Thursday, May 31, 2012

When You Lack The Language To Describe What's Happening

Shadow Man
"Shadow Man" by Jaqian via Flickr

Once I had a supervisor who used to call me in and do her e-mail while I sat there.

She would check it and respond; take phone calls; talk about the weather, and her home, and her weekend; and once in a while give me a task or two.

Sometimes she would say, "I have to go to the restroom," and would say something like "let's go."

I was young and inexperienced and fearful. So I went. Fortunately all I had to do was wait outside, but it was still pretty humiliating.

She talked and talked the whole time, and I had to nod and go along with it like it was totally normal.

I share this not for gross-out value but to talk about one aspect of the experience that stands out for me.

At the time, I did not have the language to name what I was going through. So although I knew there was something wrong, I couldn't really confront the situation.

Today I have the words, of course:

* Boundary-crossing
* Exploitive
* Sadistic

...and so on.

This boss was also what we call a "micromanager." She did not "trust" other people to do things just right. So her stamp of approval, or disapproval, covered everything.

I did not have the words.

A feminist tool, and a workers'  rights tool, is "consciousness-raising." That is exactly what it sounds like: People sit around in a circle and share their experiences. 

There is solace in sharing with others, getting support, and finding that you have gone through similar things and survived. You can learn how to recognize a problem and how to cope.

But what is also empowering, yet let discussed, is the fact that sharing your experiences leads to language. Suddenly that nameless monster has a name. 

And by designating it you gain a measure of control.

Sharing, consciousness-raising, education, the Internet and social media are all linked - and that is why oppressive people always try to shut them down.

The more a person can be isolated and kept ignorant, the more they can be victimized.

Which is why it's very important to not only train yourself and share what you've seen, but also to stand up against those why try to keep information from being free. And to help those without access to education and technology - access it.

In the end cruelty persists because it lives in the shadows.

Expose it for what it is, arm people with a pen and paper (or tablet computer), and put them in a room together. It is then impossible for evil to persist.

Have a good day everyone, and good luck!




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