No Bad Questions, Only Bad Browsers
For someone who is paid a wage to be a speak out loud, sometimes I find it incredibly difficult to communicate.
I'm not talking about the moments each morning where I stumble gracelessly over my words or ask my radio co-host to reach inside my brain and retrieve missing information. “What's its called when you… you know… um, the thing?"
I'm talking about trying to communicate in a broader sense. Trying to convey a message; ask a question; float an idea to a group of people, without it’s sentiment being misinterpreted.
Recently, I began conducting research for an article that discusses the human condition of feeling endlessly compelled to lose weight, and the shame and secrecy associated with methods taken to obtain “perfection”. For this piece I decided to focus on the female perspective and in my effort to truthfully and thoughtfully execute something with such a dense responsibly attached, I had spoken with doctors, councillors, clinicians and, of course, engaged with the women around me.
I didn't want to solely rely on the anecdotes of my own peers so I decided (again in an effort to write inclusively) to also post in an online forum; one I knew housed women from cities and larger regional areas. It seemed like a practical measure to take, given I was investigating an issue that affected a broad spectrum of women, but living in a small country town meant I only had access to so many female counterparts.
I posted a carefully constructed, respectful and impartial status, seeking insight about how best to deliver an article of this nature, and solicited for anyone willing to share their experience to email me. I explicitly stated I was writing a think piece through a female lense and that I did not intend to publish any sort of ‘how to’ guide.
If I had known the force of abuse that was to come careening my way, I would have held on tighter to my chair.
I couldn’t believe how many sensitivities I had offended by merely asking a topical question. In seeking feedback on an issue I felt deserved some open discussion, I was made to feel like I had spoken (nay, typed) words of accusation, assumption and sheer malice. Yet it was only over the Internet that I received such vitriol for my queries.
It made me wonder; has our ability to hide among the hollows of the deep, dark web, behind shields of a plastic letters and symbols, made us more confrontational in the face of life’s delicate aspects? Or has it, in fact, made us more delicate in the face of life's confrontations?
As you would expect, I did also receive some constructive feedback and many women were happy to share their stories. Several were heartbreaking to read. I couldn’t help but feel the ladies who wrote them had lived their lives out in the real world accepting the real consequences for their actions. These women also wanted to do use their words to heal others, instead of harm them further.
We live in a world where insult and discomfort lurks around every corner. There is often no trigger warning for the advertisement that may offend you based on an experience it didn't know you had, and there certainly isn't any protection from the unpredictable slur of that drunk guy at the pub sitting three tables away from you and your friends.
Life is hard sometimes, but lets not make it harder for ourselves. If you're going to be triggered, make sure you load your gun with something useful.
Originally published in The Murray Pioneer