on February 25th, 2013 at 04:05 pm
Hm. "Didn't mean it," is striking me as increasingly problematic.
Over the last couple of years, I've had a number of interactions - all, as it happens, with white men - where they said something I found really hurtful. Look, okay, people make mistakes all the time, things happen. If you say something offensive, and someone points out that yeah, that was offensive, if you did so by accident, you stop, apologise, and express your embarrassment and horror at being so thoughtless... or whatever the situation merits. It's not always embarrassment and horror. But these things happen, we work them out, mistakes aren't a huge problem, and life goes on.
So, I told them that they found it really hurt... and their responses were to tell me that it wasn't hurtful, and that there was something wrong with me if I found it hurtful and that I was making too big a deal of it.
In one of the cases, it was a person who has been increasingly behaving like an asshole to me (while being proprietary about my time) and after he threw a fit about how I was being mean and hurting him by telling him that something he'd said to me was hurtful (no really)... I just stopped spending time with him. Done. (Later to be followed up by trying to pick fights with me in my blog and hate-o-grams. Yeah, he's got the big boy pants.) The other... it was several really difficult months in there, but eventually we got to a mutual understand that when I express concern about something, ducking responding to my point by dismissing, devaluing and belittling what I said is not okay. Recently he encouraged me to remind him, if this sort of thing comes up, that it's not about what he meant, but what he did.
(BTW, as frustrating as the experience has been, I'm really impressed by the changes he's made.)
Anyhow, the whole thing has left me a lot more cynical about the idea that they didn't mean it. When pointed out, do they immediately say "OMG, that didn't occur to me, I'm so sorry"? If not... well, I kind of think they meant it. Or at least, they think their right to do and say whatever they want is a lot more important than anyone else.
"Didn't mean it." means "My intention is more important than your experience (even if I didn't think about it at all)."