Let me explain.
There are the obviously offensive/annoying comments that people say in offensive ways. I usually have no issue calling these people out or at least giving them a deadly look. (On an unrelated note, I sometimes give these looks unintentionally, which leads to me explaining to people that I don’t actually hate them. I need to work on my “neutral face.”) Then there are other comments that come in the form of complements or polite remarks from well-intentioned acquaintances, but are still tainted to varying extents with problematic assumptions of sexism/racism/elitism/heterosexism/condescension/body judgement/just-kind-of-annoying-ism. In these cases, I usually just smile and nod, because these people are usually just trying to make small talk and say something that is typically viewed as appropriate. They don’t really want to be lectured.
I came up with the phrase “it’s not you, it’s society” when talking to a friend who was annoyed that people constantly call her “cute” or “adorable.” Given that she’s a smaller woman with a feminine style, a lot of people automatically use those words to describe her and things she says/does (including myself). These comments make her feel infantilized, but she acknowledges that they’re more of a socially-ingrained reaction and doesn’t like to call out individuals for just for repeating them. Thus, “it’s not you (person who repeats things that bother me), it’s society.”
I’ve decided to make a little series about all the innocent little comments that really get to me, not to accuse any of the perfectly nice people who have said them to me with good intentions, but to point out the general attitudes behind them that piss me off.
I have a lot of dance-related ones in particular, since most of the general public has a pretty shallow experience with dance (it’s okay, no one is well-informed about everything), and not every conversation is the place for me to play “arts educator.” But some are related to other parts of my life as well.
Stay tuned for lovely little gems like:
- You look like a dancer.
- You look tired today.
- You’re such an exotic beauty.
- And more