How many times have you heard someone excuse someone else’s actions by saying, “that’s just their personality”? Or “that’s just how they are. They don’t mean anything by it.”
How many times have you done it?
How many times have I?
And when it comes to personal preferences – whether to wash dishes immediately or wait until morning, which way to hang the toilet paper, etc – I have no problem with it. But when we start using these phrases on people who are hurting or assaulting other people, it has to stop.
An example of the former – my grandmother had met my best friend a couple of times. My best friend is a light skinned black woman. For years afterward, grandma would occasionally ask after that “nice colored girl.” I would sigh, tell her my friend was fine, and call my friend on the way home so we could laugh about it.
My grandmother was born in 1915. In her day, “colored” was the nice word for people of color. She hurt no one by saying this – not me, not my friend, nobody – and absolutely thought she was being considerate. And at her age, nobody was going to change her. I didn’t even try.
A couple of weekends ago, I was out of state for a wedding and heard my girlfriend’s sister relay stories of a man who used to live in their neighborhood who would walk up and down their streets verbally and physically assaulting women. When the police were called, their response was, “That’s just how he is.”
They did nothing.
And because he knew nobody was going to do anything about it, he continued. He felt safe to act with immunity. And why wouldn’t he?
I’ve seen the same thing repeatedly. Mostly in kink communities, but it’s no less prevalent among geeks or pagan communities.
Unfortunately, there really are people who are just awkward, don’t know any better, and simply need to be talked to. Taking the steps to educate them, keeping an eye on them to make sure they understand proper etiquette, is not the same as ignoring the problem.
But there are others. Others who have been talked to, know exactly what they’re doing, and simply don’t care. They’re the kinksters who have been around for years, but interrupt scenes or make lewd jokes to people they don’t know and have no relationship with. They’re the ones at geek cons leering and hitting on those wearing skimpy cosplay, or hitting on the vendors because the vendor has no way to easily escape.
It’s everywhere, and we excuse it. Every day.
Stop it. These people need confronted. If you’re not willing to help rid your community of them, at least warn others. Rob them of the pool they swim in.
Because we can’t plead ignorance. And we need to stop making excuses for the wrong people.