Have you ever been in this situation? You share something that happened to you, something that affected you, something that you can’t get off your mind, and the person you’re telling your story to sits back with a pensive expression. And you start to feel a minor dread. And then… ‘are you sure they meant it like that? It wasn’t a misunderstanding? Are you sure that’s what happened?’ Or, even if they believe you, ‘was it really that bad?’
Well, yes. That is a good portion of my life. And it’s a bizarre experience because the person in the best position to speak about their own experiences and emotions is the person who has them. And, personally, I find the desire to go over horrible experiences with a fine tooth comb, tease them out, decide – retrospectively, calmly, objectively – on an appropriate response, (an appropriate reaction is whatever I judge to be appropriate, thank you very much) to add a whole new sickening layer to what I experienced. And then there are those demands for more details and irrelevant details and painful details, because whoever is “listening” thinks they get to decide what’s important.
I think this starts from the automatic, often subconscious, assumption that the person higher in the social hierarchy is more trustworthy. Marginalised people just can’t be trusted, because they’re probably, uh, biased by their marginalisation so are probably exaggerating. Supposedly the person who has benefited from their privileges has no bias in the matter at all, and all the insights. It’s always this person who gets to wear the objectivity cap – after all, they’re not being unfairly biased by their identity politics agenda and their niche experiences.
Not so much, no.