’t says ‘hey, that’s kinda ableist,’ believe them. If you’re thin, and someone who isn’t says ‘hey, that’s kinda fatphobic,’ believe them.
If someone says ‘these words, or these actions, or this community make me and people like me unwelcome or unsafe,’ believe them.
Don’t say ‘well maybe there’s a perfectly innocent explanation, did you think of that?’ Don’t say ‘are you sure? maybe they didn’t mean it that way.’ Don’t say ‘oh that’s just how they are, you need to cut them some slack.’
Say ‘I believe you.’ Say ‘that shouldn’t have happened.’ Say ‘thank you for telling me that.’
If they’re telling you about something you did, say ‘I’m sorry, I’ll try hard not to do it again.’
And then see if maybe you can do something to help.