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.
9 thoughts on “I’ve never seen it”
“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.”
Well said. I haven’t read the article yet, may have some other comments after I do, but I agree with the above.
Still without having read the article yet, I wanted to say, though I don’t use those exact words, I do often say “This isn’t my experience”, and I’ve never seen it as offensive or unsupportive, though I know others have sometimes taken it that way. But I don’t feel offended when others comment that something I’m talking about isn’t their own experience. There are various factors that contribute to any situation, as you mentioned above, so it isn’t surprising to me that different women would experience life differently than I do. Also, I think there’s something to be said for the idea that we get more of whatever we put our attention on. Iow, if we’re focusing on a particular type of injustice or annoyance, we’re likely to draw more of the same, and more evidence to support those views. I’m not exempting myself from this, but the fact is someone who wants to fight injustice will encounter an awful lot of injustice to fight against, because that’s what they’re drawing from the universe. Some may disagree with this, but as I said, I’m not exempting myself and my own particular issues.
I agree with you about things coming into your life being oriented on what you focus on. This has been a big thing on mine for years. I see it as you are flooded with everything and what you pick out of the flood is what you get. And if you pick out good things, it leads you to areas of the flood that have a higher percentage of good things. If you pick out bad things, it leads you to areas of the flood that has a higher percentage of bad things.
A difference here is now that I am opening my eyes to some of this injustice I am seeing those things in the flood. It is sometimes a pain because a friend will post a picture that I would have once found funny but now see how full it is of attitudes that lead to treating women poorly. This new viewpoint spoils some things and I am sad about that. But I am very grateful for the education because I can see links to things that I was blind to before. This is where Privilege comes in. I have certain privilege that allow me to not see things in the flood that smack other people around. It is the height of arrogance for me to say that people should adapt to avoid being smacked like I do. In that case Trevor Martin should have known wearing a hoodie makes him scary to white people and he shouldn’t have walked through a white neighborhood to go get candy at night. Some black boys are taught to stay home at night because of things like this. I don’t think this is right. I think it is important to open my eyes and see where I contribute to other people getting smacked through no fault of their own, through no amount of focusing on different parts of the flood.
There is also the factor that when you have been hit with a bunch of injustice that you end up seeing more of it and things that may not be part of it end up looking like it. This makes sense. I feel there is a place for those people. They are the ones that stand up and make lots of noise and point out the injustices and annoyances. I also feel there is a place for people that aren’t subjected to the injustices to become allies because they are the ones that will make the changes necessary to correct those injustices. I think we need both parts. This is why I don’t discount the people that focus on the injustices in the flood. I feel they have sacrificed their peace of mind to work toward correcting a problem. I have accepted that it is my job to open my eyes to see portions of the flood I haven’t seen before so I can work towards being part of the solution. I have sacrificed a small portion of my seeing the good in the flood to work towards bettering the flood for others. I have the privilege to drop in and out of the issue, and I am so grateful for that. As part of that privilege, I have accepted the job of helping change things so that others can have that privilege too. I understand that those that are making the noises about it are wallowing in that part of the flood and can’t see other parts because of it. I am listening to what they say and filtering it and making my own decisions on it. This article had something to say to me. It pointed out how someone who has been hit a bunch of times with “your experiences aren’t real” or “don’t matter” would hear my expression of being clueless as yet another person letting them more of the same. I want to work out a way to express my cluelessness in a manner that they can hear that doesn’t subtract from their experience and inform them what information I would need to understand them better. The start of this is unpacking what my perspective actually in, comparing it to there perspective and seeing what overlaps, what is different, what can change, etc.
This person is way on the extreme end but that doesn’t invalidate their point. I can take their point, consider it and work out what it means to me. Then if I can move more towards the middle, then maybe they can trust that they can too. If the extremists are not willing to move, then nothing gets done for them. But sometimes people need to go to the extreme before anyone will listen to them. I take that into account when I read these things.
“This is why I don’t discount the people that focus on the injustices in the flood. I feel they have sacrificed their peace of mind to work toward correcting a problem.”
Oh yeah, I agree with this. And I will admit that I pick out certain parts of the flood to focus on too, just not always the parts others pick out. I get pretty hot under the collar over certain issues, and not so much over others.
I didn’t want that to come off as blaming the victims, because that’s not how I feel about it, but I’d just watched some Esther & Jerry Hicks videos about how our focus determines our experience, so was throwing that out there.
Okay, I’ve read the article now, and I find it annoying – “it serves to equate casual observation (by folks who are probably not sensitive enough) with lived experience, prolonged study, or specific investigation. It serves to undermine the words and experiences of marginalized people and their allies as “just a matter of opinion.” No, it isn’t saying it’s a “matter of opinion”, it’s simply saying that you have a different experience. Maybe some people need their experiences to be universal?
What I got from the article was that some people use their casual observation to dismiss the experiences as just a matter of opinion. That is what the “gaslighting” thing is about (if you are unaware of this term, let me know. It came up and was used a lot as a joke at a job I had so I am very familiar with it).
When you are told your experiences don’t matter over and over again, it is easy to feel like someone is dismissing what you are saying about them. Think of how frustrated you are when people try to tell you that you are a 4 rather than a 7. I don’t think the article is saying that they need their experiences to be universal but that they need their experiences treated as real.
I think the point of view of the article goes too far because there isn’t room for someone to mean “I’ve never seen that” to be an innocent statement of cluelessness. I have experienced being jumped on when I have made a statement of not having an experience meaning that I am going to blunder about as a novice and someone else (who I respect) railing at me because of “what I am implying.” She was so far gone down that path that no matter what I said, I was going to be wrong because I had no way of connecting to her point of view. But without her and original statements I wouldn’t have had a clue as to the problem she was discussing. I have learned to take what information I can from the people that have ended up going to the extreme and working on things myself. I feel my place is to translate between the people who have gone to the extreme and people that are unaware of the problem but would want to fix it if they saw it. This is the role I see for allies. The extreme people are just going to piss of the people that have never opened their eyes in this direction.
So even though it goes too far, I got a valid lesson out of it and think it speaks a truth. I am now working on how to worth with that truth so I don’t present an impression that I am being dismissive when I am trying to be honest about my cluelessness. I have more to say but I think I have gotten to the blah blah blah stage so I am going to wrap it up.
No, I agree with what you said. It doesn’t sound like rambling.
I relate to a lot of what you are saying here. My first “I’ve never seen it” experience was in high school when someone told me that girls are typically discouraged in math. As salutatorian of my (admittedly small) high school class, who had been jockeying for 1st place with two other girls in my math classes since junior high, my response was “You’re have got to be kidding me – I have never head of such a thing”. The list of “stuff girls and women experience that I don’t (both positive and negative)” got too long after a while for me to even be able to identify with gender anymore (note: this is a VERY oversimplified version of that decision – for more detail see the “gender” tag on my journal where I have written lots more). Whether a gendered statement applies to me seems to be an about 50-50 crapshoot, so what exactly is the point of the identity then? Sometimes I think I must have “freak privilege”. Which, as you say, as downsides as well.
I do think that there is some precident for people of #underprivilegedclass to assign EVERY bad thing that happens to them as being a result of their membership in #underprivilegedclass and it can occasionally be useful to point out that, no, I’m a member of #underprivilegedclass too and it doesn’t happen to me. Occasionally. Really occasionally. Not most of the time.
Also there’s a key difference between “I’ve never seen that” and “That has never happened to me.” I’m not a POC but I’ve DEFINITELY seen POCs be treated poorly because of their skin color. And I’m apparently not a vulnerable-looking-girl who gets harassed by random strangers on the street, but I’ve seen that happen too.
A lot of things that “girls are suppose to be bad at” didn’t bother me because I saw it as one more thing that made me different. A very early defense adaption for me was an understanding and acceptance in how different I was than everyone else. Everything that pointed this out ended up being a point of pride. It is lately that I am working on the parts of me that are the same as others. It is interesting.
I think there are some people that assign every bad thing that happens to them due to their membership in #underprivileged. But I think it is wrong to assume that is the issue because there is so much that does happen to #underprivileged that the #privileged does see and have a very hard time understanding due to a lack of similar perspective. I think it is important to educate ourselves so that we can tell the difference between those that blame their circumstances and those that are victims of their circumstances. Also when someone is under a torrent of problems, anything new ends up looking like yet another of those same problems, i.e. when you are surrounded my nails all the time and a screw shows up, it looks like just another nail.
Good point about “I’ve never seen that” and “That has never happened to me”. Having seen it happen to others gives an important perspective that leads to understanding. Having it happen to you can give a deeper perspective but with empathy we are able to work out that perspective from seeing it happen to others.