This started out on fb and got very long and I am sure not very well written since it is basically coming directly out of my fingers.
I’ve never seen it:
The linked blog post discusses how annoying it is when you point out some crap you have to deal with and others say that they have never seen it.
I wanted to reply to it but not enough to be willing to sign up for yet one more user account so it my reply is going here. My space anyway so it is appropriate.
I can see the point about how it feels like the credibility of the statement being made is challenged. I am sure that many times it is and gaslighting is used. My problem is that while I have been part of the targeted demographic, I have pull out the “I’ve never seen it” quite a few times and there is no gaslighting involved. I will admit that a part of my “I’ve never seen it” is rolling around in joy that I haven’t had to deal with whatever problem is being discussed. I think most of the reason why those words come out of me is because I don’t have the experience to understand what the person is talking about. I am owning whatever privilege I have that has kept me from that issue. In these cases, it is usually an unknown privilege. It is easy to see why I don’t need to deal with most race issues because I am white and have white privilege. But why don’t I have to deal with issues many women have to deal with (I have been female all my life) like being treated differently in science and math, being wary while on public transportation, being worried about walking on the streets at night, being paid less than men for the same job, etc. I want to know why people who I share characteristics with that would imply that we are treated similarly end up with such a different perception than I do. Sometimes it is because I am oblivious and skate by without a clue. Sometimes it is because there are differences that explain why my experiences are different (I am big and can be intimidating so I am sure that is a component to why I don’t have guys harassing me). These differences are probably unseen privilege (which like all gifts, can be a big PITA in different circumstances). Sometimes I have been lucky. Sometimes it is because I have never been in situations where those sorts of things come up.
Another reason why “I’ve never seen it” comes spilling out of my mouth is because I have a desperate need to be surrounded by a positive environment (the only person allowed to be a downer is me). The situation is someone is going off on some crap they have had to deal with and I have been in a similar situation and haven’t had any crap and I want my experience acknowledged as well. It feels so good and life saving to unicorn and rainbow sprinkles on something down and turn it around. It is a really strong knee jerk reaction on my part. I can totally see where it would seem like I am denying the negative experience of the original speaker and making it seem like they don’t have a valid point. That isn’t my intention but as I am finding out more and more my intentions get read very differently from the outside than from my insides. Example: There is a movement with female cosplayers about costume != consent and push back on the attitude of Fake Geek Girls. I have been in fandom and going to conventions in costume for 33 years and I haven’t seen it. That doesn’t mean I don’t support these movements, I do, I tried to be aware and spread the info. But I haven’t had the experience due to whatever privilege that has keep this stuff away from me. I think the statement “I’ve never seen it” is very appropriate for this case. I share all the primary characteristics of the targets of this crap but I can only learn about it the same as everyone else from outside. If anything I am even more clueless because I don’t have the excuse of actually being on the outside.
I want to add that even if “I’ve never seen it” does have appropriate times and places, that doesn’t mean it isn’t used for gaslighting. The different between the two extremes can be such a grey area that it is hard to tell when it is one way or the other. I just want to mark out a little space where it is appropriate rather than have it be seen to be 100% unsupportive and bad. When you have been hit with crap all the time, it is easy to see why the unsupportive version is all that can be seen. I am interested in ways to adapt it to not seem so dismissive. But right now, it is all I have.
An ally isn’t someone that understands all the problems and supports you all the time. It is someone who is willing to learn and support things they don’t experience themselves. Sometimes they are so deep in their privilege that they just aren’t where you want or need them to be. Their job is to own it. I feel that is what makes a good ally.