When I was a little girl and came home upset from school or a gymkhana (when either my fat sweet-itch afflicted pony or our cattle trailer transport system was slagged off), my mother would say one of the following to stop the tears; “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”; “Take insults as compliments from ignorant people who know no better”, or her personal favourite: “They are only jealous.”
I did listen to what she was saying, and tried to put on a brave face, but in honesty, I never really bought into these proverbs. The words did hurt. They hurt a lot. Perhaps, this is how we learn, as humans, to be resilient – an important characteristic to the survival of our species – but I find that even into adulthood, words still hurt.
Often giving oxygen to abuse encourages the flames
There was also an indirect message in my mother’s advice to “ignore them”. This, in theory, is good advice. Often giving oxygen to abuse encourages the flames. But, where is the line? By saying nothing, are we allowing inappropriate language to proliferate?
I read an article criticising the appearance of a number of politicians at the Fianna Fáil think-in which started with the words I don’t care. The author may not have cared about her words but one of the politicians referenced did care. Senator Erin McGreehan (spokesperson for children, disability, equality and integration – ironically some of those who suffer most from abusive commentary) spoke eloquently on Newstalk Breakfast in response saying: “This is not just about us eight politicians who were named in the article, it’s actually about so much more, and it’s about how that filters down to society, how that filters down to everybody that feels crap about themselves... And some people say that politicians deserve it, but do we want our representatives to be so hardened and so desensitised that this sort of language doesn’t matter? Do we want our politicians to have empathy and to feel or to be human or to be flawed? We want our politicians to be human.”
I support Erin on this. Our politicians must be able to maintain their humanity, the ability to empathise with their constituents, to design legislation for the betterment of people and to understand how that legislation will impact those constituents.
Women often feel the need to put on a persona of toughness to “compete” in a male-dominated workplace or environment
I was recently told to “eat some concrete and harden up”. Aside from politics, the (perception of the) need to be “tough”, forms part and parcel of life. This can be particularly true on farms and impacts both women and men. Women often feel the need to put on a persona of toughness to “compete” in a male-dominated workplace or environment. Men often feel that they cannot show any vulnerability for fear that they will be perceived as weak. Hiding who you are or how you feel can impact your mental health. Perhaps being able to respond to abuse or nastiness with an “I don’t care” might seem like the ideal but if you don’t care, why bother? If you don’t feel passionate about something you are doing, perhaps that is not the thing you should be doing.
They are often dealing with their own issue internally and lashing out is their way of trying to deal with it
A psychologist once told me that when someone attacks you, it’s actually not about you or what you are doing, it’s about them and something that is going on in their life. They are often dealing with their own issue internally and lashing out is their way of trying to deal with it. If that isn’t it, they are more than likely “just jealous” as my mother would say.